Barn Paint Vs Exterior Paint – Explained For Outdoor Use

If you’re wondering what the differences are between barn paint vs exterior paint, this complete guide can help you.

Barn paint and exterior paint have many of the same uses, but there are key differences you need to know.  

Barn Paint Overview 

Barn paint can be water-based or oiled based. It can be used on exterior wooden surfaces or metal and plastic cladded buildings.

Despite its name, it does not have to be used solely on barns or on wood. You can also apply barn paint to surfaces that have been painted before, which makes this paint very versatile.  

Barn paint is tough and durable and uses a protective coating that makes sure the color is retained for years and years to come. 

Newly Painted Barn

Exterior House Paint Overview 

Exterior paint is different than interior paint because it’s specially formulated to withstand environmental factors like mildew and fading. Exterior paint can be water-based or oil-based. You might also need to use a paint primer when you are painting the outside of your house 

Exterior paint is meant to last because it needs to stay intact even through rain and snow. Many people choose to use acrylic latex exterior paint because it is flexible and breathable.  

Newly Painted House Exterior

Barn Paint Vs Exterior House Paint - Key Differences Explained

Types of Paint (water-based or oil-based)  

Both barn paint and exterior house paint come in either water based or oil based varieties. Water-based barn paints have less peeling and cracking than oil-based barn paints. Despite less cracking, water-based paint is still considered to be weaker than oil-based barn paint.

Oil-based paints are more durable and more impermeable and are considered to be some of the most heavy-duty paints.  

A professional painter can recommend what kind of paint to use or choose one for you if you allow them. However, most people choose oil-based paint even though it’s a little more expensive.  


Barn paint was originally created for barns, so it's primarily used on wood surfaces. You can use it on other surfaces depending on the kind and the brand you use.

Always check the can or the manufacturer label to see if they recommend certain surfaces for it to be painted on or if it can be used on surfaces other than wood. Exterior paint can be used on metal roofs, plastic, or other materials that are commonly used to build homes.  


Both paints have high viscosity and are generally the right thickness they need to be for the paint job on outdoor walls of homes and barns. This means you can use it right from the can without needing to make changes.  

If you want thinner coats of paint, though, you might need to use mineral oil or another method to make the paint thinner. In general, most people don't choose to thin the paint unless they have experience with this and they know how or why they need to thin the paint 


A gallon of exterior paint will usually cover about 250 to 400 square feet of surface area with one coat. Barn paint will cover about 250 square feet per gallon. A 5-gallon container of barn paint will cover 1250 square feet.

The exact amount of coverage will depend on the brand you are using and how you apply the paint. Darker colors may need more coats to make them look smoother.  


Both types of paints are very durable because they are meant to be used outside where they are facing environmental elements. In general, though, exterior paint lasts longer if you buy a good brand and use oil-based rather than water-based. Exterior paint also has to be redone less often.  

The exact durability will depend on where you live, though, and the environmental elements that come into play around your home or barn.  

Weather Resistance 

Both paints have similar qualities when it comes to weather resistance. Both paints are meant to be used outdoors, facing weather elements and harsh environmental conditions. Barn paints are cheaper, though, so many people choose to use barn paints to save costs when repainting their home or barn.  

Exterior paints are a little more weather resistant than barn paint, though, and might be a better choice if you want fewer touch-ups or if you want the paint job to last longer.  


When you think of painting a barn, some traditional colors probably come to mind. Most people choose to paint their barns in red, black, or brown. Barn paint usually comes in these colors, but you might be able to find other colors in some stores. You can always choose something non-traditional if you want.  

Exterior paint comes in many more colors than barn paint, and you are free to paint the house in any color you want unless your neighborhood or city requires specific colors.  

Buckets of Used Paint


The finish will depend on whether you are using water-based or oil-based. Oil-based paints generally have a glossier and smoother finish.

Exterior paints come in a larger variety of finishes, though, because you can get matte, satin, eggshell, semi-gloss, and gloss.

Barn paints don't come in these finishes; you will usually only be able to find glossy and matte. The finish you choose will depend on where you live and how discrete or non-discrete you want your home or barn to be.  


Most barn paints are made to be non-toxic to animals since they are used on barns where animals are being kept.

Some exterior paints are non-toxic, but it depends on the brand and the type you have. If you want to use exterior paint on a barn or where animals are going to be located, make sure you check the ingredients and ensure none of them are toxic.  


Barn paint is usually cheaper than exterior paint, partly because the quality is inferior. Barn paints can be less durable than exterior paint, but many people choose to use them because they are cheaper and come in basic colors that look nice on homes.

They also have better clarity and vibrancy, which can make your barn or home look beautiful. You can also apply them to wood without needing to use a primer.  

Can You Use Barn Paint On A House? 

Yes, you can paint a house with barn paint. You can use barn paint to paint a number of exterior surfaces, including homes, garages, barns, and fences.

Many people choose to use barn paint rather than exterior paint because it is much cheaper. However, you will find that your color choices will be significantly reduced. 

Using barn paint can be a much more economical way to paint your home or another outdoor surface you have that needs painting.  

Barn Vs Exterior Paint FAQs

How long does barn paint last? 

How long paint lasts depends on different factors, however, latex and acrylic barn paints typically last about 5 years. Oil-based paints last about 10 years. Some of the newer brands have pure linseed oil barn paint, which can last 15 years or more, but they are more expensive.  

How long will a good exterior paint job last? 

A good exterior paint job will last about 5-10 years. The exact time frame depends on what company you use for the painting, though, and what kind of paint you use.  

Do you need a primer with barn paint? 

If you are applying barn paint to wood, you do not need to use a primer since the paint is meant to go on wood. If you are using it on a surface other than wood, you might need a primer to achieve the desired results.  


Barn and exterior paint are great outdoor paints to use when you have a new outdoor project you want to complete. They can be used in many similar ways and are both durable and weather resistant.