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Exterior Painting in Cold Weather: Can It Be Done and How To Do It

You may have heard before you cannot paint in cold weather. But how much of this is true? While taking on an exterior paint job during the cooler months can come with its own challenges, it is very much achievable.

Exterior painting in cold weather done right

Whether a winter storm damaged some of your home’s exterior paint or you’re just wanting to get an early jump on the new house color, painting in cooler months with the proper materials and precautions can be the same as painting on a warm spring day. Keep reading on to see how you can safely achieve exterior painting in cold weather.

Exterior Painting in Cold Weather

You often hear that you can only do exterior painting in the summer. This is a common misconception about exterior painting. In a climate with changing seasons, exterior painting in cold weather can be complex but not impossible. You can take advantage of those cooler months to complete exterior painting projects so you can sit back and enjoy those beautiful summer days. So yes, exterior painting in cold weather is possible with the correct knowledge.

What Does Cold Do to Paint?

When temperatures are under 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it can have adverse effects on the paint and application process. But why?

Oil-based paints are primarily made up of oil and resins that thicken under colder temperatures. This makes it difficult when trying to paint a smooth application.

exterior painting in cold weather with a brush

Water-based paints commonly consist of latex and water, making the risk of freezing much higher. This can cause issues with color consistency and the proper bonding process.

The chemicals in these types of paints need to hit a specific temperature range to cure. Improper curing from exterior painting in cold weather can lead to premature chipping, cracking, peeling, or having a low sheen.

Is Previously Frozen Paint Useable?

All paints contain chemicals. That’s what gives us a beautiful sheen and the brightness of a freshly painted surface. Once the paint has frozen, it dramatically changes the chemical structure of the paint. Water-based paints are usually the culprit of freezing, and once this happens, they are better left untouched for your next paint project, while oil-based paints take longer and colder conditions to freeze.

Using previously frozen paint can cause the paint not to cure at all, leaving behind an inconsistent, blotchy mess whether you try using it for exterior painting in cold weather or warm weather. It is always best to store your paint in an area where it cannot freeze so that you can reuse this paint again in the future.

Too Cold to Paint?

Not only can it be too cold for you to go outdoors and paint physically, but it may also be too cold for you to attempt exterior painting in cold weather extremes. Any temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit would make it too cold to paint. Paint chemicals are designed to cure at specific temperatures. If the paint does not reach that, the paint does not cure.

How Cold Temperatures Affect Paint Finish

If you decide to attempt exterior painting in cold weather under 35 degrees Fahrenheit, know this may affect the paint’s overall finish. There is a higher chance the paint can peel, crack, and chip. In some cases, it can affect the sheen making the paint look duller than it usually would.

Exterior Painting in Cold Weather: Can It Be Done and How To Do It 1

Surface Temperature

When choosing exterior paint, it’s a great idea to check what temperature is specified for the best application and drying process. When discussing these conditions, it is related to the air and the surface temperature.

For example, if it has reached a temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of a surface may only be 30 to 35 degrees. This is often the case with tall structures and ceilings. So, in reality, you are painting in 35 degrees rather than 45, which can dramatically change the paint’s chemical structure when applying and curing.

Choosing the Right Paint for Colder Weather Applications

Naturally, when planning to work on exterior painting in cold weather, you need to purchase an exterior paint designed for lower curing temperatures. It is important to remember that the temperature should remain at or above the specified degrees for the application and curing/drying times. So, which products work best?

Best Recommended Paints for Cold Weather

Most paints on the market mention they have a curing temperature of around 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but the most reliable is Resilience Exterior Acrylic Latex by Sherwin Williams.

This exterior paint is specially formulated to resist moisture and cure at or above 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of its acrylic and latex base, it is not easy to be affected by colder temperatures, and you still are left with a beautiful finish. This paint resists moisture in about two hours, quicker than most other big brand cold temperature paints.

A man painting outside in chilly but acceptable painting weather

Another great selling point is that it is available in gloss, flat, and satin sheens and can be tinted with any Sherwin Williams Vynil Safe paint colors.

Another great option for exterior painting in cold weather is Ultra Pure White Semi-Gloss Enamel Exterior Paint & Primer by BEHR MARQUEE. Like the Sherwin Williams paint, this can be applied and cured at 35 degrees or higher. It has many of the same properties listed above and great reviews.

Unlike Sherwin Williams, the BERH MARQUEE’S paint needs a total of four hours of sustained temperature after the paint has been applied to cure fully. But in the case the weather cooperates, you are left with a stunning paint job worthy of the pros.

Tips for Exterior Painting in Cold Weather

Some of the best advice to consider when tackling exterior painting in cold weather would be the following:

Purchase a High-Quality Cold Weather Paint

Most major paint manufacturers have their paints labeled as curable in temperatures at or above 35 degrees Fahrenheit. But in the case where you are planning to perform exterior painting in cold weather, it’s best to purchase a higher quality paint to avoid any of the adverse side effects.

Use the Right Tools for the Job

When using the higher quality cold temperature paints, it’s highly suggested to get the best tools you can. For example, use nylon or polyester brushes. These work much better with the acrylic and latex found in these paints. We have a handy, free DIY Project Calculator for you if you’d like some help making a materials list and budgeting for your exterior painting in cold weather project.

Paint on Days the Temperatures are Higher

Patience is key here. It would be best to have a stretch of warmer days or where the temperature remains consistent. That way, you know you are getting the proper curing times and temperatures.

Note the Minimum Recommended Curing Temperatures

Make sure that the paint you choose is formulated to properly handle the cold temperatures. Any paint you purchase has the minimum recommended curing degrees and times on the label. Remember, with the cooler weather, the paints take longer to dry, so minimizing the chances of the paint getting wet is also ideal.

Finding the Right Temperature for Exterior Painting

Depending on who you ask, the answers can vary slightly. Professionally speaking, the temperatures should be a minimum of 50 degrees Farenheight and should not drop any lower than 35 degrees during the night. With this formula, you’ll get an even coverage and a beautiful sheen to your paint job.

Painting outside within the acceptable temperature range to prevent paint cracking.

You should pick a time when there is no rain in the forecast, and there should be little to no wind. Some say you need the sun out for the paint to cure correctly, but this is a myth as long as the temperatures and humidity levels are in check.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are times when it is too hot to paint outside. When the weather is too warm, you can see many of the same adverse effects that painting in the cold can do.

The bottom line is that it is vital to pay attention to the manufactures label on paint products to pinpoint the best time to apply the paint for the best results. In some cases, it is better to have patience than to do the job over a second time.

Wrapping Up the Ins and Outs of Exterior Painting in Cold Weather

So is it worth it to attempt exterior painting in cold weather? Yes, it can. But it does come with some stipulations. It would be best to find an exterior paint capable of handling cold temperatures and sustaining specific temperatures long enough for the paint to cure. If this does not happen, you are left with a paint job you most likely need to fix or completely redo.

Remember, the surface temperatures play a big part in this as well. Just because the air temperature hit the minimum curing point doesn’t mean you’re ready to go out and get the job done. When you are ready to tackle exterior painting in cold weather – or any weather, at that – check out our list of the most popular Sherwin Williams Exterior Paint Colors.