Paint Roller

How Many Coats of Paint?

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

Paint Roller

Photo from the paint gurus

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 answer (one isn’t enough)!

Exterior Surfaces
Without question, when painting exterior surfaces, two coats of paint should be applied.  Since outdoor surfaces are exposed to the elements and occasionally harsh weather, it’s difficult to get away with cutting corners here. Paint jobs are more prone to peeling or fading if products are misapplied, which may include using only one coat of paint, or failing to properly prepare the surface by pressure washing, priming, etc.  Painters who fail to follow these procedures do not meet industry standards, which is why it is so important to hire a contractor with a commitment to quality work.  Even in our wet climate, a well-applied paint job can last as long as six to ten years.  As you can see, it is well worth paying the price for a job well done!

Interior Surfaces
With interior painting, we are still concerned with durability, but are more concerned with coverage.  In general, we still say that two coats is a good rule of thumb. The thicker coverage, again, provides greater durability, and it also makes it easier for you to wash or scrub the surface if needed.  Two coats are also 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 the same color or a very similar color, a single coat will likely be just fine.

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

All in all, two coats is better than one.  In addition, buying better quality paint may save you from having to apply too many coats.


  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.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.