How Many Coats of Paint?

In Exterior Painting, Homeowner Tips, Interior Painting by Jeff Dupont7 Comments

How many coats of paint should I use? 

This is a question often asked of painting contractors, and something homeowners might struggle with when completing their own projects.  It depends on the nature of the project, but generally, two coats is the minimum.

Exterior Surfaces

Without question, when painting exterior surfaces, two coats of paint should be applied. Since outdoor surfaces are exposed to the elements, it’s difficult to get away with cutting corners here. Paint jobs are more prone to peeling and fading if products are misapplied, which may include only using one coat of paint or failing to properly wash, prime, etc. Painters who fail to follow these procedures do not meet industry standard. This is why it’s important to hire a contractor with a commitment to quality work. Even in the wet climate that Seattle has, a well-applied paint job can last as long as six to ten yers!

Interior Surfaces

With interior painting, we are still concerned with durability, but are more concerned about coverage. In general, we still say that two coats is a good rule of thumb. The thicker coverage provides greater durability, and also makes it easier to wash or scrub the surface if needed. Two coats are a must if you are making a significant change in color – especially if you are going for more vibrant colors. On the other hand, if you are re-painting a wall in teh same color or a very similar color, two coats will likely be fine.

The number of coats required may also change depending on the quality of paint used. Unfortunately, low quality paint does not hide well. This can result in a major headache when you have to apply multiple coasts just to get proper coverage. High quality paint has better pigments, resins, additives, and more solids. In short, this means that it hides better and lasts longer, resulting in a thicker coat.

Two coats are better than one, and a higher quality paint will save you time in the long run.


  1. When you say two coats, does that mean primer plus two coats? Or do Are you including the primer?

    1. Author

      Hi there! We often find that a primer coat (if primer is needed) and a coat of paint is sufficient for coverage, especially when using pre-tinted primer as we often do. However, this depends on the color and surface being painted. Some colors are inherently less opaque and will require additional coats for sufficient coverage. It’s all about when that coverage can be achieved. I think you’ll also find that the high quality paint you use, the quicker you will obtain the right coverage. On exterior surfaces, the principle is similar. You do want to avoid putting excessive coats on exterior surfaces if it is not needed because this can have the undesired effect of causing bubbling, especially on old homes that have already had multiple finish coats and are prone to moisture. We hope to write another blog post on this subject soon to elaborate more. 🙂

      1. So now I’m confused. In your 2013 article you indicated the two coats of paint on the exterior were absolutely necessary. In your 2018 post you indicate that one coat may be enough and that two coats may even be detrimental to old houses that have been painted before. What is your most current advice on this?
        Thank you
        Jackie James

        1. Author

          Hi Jackie, now that we have been painting homes in Seattle for close to ten years now, we have seen on more and more occasions how too many coats of paint have lead to bubbling on older homes that don’t always have the best ventilation. We still think two coats is good general advice, especially for new surfaces and more modern materials like hardie-plank. It truly just depends on the individual factors of the home, such as its age, condition, type of siding, etc., so we always recommend a professional assessment if possible. We will likely update this post soon, just to clarify that a little more since it is so common in our area.

  2. I’m typically adamant about the necessity of two coats. When it comes to one-coat exteriors often-times we hear from our painters that touching up is difficult because with the “second coat”/touch-up the full depth/coverage of the paint becomes apparent and looks better than the single coat!

    This was a good read!

    1. Author

      Thank you Sarah, for your great comment! That’s a very good point, regarding the exterior paint. Touch-ups can be difficult even with multiple coats, since paint can change its look over time. One coat could definitely exacerbate that problem!

  3. It’s good to know that the quality of paint effects the number of coats that painters should apply. I should spare no expense when it’s time for the exterior of my house to be painted. It sounds like if I do that I will actually be saving money in the long run.

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