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  • Scott Rickert

One Coat of Paint or Two?


We are often asked how many coats of paint are needed to paint an interior wall, trim or the exterior of a house. To put it simply and answer the question quickly so you don’t have to read the rest of the post, YES, two coats of paint are required. If you want more detail on why we suggest two coats over one, continue reading below.

The long answer is that it is nearly impossible to adequately cover an entire space with one coat. Going this route is a recipe for failure. I have seen one coat of paint fail within one year on the exterior of a home. People think that if you’re sticking with the same color on the outside of your home, you only need to apply one coat because, by sight, it doesn’t look any different.

That might be true partially true, but after you lay down your first coat and admire it, you're not truly seeing it. Lit by your can lights, table lamps, or floor lights, that color coat is only reflecting about half of its possible light. That's why professional painters use large, tripod-mounted lights to illuminate their work. Light up your single-coated bedroom wall with one of these babies and you'll be horrified at the painter roller track marks and brush smears. Any wood filler or Spackle will show through one coat of paint. Putting down a second coat not only obliterates the overlaps, smears, and lines, but it also deepens the color, making it richer, more durable and closer to the paint manufacturer's intended color.

Manufacturers like Sherwin Williams specify on all products that they recommend two coats of paint. This is the way the product is designed to hold up over time. Two coats will outperform one coat in terms of durability, protection, washability and getting the true color and retaining the true color.

I know people tend to think that it costs more money to apply more coats of paint, but it’s more about performance than cost.

This second coat also physically strengthens the paint, which is very important for exterior painting, less important, though still recommended, for interior walls. For door and window trim, I recommend two coats or more because those areas experience heavy use and particularly need durable paint.

You will typically pay 30 percent more upfront on the second coat, but it can last five times longer than just one coat. Like most quality products, you’re paying for longevity and performance.

When hiring a painting contractor, look at the scope of work provided and ask if the estimate includes two coats of paint.

Note: The only exception to this is when you coat or seal a deck. You only need one coat for this kind of deck project. In all other instances, two coats are necessary for the interior and exterior of your home.

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