How to Paint Outdoor Railings | Ask This Old House

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In this video, Ask This Old House painter Mauro Henrique paints an outdoor railing that Nathan just built to match the original railing around a homeowner’s deck.

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After Nathan Gilbert installs new deck stair railings, Mauro swings by to finish the job. He uses a sample of the paint from the existing railing and has it color matched at a nearby home center. He then demonstrates how to prime and paint the stairs.

Time: 4 hours
Cost: $100
Skill Level: Beginner

Shopping List:
Painter’s tape (exterior grade) []
Dropcloth []
180-grit sandpaper []
Gloves []
N-95 mask []
Vacuum []
Oil-based primer []
Exterior wood filler []

Random orbital sander []
Mini roller []
2 ½” paint brush []

Steps for painting outdoor railings
1. Use painter’s tape to protect the deck and the older railing.
2. Put a dropcloth down to catch any debris, primer, or paint.
3. Use 180-grit sandpaper to sand down any imperfections in the wood. Mauro used a sanding block for the balusters and a random orbital sander for the posts and railings to get the job done quicker on the larger areas.
a. Wear a mask and gloves to protect yourself from splinters.
4. Vacuum all the debris.
5. Start priming. Use a mini roller for the larger areas and a paint brush for the areas that are harder to get to.
6. Focus on the bottom wood, that’s where most of the water will end up.
7. Let the primer dry before painting, wait about an hour.
8. Fill in any nail holes with exterior grade wood filler.
9. Paint.
10. Let the first coat dry and add the second coat.

Where to find it?
Mauro wanted to match the paint color of the existing deck, which he did by bringing a small sample of the existing paint to a local paint store. Most paint stores and home centers have machines that can scan a sample and generate a close color match to the paint.

The paint Mauro used for the railings was Behr Premium Plus Exterior Semi-Gloss paint and primer (, though he also used a separate, oil-based primer for the base coat.

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About Ask This Old House TV:
From the makers of This Old House, America’s first and most trusted home improvement show, Ask This Old House answers the steady stream of home improvement questions asked by viewers across the United States. Covering topics from landscaping to electrical to HVAC and plumbing to painting and more. Ask This Old House features the experts from This Old House, including general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, landscape contractor Jenn Nawada, master carpenter Norm Abram, and host Kevin O’Connor. Ask This Old House helps you protect and preserve your greatest investment—your home.

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How to Paint Outdoor Railings | Ask This Old House

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