Painting an outdoor timber building is your big chance to inject some colour and vibrancy to your little piece of paradise, tucked away at the bottom of your green-treed garden. From the grandest summerhouse to a delightful ‘shabby-chic’ hideaway, the right application of paint can help protect, beautify and make the most of your investment. Painting, and the preparation required, isn’t difficult if you follow a few simple guidelines, and it will repay your time and trouble for years to come.

Use the right products

Because the building will be exposed to all types of weather, it’s vitally important to use the right products – a proper paint job will last for years, protect the timber, and keep the building watertight and looking great. Look for paint that are specifically for garden or outdoor use, or dedicated ‘shed’ paint. If there’s not a paint stockist in your area, then go online and select what you need. Online retailers are only too happy to deliver, in some cases for free.

Your environmental choices

Many people choose a wooden summerhouse because they love the outdoors and would like to reduce their carbon footprint. So, it makes perfect sense to use an environmentally-friendly paint too. Traditionally, paints and outdoor timber treatments were solvent-based, but today this is no longer the case.

Paints specially formulated with a water base now offer a safer alternative. Not only do they dry faster and have much lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), they also don’t require an undercoat … and your brushes can be cleaned by just using soapy water. Water-based paints tend to discolour less than solvent-based, and they flex with the wood rather than split and crack, which means your paint job will last much, much longer.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

For most sheds, summerhouses, log cabins and garden offices that are supplied ready for painting, you need to get moving within three months of assembly in order protect your warranty. If the timber has not been factory pre-treated against fungal or insect decay then you’ll need to buy a preservative treatment and apply this first. It’s also vital to coat the end-grains of the timber such as those under the doors, to prevent water soaking in and causing wood rot.

What’s the weather doing?

Before you start painting, make sure you check the weather forecast. Ideally, you want a fine, dry day that’s not too cold. If temperatures are below 10 degrees centigrade, the performance of the paint and the way it dries will be impaired. Avoid damp or humid days; paint that’s applied to wood that’s wet will flake and blister and peel away.

Be safe

Garden buildings need to conform to planning guidelines. This requires them to be below 2.5m high when within 2 metres of a boundary. Even at this height you’ll need a sturdy ladder, especially for working around the roofline. If your building is larger, it might be wise to rent a scaffold tower for extra stability. Don’t try and paint standing on unsteady boxes or garden tables; it’s just not worth risking your own safety.

Be careful

If you’re going to use a paint sprayer don’t forget to protect the surrounding walls, fences, and ground with dust sheets. Your neighbours might have something to say if you end up spraying their prized Azalea bright blue or eye-popping pink. Next, cover up the windows with newspaper and masking tape and, although this may sound obvious, keep your children and pets out of the way.

You may prefer to paint with brushes, but for larger timber buildings a paint sprayer is a much better and quicker option. Sprayers can be rented from most tool hire shops at very reasonable prices. A supply of a few smaller brushes for fine detail work is a good idea, and you should also keep a supply of rags, cloths or paper towels handy to clean up any mess or spills.

A final word

As with painting indoors, you should always start at the top and work downwards. Plan to work outwards so that if you stop for a break, you won’t create a visible line or edge. Pausing at the corner of a building or behind the down-pipe of a gutter is a good idea.

This article was brought to you by Dakota Murphey, freelance writer working alongside DIY installation specialists, Hortons UK Log Cabins.