When you’re looking for paint for an upcoming project or speaking with a contractor about your paint options, you’re usually familiar with classic options like latex and acrylic. However, you may also come across a lesser-used alternative, elastomeric paint. And if you aren’t familiar with what elastomeric paint brings to the table, you may have trouble figuring out if it’s for you.
Elastomeric paint is a specialty paint designed for masonry, stucco, and similar surfaces. The name of the paint is a shortened version of “elastic polymer” or “elastomer,” a nod to its composition. It’s incredibly flexible, highly durable, and much thicker than other paints on the market.
However, that doesn’t mean elastomeric paint isn’t without its drawbacks. Plus, it’s not a great choice for every painting project. If you’re curious about elastomeric paint, here’s what you need to know.
What Is Elastomeric Paint?
As mentioned above, elastomeric paint is an exterior coating designed for surfaces like stucco and masonry. It’s incredibly flexible and highly durable. Plus, it can be up to ten times thicker than other paints, and it’s UV resistant, both of which can extend its lifespan.
When it comes to composition, elastomeric paint is comprised of materials with rubber-like qualities, namely, elastomers. The name is actually short for “elastic polymer” or “elastomers,” which generally describes the core characteristics of the coating.
What Is Elastomeric Paint Used For?
Elastomeric paint is used on specific types of exterior surfaces. They protect masonry, stucco, roofing, and similar materials from the elements better than traditional paints. When applied correctly, they can even make a surface waterproof.
In most cases, they’re only used in areas where the weather is known to be harsh or on properties that aren’t regularly visited, such as vacation homes. Additionally, you’ll usually only see elastomeric paint on surfaces that don’t need to breathe, as waterproof coatings are inherently not breathable.
Along with masonry and stucco, metal is another surface type that doesn’t typically need to breathe. However, wood might benefit from airflow, particularly if it isn’t completely dry or if you live in high humidity areas that prevent complete drying. As a result, elastomeric paint isn’t always a good choice for wood.
Benefits of Elastomeric Paint
Elastomeric paint is a specialty product, bringing some unique benefits to the table. By understanding what they are, you have a better chance of determining if elastomeric paint is suitable for your project.
One of the biggest benefits of elastomeric paint is that it can be completely watertight. When applied properly, moisture can’t penetrate the coating. As a result, the underlying material is completely shielded from the elements.
This makes elastomeric paint popular for materials that may become damaged by heavy rain and wind. This includes surfaces that might be susceptible to erosion, like masonry, and materials that may be at risk of corrosion, like metal.
Elastomers are incredibly flexible, giving elastomeric paint a rubber-like quality when dry. Since the coating is naturally a bit stretchy, it can shift and adjust with the underlying structure. Whether significant temperature differences lead to swelling and shrinkage or there’s a bit of settling, elastomeric paint will usually stretch or move instead of crack.
The composition of elastomeric paint is far more durable than typical paints. The flexibility can reduce the odds of damage if it’s struck. Similarly, if something like a tree limb drags across it due to wind, it won’t necessarily scratch.
The flexibility also makes it far less likely that the paint will crack due to settling or the effects of extreme weather. As a result, it can keep the surface looking clean and well cared for far longer than some alternatives.
When applied correctly, elastomeric paint is up to ten times thicker than regular paint. Along with increased durability, the extra density comes with other benefits. Since the coating is thicker, it can have a slight insulating effect. That can make it more energy-efficient than certain alternative paint types, particularly in areas where extreme heat or cold is typical.
Elastomeric paint is commonly UV resistant. Along with adding to its durability, this can help the paint look better longer. As a result, you may not need repair as often to keep the color looking vibrant, which is beneficial.
Plus, the UV resistance helps prevent sunlight from breaking down the paint’s surface. This also increases the lifespan of elastomeric paint, potentially allowing it to remain smooth for years beyond a typical paint.
Disadvantages of Elastomeric Paint
While elastomeric paint has some benefits in its corner, there are also drawbacks. Here’s a look at the disadvantage of elastomeric paint.
When it comes to drawbacks, the cost is often the most noticeable. Sometimes, elastomeric paint costs up to 50 percent more than regular paints. Along with a higher per-can price, it takes more cans to complete a project. Primarily, this is because elastomeric paint goes on thicker, so a single can doesn’t cover as much square footage.
When taken together, that significantly increases the price of any paint project. As a result, even if you want the benefits of elastomeric paint, it could be unaffordable if you have a tight budget.
