How to Paint Exterior Plywood

Lead Image
  • 1-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 20-45
What You'll Need
Base paint
120-grit sandpaper
220-grit sandpaper
Power sander
Tack cloth
Paint trays
Paint roller
Drop cloth
Waterproof sealer
Damp cloth
Denatured alcohol

Exterior plywood is regular plywood that’s been treated with chemicals that prevent water from saturating the wood or insects from attacking it. This type of plywood is the perfect material for building different projects, such as sheds, decks, and outdoor furniture. However, painting exterior plywood is trickier than painting regular plywood. Read these tips before attempting to paint exterior plywood for the best results.

Preparing the Exterior Plywood

Because plywood is a porous surface, it can absorb a lot of paint and stain. To prepare exterior plywood for painting, you must first dull down the surface by bringing out its texture.

Wiping Down the Wood

First, wipe down the surface of the wood with a damp, not wet, cloth. Dampening the wood’s surface will make the grain “stand up,” which will make it easier to sand.

Sanding the Plywood

To sand, attach the 120-grit sandpaper to a power sander, and sand down the surface of the exterior plywood gently. Then, use a tack cloth to clean up any wood dust.

Wiping and Sanding Again

Finish up by wiping down the surface of the wood again with a damp rag. Then, sand the surface lightly again with 220-grit sandpaper. Repeat the process of removing dust with a tack cloth.

Finishing With Rubbing Alcohol

Soak a rag in denatured alcohol and ring out the excess. Then, rub down the exterior plywood with a rag. Make sure the wood is completely dry before continuing.

Priming the Plywood

Warning: When working with primer and paint, always wear protective gear, such as gloves and a mask. In addition, only paint in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes.

It’s important to prime the plywood before painting it so that acids and oils don’t leach out of the wood. These acids and oils occur naturally as the wood ages, but they can stain the wood.

Applying a Thin Layer of Primer

Pour some of the primer paint into a paint tray, and submerge the paint roller. Do not soak the roller through with primer and remove the excess using the ridges on the tray. Apply the primer to the plywood thinly.

Sanding the Wood and Cleaning

Wait for the primer to completely dry, and then lightly sand the plywood with the 220-grit sandpaper again. Rub the exterior wood down with a rag soaked in rubbing alcohol again to remove any residue.

Painting the Exterior Plywood

Once the primer is dry, apply a base coat of paint according to the product’s directions. Let the paint dry, and then apply a second coat.

Applying Topcoat and Sealant

Once the second coat is dry, apply a top coat of paint. Wait for the topcoat to dry, and apply another coat. Once dry, finish the paint job by applying two layers of waterproof sealant.