How Many Coats of Exterior Paint Do I Need? One vs. Two Coats of Paint

How many coats of paint do you need if you’re ready to freshen up your home with a new coat or two of color? While this question could be answered with a simple “one” or “two,” there are more details to consider to understand what’s best for you and your home. We will also investigate what contractors are selling and how you can tell if you’re getting the coats of paint you paid for.

One Coat of Paint
One coat of paint is not usually the preference for most homeowners. However, there are situations when only one coat of paint is genuinely needed on your home. This includes if you are matching paint to your existing paint color and just want to give your home a facelift. When matching the new paint color to your previous one, there are fewer concerns about the old color peeking through since they will be the same. One coat of paint also means less paint is needed and less labor to pay for reducing your overall project costs. While one coat of paint may not last as long as if you were to apply a second coat, one coat of Sherwin Williams paint could quickly get you over their recommended mil thickness which we will talk about later. Perhaps you are selling your home and are running short on time. One coat of paint can be a one-day project.

Two Coats of Paint
If you don’t fall into the one coat scenarios, you’re most likely a two coat project. Painters typically sell two coats of paint. Let’s talk more about when you want two coats of paint and how to compare contractor bids selling two coats of paint.

You need two coats of paint when:

  • The siding is damaged and peeling
  • You want to change the color of your home
  • You want a long-lasting and more durable product

You have probably received a few bids from painting companies, and you’re ready to compare. If you are comparing the proposals and each is offering two coats of paint, how do the numbers differ? With a bid far lower than others offering two coats, we have some questions. Since most painters all use Sherwin Williams, everyone technically uses the same products, right? So why would the prices be so different?

Quality and quantity. The type of paint product used may be better quality and achieves the look you are going for in only one coat. And that’s okay. Or perhaps the lower bid contractor is only applying one coat because it achieves the look you are going for, but they might have listed two coats on the bid. While that may be misleading, it may still be achieving your goals. Some of the pricier bids listing two coats might be more accurate since more products are needed, and labor increases your overall project cost. What actually matters? Let’s talk about paint thickness, known as mil thickness.

Mil Thickness (1/1000th Inch)

Most professional painters sell two coats of paint on their contract, but how do you actually know if you got your two coats? The thickness of the paint being applied is measured in mil thickness. Sherwin Williams has a minimum 4 mil wet standard. One coat of paint using a sprayer can achieve over the 4 mil thickness and provide the most uniform paint job, while a roller brush often requires two coats to achieve the 4 mil standard and takes more time and labor cost.
If your contractor is selling you two coats of paint, ask if they are spraying or using a roller brush. Most professional painters use a sprayer. If he says two coats using a sprayer, you need to ask some follow-up questions to determine what he really means by two coats. The answer you are looking for comes down to the drying process.

Drying and Recoat Time

Sherwin Williams has Duration, Resilience, SuperPaint, and A-100 Exterior products that will allow you to paint down to 35° F. In comparison, traditional latex-based paints require the temperature to be above 60° F to cure properly. Warmer temperatures allow latex particles to melt together. This is why you typically see painting occur during Summer primarily. However, this doesn’t mean Spring and Fall are out of the question. While you may have the right temperature during the day, dew forms on almost everything in cooler temperatures as soon as the sun goes down. You don’t want the temperature to be too hot either, so the project’s timing matters more than you might think.

Check your paint label or ask your contractor what the temperature recommendations and ranges are before starting to understand and monitor the temperatures outside and if there is enough drying time between coats if you apply a second layer. Water-based paint also referred to as latex paint, dries quicker than oil-based products and needs 4 hours of dry time before a second coat is applied.

When any painter says they are applying two coats of paint, their process likely looks something like this:

  1. Prepare the home for painting (Clean exterior, remove flaking paint, repair surface flaws, prep windows)
  2. Spray paint coating #1
  3. Let the home dry overnight
  4. Spray paint coating #2

While some painters say they are applying two coats, that may not always be the case in our professional opinion. If they are not letting the first coat of paint cure for a minimum of 4 hours, a second coat cannot be applied, and it takes one full day on average to spray one coat of paint. One other point worth mentioning is that spraying an area from one angle and then again from another angle is not the same as two coats.

On particularly porous surfaces, painters may need to spray the area, then go over it quickly with a roller to push the paint into the pores. If you ask us, this is also not considered two coats of paint. Dry time is the only way to fully understand if you got your two coats which takes 4 hours of minimum curing time.

Roofing property

How to Measure Wet and Dry Film Thickness

Measuring paint while it is still wet, before it has time to cure, is the wet film thickness. After the paint has dried is the dry film thickness measurement. If you want to double check that your home was painted with a specific mil thickness level or that it met the minimum 4 mil wet standard, you can purchase and measure with your own wet film thickness gauge during the painting process. You can also request your painter to show you the measurement just after they have applied the coating.

Manufacturers create specific products for specific purposes with specific ingredients for specific ratios, and they ask you to cover the area being painted at a specific ratio for optimal performance. The most important measurement to meet is what the manufacturer specifies for the product being applied.

Exterior Painting with Endeavor Exteriors

We apply two coats of paint using a sprayer brush, so while our prices may come in on the higher end, we ensure you are getting quality products and application for a durable, beautiful, and long-lasting effect that will make your home look fresh and new.

Remember that if you have window replacement on your list of upcoming projects, be sure to replace your windows first, as the window replacement process can damage your new paint job. If you decide that painting your home just isn’t going to cut it, check out our top siding options that will give you the most bang for your buck.