Painting your home’s exterior is a massive project, and you may have been putting it off due to time or budget restraints. But now that the temperatures have dropped, is it too cold to paint outside? Below is advice from painting professionals on the ideal temperature range for exterior painting, the lowest temperature to paint or stain at and general tips for painting and staining your home’s exterior.

How Low is Too Low?

When the temperature is too low, dust and insects will be attracted to the wet paint. Image: John M Holmes Architect

To a certain extent, optimal temperatures for exterior painting vary by the type of paint. “When taking on exterior paint projects, always keep in mind that the best temperature for latex paint falls between 50 and 70 degrees F, while the best temperature for oil-based paint falls between 45 and 90 degrees F,” explains Tina Nokes, Owner of Five Star Painting of Loudoun, VA. However, she says that some paints are rated down to 35 degrees.

When you go below 35 degrees, Nokes says you can encounter several problems. “You risk the paint taking too long to cure, which attracts insects, dirt, grime and other debris to the wet surface,” she says. “Oil-based paints will also thicken in low temperatures, causing stiffer brushing, heavier application and less coverage per gallon.”

According to Mike Mundwiller, Benjamin Moore Field Integration Manager, you should always check the information for the product you plan to use. “While some exterior paints can be applied down to 35 degrees, it’s not only important to be aware of your ambient temperature but also the temperature of the surface you are painting.” In addition to the current temperature, Mundwiller advises painters to be aware of the forecasted temperature, since this will determine how long it will take the paint to dry.

Follow the Sun and Avoid the Warmest Part of the Day

For better results, follow the sun when painting. Image: CK Building Design and Repair

“Following the sun around your house will prevent painting in direct sunlight and on an overheated surface, which can be a problem even in cooler temperatures,” explains Nokes. What does it mean to follow the sun when you’re painting? “In other words, move around the house behind the sun as it moves so the surfaces are warm but not so hot that paint dries too fast.”

The warmest part of a winter day seems like the perfect time to paint, but Nokes advises against it. “While it can be tempting to paint at the warmest parts of the day, make sure you leave enough time for the paint to dry before sunset, which will bring even cooler temperatures and the formation of dew.”

If You Have to Paint When It’s Bitterly Cold

Some paints are formulated for colder weather. Image: Mark Winter Constructions

“If you have no choice but to paint in temperatures below 45 degrees F, purchase latex paint specifically formulated to perform in temperatures as low as 35 degrees,” Nokes advises. “This paint contains coalescing agents that bolster film-forming attributes during low temperatures.” Different types of paints are rated for different temperatures and she says it’s vitally important to use a paint rated for the colder weather.

When the air temperature is 35 degrees F, substrates may be colder. “Prior to painting, check to be sure the air, surface and material temperatures are above 35 degrees F and at least 5 degrees F above the dew point,” advises Mundwiller. “Do not apply when air or surface temperatures may drop below 35 degrees F within 48 hours.”

Exterior Painting Tips

Cover imperfections before you start painting. Image: Moissev-Gordon Associates

“Prior to painting, remove surface contaminants with an appropriate cleaner, rinse thoroughly and allow to dry,” advises Mark Eichelberger, Senior Product Manager at Sherwin-Williams Consumer Brands Group.  “Remove peeled or damaged paint, sand glossy surfaces until dull and make sure that cracks and imperfections are patched or caulked.” To avoid occasional paint drips or splatters, he recommends starting at the top and working your way down.

When painting vinyl siding, Eichelberger says you should repaint with a color similar to the original color to avoid excess heat absorption, which prevents buckling or warping.

What About Staining?

There’s also a temperature limit on staining. Image: Hickman Construction Company

There’s also a temperature limit when staining in cold weather. “Applying stain finishes becomes more difficult as the temperature gets colder, as it won’t dry or adhere as well in low temperatures,” says Jenny Burroughs, Senior Product Manager of PPG’s Architectural Coatings. Depending on the product, you can apply a stain when the temperature is as low as 40 degrees F.

It’s important to protect your home’s exterior wood surfaces by applying a stain or sealant before temperatures begin to drop, as cold weather and snow can cause peeling, leading to moisture intrusion and wood rot.

Burroughs also recommends assessing your home’s exterior wood surfaces for vulnerabilities before you stain or seal. Some key signs that your home’s exterior wood surfaces need to be refinished include:

  • Water is being absorbed and is not being wicked from the surface.
  • Paint and/or stain is peeling, pulling or lifting from the surface.
  • Areas of the home appear to be faded or discolored.