Hard to Apply
Elastomeric paint doesn’t have the same makeup or consistency as traditional paints. If you aren’t familiar with how to work with it, you might have difficulty applying the elastomeric paint properly. As a result, it may not go on evenly or might not end up fully watertight due to an application error.
Additionally, the application challenges can make hiring an experienced painter to do the work more expensive. Essentially, you need a specialized skill set that can come with a higher price tag.
Improper application can lead to several aesthetic and durability issues, with lumps being a common problem. Along with harming the overall look of your paint project, lumps usually indicate that there are weak points on the surface. As a result, you may end up with cracking, preventing the coating from being watertight and causing it to peel far faster than it would otherwise.
As with any watertight coating, elastomeric paint isn’t breathable. While that means that it keeps moisture from the outside off the underlying surface, moisture on the underlying surface may also have no way to escape.
The lack of breathability is why elastomeric paint isn’t typically used on wood. Since moisture naturally found in the wood has nowhere to go, it can lead to rot, causing the underlying surface to break down beneath the elastomeric coating. Also, mold and mildew might be a problem because of the lack of airflow.
Vague Product Instructions
As mentioned above, applying elastomeric paint isn’t the same as using regular paint. However, not all product manufacturers are particularly clear about the nuances in their product instructions.
Some labels won’t tell you how many coats you’ll need, how thick the layers should be, or how long you should wait in between, for example. Others may incidentally imply that application is easy and requires no special knowledge or skills, which isn’t typically true.
Where and When Should You Use Elastomeric Paint?
In most cases, you want to use elastomeric paint on materials like stucco or masonry in areas with harsh elements. It’ll protect the underlying surface from the weather and can flex to adapt to changing conditions or settling.
Additionally, elastomeric paint is typically a solid choice for properties you aren’t at particularly often. The extra protection can be valuable if you don’t have eyes on the surface regularly, reducing the odds of certain kinds of damage while you’re away.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use elastomeric paint on your primary residence. It will offer ample protection and solid longevity, which could limit your need for repainting in the future while preserving the underlying material.
Is Elastomeric Paint Good for Stucco?
Elastomeric paint is an excellent choice for stucco. It’s specifically designed to protect those kinds of surfaces, ensuring wind-driven rain, hail, or debris aren’t damaging the stucco. Plus, it offers UV protection and exceptional durability, both of which may help maintain the integrity of your stucco long-term.
However, it’s crucial that the underlying stucco is in good repair before you paint. While elastomeric paint is flexible and durable, it isn’t permeating. Since that’s the case, you can’t rely on it to fill holes and cracks, only cover them. If issues aren’t addressed, the underlying stucco could lose structural integrity even if it’s coated with elastomeric paint and the application is done correctly.
In most cases, reputable professional painters will check your stucco before beginning to make sure repairs aren’t necessary before they start. However, if they aren’t also stucco professionals, you may want to have specialists come out before you set up a painting appointment. That way, they can identify issues you’ll need to fix and quote you for the work in a single visit.
Does Elastomeric Paint Need Primer?
A primer is recommended for nearly any paint project, including if you’re using elastomeric paint. Since elastomeric paint is non-penetrating, primer could be particularly important if you need to fill small holes and want to promote proper adhesion.
In most cases, you won’t want to grab just any primer either. Instead, you need to look at the elastomeric paint manufacturer’s labels or product data to see what type of primer is recommended. It may have one that it says works with all underlying materials or may have different recommendations based on the surface you want to paint.
In either case, review the recommendations carefully and choose a correlating product. If you don’t’ see details on the product packaging, head to the manufacturer’s website to find additional details.
How to Apply Elastomeric Paint
In most cases, applying elastomeric paint involves the same steps as you’d find with other paints. First, you want to spend time preparing the surface.
Typically, that begins with a thorough cleaning. You may want to use a pressure washer to remove dirt and debris at first. Keep the pressure low initially and slowly move up, ensuring you don’t accidentally damage the material. Then transition to a brush if there are particularly stubborn spots.
If you need to use a cleaner to tackle dirt, grime, or stains, choose one that’s designed for paint preparation and the underlying material. Trisodium phosphate is often effective, but you need to exercise caution when using it, so keep that in mind.
Along with a thorough cleaning, make sure any holes, cracks, or other structural issues with the underlying material are addressed. That ensures you’re working with a strong base.
Once that’s done, it’s time for a primer. Follow the elastomeric paint manufacturer’s recommendations regarding which primer to use. Then, review the primer instructions to ensure the correct application and the proper number of coats.
