10 Tips on how to Paint an Exterior Like a Pro
Here’s just an example of what it is to paint the house. The 2,200-sq.-ft. house featured here is in rough shape, and it demonstrates that it’s best not to neglect exterior painting for too long. Regular maintenance could have prevented much of the prep work and saved thousands of dollars when it came time to repaint. Because of the home’s condition, it was four and eight painters on the job for nearly two months, which pushed the clients’ bill to more than $30,000. The price includes removing the existing vinyl shutters; pressure-washing the entire house; scraping, priming, and painting all the trim and overhangs; stripping much of the siding down to bare wood; and painting the porches, siding, and window sashes.
In April 2008, the EPA released new rules for painting and remodeling houses that have lead-based paint. If you’re a contractor and you’re caught ignoring the EPA’s RRP (renovation, repair, and painting) rule, you’re risking your livelihood. One Connecticut-based company was fined more than $30,000 for violations. Homeowners doing their own work are exempt, but that doesn’t mean they should disregard the requirements. If you’re a homeowner planning to repaint your own house, we suggest reading up or taking a class on handling lead-based paint.
Here are tips on how to paint exterior like a true professional
TIP 1 – Scrape and sand before washing
When there is a lot of scraping and sanding to do, as there was on the house featured here, you’d better do it before the house is washed. Many painters make the mistake of washing first and then doing a lot of heavy sanding afterward. The dust left behind makes it hard for the paint to bond. After the scraping and sanding are done and the house has been washed, check all scraped areas to make sure the washing didn’t loosen any more paint.
TIP 2 – Stick to low pressure when washing
Professional advice – add about a tablespoon of dish soap to our mix of trisodium phosphate (TSP) and bleach. Dish soap creates suds that help the solution to cling to the siding and trim instead of running off the house. Then, rinse the house with a pressure washer on a low setting. Never use high pressure, which can force water into the wood and damage siding and windows.
TIP 2 – Cover plants, cars, and exterior light fixtures
Use lightweight canvas drop cloths to cover plants. They don’t break branches, and they let the plants breathe. Plastic covers can heat up like a greenhouse and kill plants. Cover lights, windows, and doors with ClingCover™ plastic. Unlike with traditional poly sheeting, tape sticks well to the slightly textured surface. This material comes in 9-ft. by 400-ft. rolls. Automobile covers are one of those touches that show professionals doing quality work and care about their possessions.
TIP 4 – Consider special primers instead of whole-house paint removal
If on a house that has old oil-based paint that is peeling and cracking badly and complete removal is not an option, it is good use XIM Peel Bond™ primer. It’s a high-build, clear acrylic primer that can be applied up to 30 mils thick. It’s great at leveling cracked surfaces, and it costs two-thirds less than stripping down to bare wood. This product was used on the porch ceilings and on the second story of the house shown here as a way to make the project more affordable. The lower part of the house was stripped down to bare wood so that it would have a flawless finish at eye level.
TIP 5 – The right tool makes all the difference
With the EPA’s RRP rule for dealing with lead-based paint in effect, you should rethink how to prepare surfaces that test positive for lead. The vac’s EPA-approved HEPA filter captures 99.97% of particles down to 0.3 microns. These vacuums protect workers from lead exposure and reduce our cleanup time.
TIP 6 – Pick the right primer
With so many primers out there, it’s easy to get confused about which one to use. Professionals suggest to almost always use a slow-drying oil-based primer for exterior wood, such as Sherwin-Williams’ Exterior Oil-Based Wood Primer. Because it dries slowly, it has time to penetrate the wood and provides the best base for all types of paint. Many people think that if they are going to use latex paint, then they must use latex primer, which is incorrect. As long as the primer has time to dry, it’s perfectly fine to topcoat with latex paint. For fiberglass and PVC trim that needs to be painted, we’ve had good success with Sherwin-Williams’ Adhesion Primer. One often-overlooked step is to wipe these materials with denatured alcohol to remove any manufacturing oils before priming. When priming new wood, watch out for mill glaze.
TIP 7 – Allow extra time for painting windows
When painting old windows, it’s best to remove loose glazing putty and peeling paint and then reglaze where needed. It’s OK to leave portions of old glazing putty if they’re well adhered. Once the glazing putty is dry (professional advice is to wait two to three weeks), mask the perimeter of the window with 11/2-in.-wide blue tape, which protects the glass from scratches and speeds up priming and painting. After masking, sand all the wood and old glazing, then wash the window with a solution of TSP, bleach, and detergent. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse the window with clear water. After the window is dry, prime the sash and glazing putty with a slow-drying oil-based primer. Once the primer is dry, sand the wood lightly, caulk where needed, and apply the first coat of paint. Then pull off the tape and clean the glass with spray-on glass cleaner and paper towels. For the final coat, lap the paint 1/i6 in. onto the glass. This prevents water from getting behind the glazing putty, which is what causes the putty to fail. Before the paint dries, open and close the window a few times to prevent it from becoming sealed shut with paint.
TIP 8 – Wrap up painting by early afternoon in the fall and spring
Surfactant leaching is something that most people haven’t heard about but have probably seen. It occurs when ingredients in the paint leach to the surface as a result of moisture. It’s common in the fall and spring with their warm days and cool nights. At night, condensation forms on the
paint film, then the water breaks down the water-soluble components in the paint and brings them to the surface. When the water evaporates, it leaves behind a waxy-looking area that usually wears off on its own, but it’s hard to convince a customer of this. To prevent surfactant leaching, stop painting around 1 p.m. in the spring and fall. Do surface prep in the early morning, paint from late morning to shortly after lunch, and then resume prep work until the end of the day. This process takes longer, but it avoids problems.
TIP 9 – There’s a quick fix for sticky doors and windows
Have you ever tried to open a cabinet door that feels like it is glued shut? This condition is known as blocking, and it is common on places where cured latex paint tries to stick to itself, such as on wood windows, painted doors without weather stripping, and garage doors. Most exterior paints are not resistant to blocking, so apply a thin coat of clear Briwax® to window sashes, garage-door panels, and places where doors meet door stops.
TIP 10 – Don’t forget home maintenance
Most people think that if they clean their gutters twice a year, they’ve maintained their home. Professionals recommend to hire somebody to wash their homes every other year and to have check the caulking and touch up the paint where needed. The cost for this service is usually under $1,000 and can add years to a paint job.