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How many coats of paint are necessary?

Last modified: 2022-09-12 | Approximate reading time 5 mins

We can’t deny that painting usually turns out to be a time-consuming activity. Most homeowners love the idea of a fresh coat of paint, but the process of getting there can be tricky. This labour-intensive job needs attention to detail and perseverance, especially if you’re dealing with the age-old debate of how many coats of paint are necessary.

Whether interior or exterior, you may feel satisfied following the first coat of paint. As well, putting down a second layer could seem far too labour intensive. However, it is recommended that you examine the process of painting further in order to know the right move.

So, if you’re looking to freshen up your home by way of paint but aren’t quite certain how many coats to use, then this article is definitely targeted towards you! Read on for all of the relevant information regarding painting practices!

How many coats of paint are necessary?

When painting with the same colour

In most instances where painting the same colour over itself is involved, one coat of paint should be sufficient. However, there are some definite stipulations to this rule, as just one coat of paint will not always be enough. To start with, before applying any paint to a surface, make sure it has been thoroughly cleaned. Any residual dirt or dust left on your walls or ceiling will compromise the coat of paint, and thus, it will have less of a chance of lasting for an extended period.

Secondly, do a bit of research regarding effective application techniques, whether that means using a roller or a brush. Applying a fresh coat of paint in a correct and uniform way will allow for increased longevity as well as avoiding peeling or damage to the surface.

Further, if the paint you are using for the single coat has been stored in a basement or garage for more than 5 years, chances are it won’t have the same coating power as a newer can of paint will. In the same regard, if the paint on the wall you’re looking to cover is fading or stained, it is recommended that you apply more than one coat even if you're working with the same colour.

When painting a dark colour over a light colour


source: unsplash

Painting a dark colour over light-coloured paint will be case-by-case dependant. In theory, most dark colours should cover seamlessly over light colours but as with our example above, in some instances, one coat won't be enough. However, some paints including pastels and heavy colours such as deep reds are referred to as low-hide colours. This means that their shade will not work to hide certain colours, even if they’re darker than the one underneath. In these cases, two coats of paint are often necessary to cover up the colour underneath.

Also worth noting is that custom-mixed colours, as well as lower grade paints, may not cover as well as higher-end or factory-mixed paint. This will not be shade dependant and will instead come down to the quality of paint.

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When painting a light colour over a dark colour

In the case of painting a light colour over a dark one, common sense should prevail. This simply means that a single coat of paint will not do the job. Further, in most cases, it will be necessary for you to apply a tinted primer before applying the new paint. Applying a primer in the right shade will not only help you to save ample time, but it will also allow you to save money. 

There are plenty of different primers on the market, but the majority of them are able to neutrally block a colour, provided they are properly applied. Working with primer is an excellent option to cover up a majority of services, as it allows for a new surface that your new paint colour can easily attach itself to.

When using one-coat paint

Yes, one-coat paint is a thing that has popped up onto the market in recent years. Though it has been around for a while, the term itself is now used as a marketing ploy to refer to heavier, thicker acrylic-paint. Yes, the paint exists but does it work? In most cases, these thicker acrylic paints should be left for emergency situations, such as stained ceilings as well as when covering up water damage.

Furthermore, the “single coat” guarantee that many companies suggest does not apply to white paint or to any paint that is uncoated or porous. On top of this, this paint can prove difficult to work with, as the thickness can cause issues during the application process. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend going forward with this option unless you find it is the only solution.

When do you need only need a single coat?

paint brushes

source: unsplash

If you really aren’t keen on painting two coats on your walls or ceilings due to a lack of energy, time, or otherwise, there are some situations when you likely won’t need two coats, and they are as follows:

  • When matching an existing colour with a coat that is still in good condition;
  • When painting over a primer that is pre-tinted;
  • When painting your ceiling (unless there is serious water damage or otherwise);
  • On trim, on crown moulding and other places of similarity;
  • On surfaces that are rarely seen or used.

When painting exterior surfaces

In most cases, exterior surfaces will follow the suggestions we have listed above. However, it is important to bear in mind that paint outside is far more likely to wear off, chip and stain as compared with surfaces painted indoors. This is obvious, in that outdoor surfaces deal with harsh weather conditions. For this reason, it is recommended that you paint all outdoor surfaces using two coats, as to avoid having to go over the job in the near future. It is also recommended that you use a primer whenever painting outdoor surfaces, especially one that is made specifically for outdoor surfaces. 

For more info about exterior painting, check out: "Advice and instructions for exterior wall painting" and "What products should you use for exterior painting?"

Before you start painting, we suggest that you check out this article: House Painting Projects: What are the Ideal Conditions

WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET A GENERAL IDEA OF HOW MUCH YOUR PAINTING PROJECT WILL COST? Test our cost estimator which calculates according to the room dimension and the number of colours.

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