What kind of paint do you use on a wooden shed

By  Enda McLarnon

If you have a wooden shed and looking to give it a new lease of life, then the most common way of doing that is to paint it. Painting is a cost effective method of improving the appearance, and it also helps protect the shed for a few years.

We do get asked a lot on our website what kind of paint do you use on a wooden shed? We shall explain below what we recommend and why as we think it is important to make the right choice.

It does depend on what type of wood is used and what has been used on it before. We will also explain the difference between paint and stain, which is commonly used on fences.

The best type of paint for wooden sheds is an acrylic latex paint, which performs really well in outdoor conditions. However, most people prefer to use a water based paint as it is harmless to pets and plants and works very well.

We would recommend HQC Garden Shed paint (available at Amazon UK) as it is good value for money, has good coverage and is easy to put on with a brush, roller or paint sprayer. It also comes in a wide range of colours so you have plenty of choice.

We have done a full article on the best shed paint which you can read by clicking here. In that article we show you the top 5 shed paints available on the UK market and why we picked them.

What type of wood is used to make sheds?

The vast majority of sheds in the UK are made from wood. Some people prefer metal sheds and others prefer plastic. Wood remains the most popular though as they just look better in a garden setting. They do have a more natural look.

Cheaper sheds use a soft wood and typically will either be pine or spruce. Although these are the cheapest to buy, they will eventually rot over time. If you want a battery quality wooden shed, then you can buy a treated cedar wood, which is much better quality.

It is worth knowing that if the shed has been bought, rather than home made, then it is very likely that it will have been treated with a wood preservative. Ideally this should be re-treated annually or at least every 2 years.

If you are going to paint your shed, it is good to know what type of wood is used, but at the end of the day, there is not a great difference in terms of painting it. Instead of using a stain or preservative, you can choose to paint it.

Sheds can either have a construction type of featheredge, overlap, tongue and groove, or shiplap.  When sheds are made some people use boards and other prefer to use panels.

Tongue and groove and shiplap are more weatherproof constructions, better at keeping the rain out, and also at keeping the heat in. They are more expensive to buy but easier to work with and look much neater.

Featheredge is normally vertical planks screwed to and they overlap each other vertically. Overlap are horizontal planks screwed to batons and the planks overlap each other.

The only reason we mention this is that it is important when painting any of these types of boards or panels, that you get all of it painted. With overlap and featheredge designs there will be parts hidden under other boards which can be hard to get at.

Do you need to use a primer before painting?

You don't need to use a primer before painting your wooden shed. It's a question we get asked often about a range of painting projects. If you are painting metal, then yes you always need a primer. The purpose of a primer is to create a surface that the paint will stick to. With metal that is really important.

When it comes to wood, paint will stick to it without the need for a primer. That said, if you use a primer first, then the paint will go on easier, and will also look a whole lot better. You get a better finish if you use a primer.

The reason many people avoid using a primer is the cost. For example a good quality tin of shed paint costs around £60. That will have a coverage of around 50 square metres.

A 5 litre acrylic primer will cost around £30 and have a similar coverage. It is not as expensive as many people think and will give an excellent finish. So, you don't have to use a primer, but it will look better if you do.

How Much Paint do you need for a garden shed?

The obvious answer is it depends on the type of the shed. For most people they will simply be painting the sides and the doors, and will not be painting the roof as this is normally covered with a felt or some other form of roof.

All you need to do is to work out the surface area of the sides to keep it simple.

The table below is a good guide.

Most sheds are 6 feet high so we have assumed that height. The sizes shown in the table are length by breadth.

Shed Size(feet)

Shed Size (metres)

Surface Area

(Square Metres)

Paint (litres)

6 x 4 

1.8 x 1.2



8 x 4

1.5 x 1.9



10 x 4

2.3 x 1.9



8 x 6

2.3 x 1.9



10 x 6

2.3 x 1.9



Most shed paint is sold in either a 2.5 litre size or a 5 litre size as is primer. So a 2.5 litre tin of each is plenty for most shed sizes. The average cost for a primer and a shed paint will be around £45-50.

