What Paint and Primer Is Best for an Exterior Wood Door?

Your exterior wood door is the entryway to your home, so it should be well-maintained and visually appealing. Painting it enhances its appearance and protects it from weather damage. But what is the best paint and primer?

An exterior water-based paint is the best option for an exterior wood door. This paint creates a long-lasting, durable finish and provides excellent adhesion to the surface. Applying a stain-blocking primer before painting will seal the wood and provide additional protection from moisture damage.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The 4 factors to consider when choosing paint for an exterior wood door
  • What finish is best
  • What type of paint to use
  • My top picks for the best paint and primer for an exterior wood door

The 4 Factors to Consider When Choosing Paint for an Exterior Wood Door

1. Weather and Climate Conditions

The weather and climate of your geographical area play a significant role in determining the type of paint to use on your exterior wood door. Paints containing UV inhibitors and moisture-resistant properties are ideal for areas that experience high humidity and rainfall.

2. Quality of Paint

The quality of paint plays a vital role in the durability of the painted surface. High-quality paint with a glossy or satin finish can protect against weather elements. Paints that provide a more substantial anchoring bond between the wood and the paint will last longer.

3. Type of Wood

Different woods react differently to paint and can affect the overall appearance of your paint job. For instance, some types of wood, like cedar and redwood, tend to bleed through the paint, causing discoloration. Use oil-based primers and paints with a thicker consistency on these types of woods.

4. Application Method

The method of application you choose can affect how long your paint job lasts. Using a brush or roller will provide good coverage and protection. A spray gun, on the other hand, can ensure that the paint is evenly spread on the wood and provides a consistent finish.

What Type of Paint Is Best?

Water-based (Latex/Acrylic) Paint

Water-based paints have been gaining popularity recently due to their ease of use and environmental benefits. When painting exterior wood doors, water-based paint has advantages and disadvantages.


  • Water-based paint has fewer harmful chemicals than oil-based paint, making it safer and more eco-friendly.
  • These paints dry much faster than oil-based paints, speeding up the painting process and reducing the time spent waiting for the paint to dry.
  • It can be cleaned with soap and water, which is easier and safer than using harsh chemicals to clean up oil-based paints.
  • Water-based paints have a much milder odor than oil-based paints, making them more pleasant to use in enclosed spaces.


  • While water-based paints are a good choice for indoor use, they do not hold up as well as oil-based paints when used on exterior surfaces.
  • Water-based paints are generally thinner than oil-based paints, meaning they may require more coats to achieve the same level of coverage.

Oil-based Paint

Oil-based paint is popular for painting exterior wood doors due to its durability and smooth finish.


  • Oil-based paint is durable, making it a perfect choice for high-traffic areas like doors. It can withstand scratches, dings, and cleaning without easily peeling or wearing down.
  • This paint provides a smoother finish due to its slow-drying nature. The slower drying process allows the paint to settle and harden, creating a sleek and polished look.
  • Oil-based paint is water-resistant, ideal for doors exterior to moisture, like bathroom and kitchen doors. The paint forms a hard shell that repels water, making it less susceptible to swelling and warping.


  • The chemicals in oil-based paint release a strong odor that can be harmful. Proper ventilation and protective masks are necessary to avoid respiratory issues.
  • Oil-based paint requires a longer drying time than water-based paint, sometimes taking up to 24 hours to be completely dry.
  • It requires solvents for clean-up, which can be messy and difficult to dispose of properly. The brushes and tools used also require cleaning with solvents.

What Paint Finish Is Best?

When choosing the best paint finish for painting exterior wood doors, it is important to consider aesthetics and functionality. The finish affects not only the visual appeal of the door but also its resistance to wear and tear over time.

A satin finish is one of the most popular paint finishes for wood doors. This provides a certain level of sheen that highlights the natural wood grain while creating a durable surface that is easy to clean.

Satin finishes are also less prone to showing imperfections in the wood, making them a great choice for older or weathered doors.

Semi-gloss, on the other hand, provides a higher sheen and more vibrant colors. This finish is ideal for accenting the door’s color or style while protecting against scratches and scuffs.

The Best Paint and Primer for Exterior Wood Door

Best Paint

Behr Premium Plus Ultra Exterior Paint is a top-of-the-line paint sure to exceed your expectations for protecting your exterior wood doors.

This paint and primer combination offers excellent durability and the ability to hide imperfections in fewer coats. The result is a beautiful, long-lasting finish that will enhance the curb appeal of any home.

One of the standout features of this paint is its stain and dirt resistance. With the ability to resist scuffing, fading, and peeling, you can rest assured that your doors will look great for years.

Additionally, the enhanced mildew-resistant finish ensures that your doors will stay fresh and clean, even in areas with high humidity.

Perhaps most impressive, this paint is designed for low-temperature application. This feature allows you to paint your doors even in cooler temperatures, which can be difficult to find with other exterior paint options.

The Behr Premium Plus Ultra Exterior Paint also offers an extra protective shell that guards against damage caused by sunlight and moisture. This feature is especially valuable for doors facing direct sunlight or exposure to high moisture levels.

Best Primer

KILZ 3 Interior/Exterior Primer, Sealer, and Stain Blocker is the ultimate solution for exterior wood doors. Its advanced formula is designed to provide superior adhesion and ultimate protection.

With KILZ 3, you can successfully cover up medium to heavy stains, so there’s no need to worry about unsightly blemishes showing through your paint.  The quick-drying and low-odor feature of this primer makes it primer for indoor and outdoor applications.

Its water-based primer-sealer-stain blocker properties make it ideal for moisture-prone areas, providing excellent mildew resistance. This feature ensures your door remains pristine, even in high humidity conditions.

Applying KILZ 3 Interior/Exterior Primer is easy as its thicker high-hiding formula conceals surface imperfections and prepares the surface better for painting.

This feature enables you to achieve a smooth and beautiful finish that lasts. You can confidently paint over this primer using oil or water-based paints.

Joshua Milton

Joshua Milton is a passionate DIY and home improvement enthusiast. With his expertise in various projects, he provides practical tips, step-by-step guides, and creative ideas for transforming your living space.

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