After the surface is primed, it’s time to paint. Choose a day where the weather is ideal for the project, such as a sunny day in the high 60s with low humidity and limited wind.
Elastomeric paint can be applied using a brush, roller, or sprayer, so you can use the approach that works best for you. Mix the paint thoroughly before you begin, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding application.
Once you have the first coat in place, you’ll need to back-roll if you use a sprayer. Then, you’ll either want to wait the recommended amount of time-based on the manufacturer’s instructions or let the paint dry before applying a second layer. Then, repeat the application process, let it dry, and add coats following the instructions.
How Many Coats Do You Need with Elastomeric Paint?
With elastomeric paint, you typically want to plan for two coats minimum, even if the product says it can offer one-coat protection. Usually, the main goal with elastomeric paint is to achieve a watertight layer of protection. With a single coat, that’s far harder to accomplish, even if the manufacturer says it’s possible.
Additionally, some elastomeric paints may require more than two coats to get the needed thickness. If you don’t see any details about the number of coats on a particular elastomeric paint, start with two coats and then check the result once it’s dry.
Can You Spray Elastomeric Paint?
Yes, you can use a sprayer to apply elastomeric paint. However, if you go this route, you’ll need to make sure to back-roll each coat. Otherwise, you might not get an even application or proper adhesion.
Back-rolling is a fairly simple process. After applying a coat of elastomeric paint with a sprayer, you’ll run a paint roller over the freshly applied paint to promote adhesion. Usually, you’ll want to work quickly and use an approach not unlike painting a wall. Parallel vertical stripes with a slight overlap can be a good technique, as they work well with essentially any sheen and tend to keep everything even.
For the best result, you’ll also want to choose a roller that’s designed to work on the underlying surface. You may need a different texture for stucco than you would metal, for example. Since that’s the case, it’s best to look at the product packaging carefully to determine which roller is best for your project.
Elastomeric Paint vs. Acrylic Latex
In the world of exterior paint, elastomeric and acrylic latex are both reasonably popular. However, they don’t’ have the same benefits and drawbacks.
Acrylic latex is a tough paint, thanks to resins that make it durable. However, it’s far thinner when applied than elastomeric paint, isn’t as flexible, and doesn’t provide the same insulating benefits.
However, acrylic latex is available in more colors and finishes. Plus, it’s far easier to apply and is breathable enough to work on materials like wood.
Best Elastomeric Paint for Wood
While elastomeric paint isn’t always ideal for wood since it isn’t breathable, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it. You just need to understand that it can lead to rot issues or that adhesion may be a problem since moisture and resin in the wood are essentially trapped. Additionally, you could end up with mold or mildew problems.
If you use elastomeric paint on wood, first make sure that the wood is completely dry. After that, look for a brand that specifically mentions its suitability for wood surfaces. For example, there are elastomeric coatings designed for decking that work well for decks, which are worth exploring.
You may also want to consider an elastomeric acrylic paint blend. These are incredibly durable and weather-resistant but may have fewer drawbacks than going with elastomeric paint alone. There are several brands that produce this type of hybrid paint, so it’s worth exploring if you aren’t sure your wood surface is a good candidate for elastomeric paint.
Can You Paint Over Elastomeric Paint?
Yes, you can paint over elastomeric paint. In fact, many people apply a coat or two of latex acrylic exterior paint over elastomeric coatings since the latter doesn’t always come with the same color selection or finish options.
If your elastomeric paint is fresh, make sure it’s fully dry before you apply any other exterior paint over the top. Additionally, regardless of the age of the elastomeric paint, you’ll want to do some preparation.
Dirt, chalk, dust, mold, and mildew can all harm paint adhesion, so you’ll want to address them before you apply a coat of latex acrylic exterior paint. Light water rinse and letting the surface dry is sometimes sufficient. If not, you may want to use a cleaner that’s designed to be safe on painted surfaces and won’t harm adhesion when you apply the next coat.
In some cases, some bleach-free and ammonia-free liquid dish soap is a good choice, as it’s reasonably mild. However, if you’re dealing with mildew, mold, or similar challenges, you may need to use something stronger.
Ultimately, elastomeric paint is a durable, flexible, watertight option that’s particularly well suited for masonry, stucco, and similar surfaces. While you can use it on wood, that’s only wise if the wood is dry and there are no moisture concerns. Otherwise, there’s a risk of rot, which could make another exterior paint a better choice.
Did you find out everything you want to know about elastomeric paint? If so, share your thoughts in the comments area below. Also, if you have a family member, friend, colleague, or acquaintance that could benefit from this information, please make sure to send them the article.