Can You Use Exterior Paint On Furniture – Important Facts

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Exterior paint is hard-wearing and capable of resisting a lot of wear and tear; everything you want from your furniture paint. However, a major concern many homeowners have is, ‘Can you use exterior paint inside?’

While I understand how tempting it can be to utilize leftover exterior paint on indoor items like furniture, trims, and doors, it’s better to understand the basics before you start.

Yes, you can use exterior paint on furniture, but it’s not recommended due to the high levels of VOCs it contains. However, hybrid or low-VOC exterior paint are good options since they offer the durability of exterior paint without health risks.

Wood paint and lacquers are best suited to wooden furniture; therefore, you can’t expect exterior paint to adhere similarly to a wooden surface.

So, invest in quality wood paint if you’re planning to paint furniture inside your home. But, if you’re on a budget and want to save the wall paint left after renovation, I can help you make it work on furniture for lasting results.

Does exterior paint work on furniture?

Before we dive into the nitty gritty details of using exterior paint inside your house, it’s crucial to find out if exterior paint works at all on furniture.

The short answer is: Yes, it does!

Exterior paint is, after all, a highly durable form of wall paint that’s designed to resist water, wind, hail, mold, and several other environmental stressors. Therefore, when you apply exterior paint to the wood properly, it delivers a lasting finish.

Still, exterior paint isn’t formulated for wooden surfaces, making it necessary to prime your furniture before going in with the paint coat.

Should you use exterior paint on furniture?

Now that you know the answer to ‘Can you use exterior acrylic paint inside,’ let’s come to the next important question: Should you apply exterior paint to furniture or not?

If we talk about paint formulation, exterior paint is designed to work on surfaces like stucco, fiber cement, brick, etc. In contrast, wood paint is specially created to last on wooden furniture, making wood paint an obvious choice.

However, this doesn’t mean using exterior paint on furniture is a strict no-no. In fact, there are different ways you can make exterior paint finish last on furniture without compromising your family’s health.

How to color furniture with exterior paint

Exterior paint isn’t designed for furniture, but you can still apply it if you want to. I would recommend starting with water-based paint if you’re a newbie. Oil-based paints can be difficult to work with, especially for beginners.

Another thing you should be mindful of is that exterior paint is supposed to be used outdoors; therefore, it’s best to bring the furniture outside your home to paint. This will also help ensure you don’t inhale harmful VOCs the formula may contain.

Also, remember to wear protective gear, including a mask and gloves, when using any exterior paint. And in case you get stuck with color on your skin or hair, you can read my blog to figure out how to remove it safely.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you color your furniture with exterior paint.

Step 1- Clean the surface

Before you begin the painting process, it’s crucial to clean the surface thoroughly. You can use a damp cloth to wipe away superficial dirt and grime. However, if your furniture needs a deeper cleaning, don’t hesitate to apply a suitable stain remover to scrub it off. 

Once you’ve cleaned the wood surface, allow it to dry properly.

Step 2- Remove the old layer of paint

If your furniture has been painted previously, it’s probably chipping or peeling away. Not removing the old layer means the new top coat will not get a chance to adhere to the surface completely.

An effective way to scrape old paint is by using a metallic scraper. While you may not get rid of the entire layer, you will remove most of it.

Step 3- Sand the furniture

Sanding the surface gives the primer and paint a smooth surface to adhere to. So, make sure to give this step ample time and remove any surface inconsistencies. 

Step 4- Fill in the wood cracks

Natural wood has inherent surface imperfections, so to get a consistent base, you should cover any cracks or nail holes in the wood. You can use a good quality wood filler and a putty knife to do the job.

Allow it time to dry after filling in the cracks, and then sand again to prepare the surface for primer.

Step 5- Apply primer

Many exterior paints have a primer mixed in their formula. While the 2-in-1 colors work well on exterior walls, they can deliver different results on wooden furniture. Another point of consideration is the durability of the paint finish on furniture. Applying a primer ensures the surface is adequately prepped for the color coat.

If you’re wondering, ‘Can I use exterior primer inside?’ the answer is yes! Just make sure to use the same type of primer and paint. For example, the color should also be water-based if your primer is water-based.

Cover the surface entirely with two to three layers of primer. Once the second coat is on, sand the surface to create some texture. This will help the paint stick to your furniture pieces properly. Remember to clean the sanding residue when you’re done.

Step 6- It’s time to color

If you’re going to use an old stored spray paint, check if its nozzle is clogged before you begin. In case it needs unclogging, you can check my blog for quick tips and tricks to unclog the spray paint nozzle.

Spray paints are easier to use but if you plan on applying liquid paint, use a high-quality foam roller or brush. Foam applicators ensure a streakless finish and also help avoid paint drips and overlapping paint lines that are normal with bristle brushes.

Apply two to three coats of color, giving each layer enough time to dry before proceeding with the next one. 

For a flawless finish, sand in between coats to remove any imperfections.

What happens when you use exterior paint indoors?

Despite the tough appearance of exterior paint, it’s not recommended for indoor use. A significant reason is the high level of VOCs that exterior colors contain. When you use the same paint outdoors, you are saved from inhaling the toxic fumes as they evaporate. However, the tables are turned when you apply exterior paint inside your home.

Inhaling VOCs can be hazardous to health, and according to the American Lung Association, it can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. The potent fumes are also known to cause difficulty in breathing and nausea. And in extreme cases, it can impair the central nervous system and other organs. You can read this blog for more information on VOCs and their impact on health.

If you’ve accidentally used exterior paint indoors on furniture, you should keep it outdoors for a few days. Since most VOCs are released in the next 48 hours after painting, placing the furniture outside your home can reduce the health risk.

In case that’s not possible, keep your home well-ventilated for some days or use an air purifier to mitigate the effects of VOCs.