If you don't use a primer, you may get away with one coat of paint which will cost about £30, or £60 if you need two coats.

For a 6 x 4 or an 8 x 4, one 2,5 litre of paint will give you enough for 2 coats.

How to paint a wooden garden shed?

Like every painting job the preparation is key. The amount of preparation is really dependent on the condition of the wood. The bottom line is the better you prepare the wood, the better your finished paint job will be.

List of Steps for Preparation and Painting

Step 1 - The Preparation

Check the wood for damage and make any repairs required. Split wood can be repaired with glue and a few nails or screws. If there are missing planks then get some new ones and install them.

Step 2- Cleaning

The biggest problem here is usually green algae and moss. You can not paint over that as the paint will not take to the wood and in a few days it will look terrible. You can use something like a nylon brush to get rid of this though it can be a lot of physical work. You can also use a hose or pressure washer, but just make sure it is on a setting that won't damage the wood, but is strong enough to remove the moss. You will need to allow time for that all to dry before the next stage.

Step 3- Primer

If you have decided to use a primer, it is time to get that on. We recommend using a roller to get this done quickly and a brush for nay cutting in around windows. You can use a spray gun but you will need to slightly water down the primer first. Those of you who want the perfect paint job, may want to do two coats of primer. This usually dries quickly in an hour and you can prime again in 2 hours. Just use a basic white primer.

Step 4- Paint

This is where your hard work in preparation will shine through. Apply a coat of pain with a roller or brush or spray gun. If using a spray gun, you will need to water it down slightly. Most shed paints take 2 hours to dry, and you need to leave it for four hours if you plan on doing a second coat.

Step 4- Second Coat of Paint

If you are happy with the finish, you don't have to do a second coat. if in doubt, try a second coat on a section of the shed that is not in view. Have a look and see if it makes any difference. If it does, then apply a second coat and leave to dry.

Repainting a shed a different colour

If you plan on a colour change, then a white primer is strongly advised. Usually if you are painting the shed a darker colour you don't have to use a primer. However, if you are going from a dark colour to a lighter colour, then always use a primer before painting.

So, hopefully we have answered your question on what paint to use on a wooden shed. the right colour of paint can transform your garden. It also adds a good layer of protection to your shed. Never paint on a cold day or if there is going to be a risk of rain.

A nice warm day is best and one where you know it is going to be dry for a few days. In terms of time to do this, we recommend 2 hours to clean the shed and then allow it to dry out fully. Do this one day, and then let it dry overnight.

Prime or paint in the morning, and then apply a second coat 4 hours after you finished the first coat. A weekend is ideal, where we would clean the shed on a Friday evening, paint it on Saturday morning, a second coat that evening, and have Sunday in the garden with a coffee or beer, and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Shed Paint vs Fence Paint

There is a lot of confusion for buyers when looking at shed paint and trying to figure out if it is the same as fence paint?

Fence paint - You will see this in many DIY stores in the UK. It is usually sold in 5 litre or 10 litre sizes for around £10-15. This is used on rough wood, which is what most fences are made of. It comes in colours like Medium Oak, Dark Oak, Forest Green, Harvest Gold, Red Cedar etc. This is more like a stain than a paint and is quite watery.

It does provide a colour and also protects the fence. Fence panels are usually made from various cheap soft woods which are dip treated. If your shed is made from this type of rough wood or from those type of wooden panels, then this fence paint will do the job. With fence paint you usually have to redo it every year.

Shed Paint - Shed paint is a thicker paint and available in a wide variety of colours. That is why it is usually more expensive because it is better quality paint. Most sheds are made from treated soft wood, but usually the wood is planed and smoothed so a much better finish. You can still use fence paint on these, but shed pain just gives you a bigger choice of colours and gives the shed a much better and longer lasting finish. With shed paint you usually have to redo it every 2-3 years.

Painting a Garden Shed Summary

Painting our garden shed is the cheapest way of improving the look of it and also a great way of protecting the shed. All you need is the paint and a brush to get the job done. We would highly recommend making sure the surface is prepared first if you want to get the best results.

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