If you want to learn more about the differences between interior and exterior paints and why they’re not interchangeable, check out my blog for a detailed comparison.

Which exterior paint is best for furniture?

When searching for the best exterior paint for furniture, we are looking at two things:

  •  Which exterior paint is safe for indoor use?
  • Which exterior paint provides a durable finish on furniture?

Which exterior paint is safe for indoor use?

Today, paint manufacturers acknowledge the need for low-VOC paints and design exterior paints so that they emit minimum VOCs. You can also find hybrid paints in the market that can be used outdoors and indoors.

So, if you plan on applying the same paint on your exterior walls and furniture, it would be best to opt for low-VOC or hybrid paint. This way, you can enjoy the best of both worlds: long-lasting furniture paint without any health risks.

A good example is the Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Multi-Purpose Enamel Paint, which can be applied to various indoor and outdoor objects such as wood, masonry, and metal. It has a semi-gloss finish which looks more attractive on wooden furniture compared to satin and eggshell finishes. The multi-purpose paint has a water-based acrylic formula with low odor, making it ideal for indoor use.

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Another all-rounder is THE ONE Paint & Primer, which is ideal for both indoor and outdoor use. You can apply it to surfaces such as walls, front doors, furniture, and even brick and stone. This water-based paint is non-toxic with low odor and ultra-low VOC. So, if you’re looking for safe interior and exterior paint, you should definitely consider this option.

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The Montage Signature Interior/ Exterior Paint is an excellent choice if you favor environmental-friendly and pollutant-free paint finishes. This low-sheen paint can be used on interior and exterior surfaces and is available in over 20 shades. So, you have plenty of color options to choose from for your furniture.

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Which exterior paint delivers lasting results on furniture?

When it comes to durability, exterior paints can give other colors a run for their money but what’s important to know here is if they perform well on wooden furniture.

There are two main types of exterior paints:

  • Water-based/ Latex
  • Oil-based/ Enamel

There was a time when professional painters swore by the superior durability of oil-based paints. But thanks to modern technology, water-based paints can offer an equally good finish now. So, which one should you choose for furniture?

Technically, you can use either of them because each has its advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two to help you narrow down the right choice.

Water-based paintsOil-based paints
Dries quickly but takes longer to harden fullyHardens much quicker than water-based paints
Low-odorHas an unpleasant odor
Low VOCsHigh VOCs
Non-yellowingYellows over time (predominantly white shades)
Low level of sheenHigher level of sheen
Less durable (Prone to chipping)More durable

While water-based paints have no health hazards, oil-based paints deliver a more durable, high-sheen result on furniture.

This leaves you with two options. You can buy low-VOC oil-based paint or superior water-based paint suitable for wooden surfaces.

When is the best situation to apply exterior paint to furniture?

While it’s not recommended to use any other type of paint on furniture other than wood paint, there are a few situations when exterior paint seems like a good fit.

Painting outdoor furniture, for example, patio chairs, tables, etc. with interior paint is a good idea. After all, the paint’s formula is designed to withstand environmental stressors. And since the furniture is expected to endure weather elements like wind, rain, and ice, exterior paint can protect it from damage while providing durability to the paint finish.

Another perk of using exterior paint on outdoor furniture is that there’s no need to worry about harmful VOCs. Hence, you can apply any variant, whether water-based or oil-based, on your furniture.

Can I use exterior paint on the inside of my front door?

Yes, it’s alright for you to use exterior paint on the inside of your door to match its front view. However, you should remain mindful of the health risks that high-VOC exterior colors are accompanied by. So, if you choose to paint the inside with exterior paint, make sure it contains minimum VOCs or is a hybrid paint.

Can you use exterior paint in a bathroom?

Bathrooms are generally closed spaces with little ventilation. Therefore, applying exterior paint inside a bathroom on cabinets and shelves may pose health risks. If you need to color the furniture pieces inside your bathroom with exterior paint, it would be best to paint them outdoors. You can leave them outside for two to three days before installing them back in their place inside the bathroom.

In case you’re confused and thinking, ‘Can I use exterior paint on drywall inside my bathroom?’ you should avoid painting your interior walls with exterior paint. 

Can I use exterior paint inside my garage?

Absolutely! You can color inside your garage with exterior paint, but you must ensure the room is adequately ventilated. Consider leaving the garage door open while you paint to facilitate air circulation. This will help reduce the effects of paint fumes.


What is the difference between exterior and interior wood paint?

Exterior wood paint is formulated to withstand moisture, mildew, and fading caused by sunlight. On the other hand, interior wood paint is designed to be easier to clean and durable enough to tolerate daily wear and tear.

Is it better to brush or roll paint on furniture?

You can use a mix of brushes and rollers to paint your furniture for the best results. Large plain surfaces can be rolled on, while narrow grooves and curves are better painted with a brush.

Does exterior paint make wood waterproof?

Using waterproof exterior paint on wood helps seal its surface and protect it from moisture and water. However, if holes and cracks appear on the wood over time, the exterior paint can no longer stop the water from seeping in.

Does exterior paint keep wood from rotting?

Exterior paint is formulated to withstand rotting from environmental stressors; therefore, applying the same color to wood ensures that its surface remains safe from wood rot.

What happens if you paint over rotting wood?

Painting over rotten wood means you will only mask the damage and not undo it. Eventually, the rot will find its way to the surface, ruining the appearance of your paint job.


Exterior paint is undoubtedly more durable than any other paint type. Therefore, it only makes sense to apply it to your furniture, hoping its paint finish would last too. However, you must sand and prime your furniture before using the paint to maximize its longevity.

Now that you know the answer to ‘Can you use weather shield paint indoors’ remember to use low-VOC or hybrid paint for indoor pieces to avoid any health risks.

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