July 17, 2023

Ten house painting rules

No home improvement project revives, beautifies, and protects a house as quickly, effectively, and affordably as exterior painting. A new coat of paint can completely transform the look of your home. And while painting a house can be a big job, it’s a project that can be completed in a week or two.

Ten house painting rules

If you hire a professional painter, expect to pay from $3,000 to $10,000 or more, depending on the size and condition of your house, according to Home Advisor. You can save on labor by making it a do-it-yourself project, typically accounting for more than half of the cost. But know that painting your home will take some serious effort.

Whether you hire a professional or take on the work yourself, you’ll want this project done right so you don’t have to repeat it in a few years. Here are ten exterior house painting rules you should never break.

1. Don’t skimp on materials

Pay for top-quality paint, primer, and caulking compound. Top-quality color lasts longer, flows, and covers better than poor-quality paint. Buy paint that has a lifetime warranty against defects in the finish. You get what you pay for with most house paint; the best ingredients are expensive. High-quality exterior paint typically costs $40.00to $50.00 per gallon, and specialty paint can cost $100.00 per gallon or more. Be sure to choose 100% acrylic paint.

Top-performing exterior paint brands include Behr Premium Plus Ultra, Clark + Kensington, Sherwin-Williams Duration, and Benjamin Moore Aura. Flat finishes are preferred for siding and do an excellent job of hiding defects and irregularities. Satin and semi-gloss enamels are more durable and easier to wash.

2. Do the necessary preparation

For paint to adhere well, it must be applied to a clean, dry surface and not flaking or peeling. Depending on the condition of the existing siding and trim, this often means considerable scraping and sanding before you can paint.

Begin by washing the surfaces. You can use a hose and a scrub brush with water, detergent, or a pressure washer. If you use a pressure washer, be careful not to drive water deeply into the joints between the siding or erode the surface of the wood with the high-pressure water spray.

To remove loose, flaking paint, you’ll need a scraper. Then, a 5-inch disc power sander or a random-orbit sander will work well to draw more challenging paint and smooth the surface. Start with 60-grit sandpaper and follow up with 100-grit sandpaper.

The idea isn’t to remove all the paint—to remove loose paint and smooth the surface. Use a putty knife and wood filler to fill cracks and holes. Let the filler dry, and then sand these areas again. Brush off the dust, caulk the joints, and allow the caulk to dry before applying primer.

3. Beware of lead paint

Although today’s house paints do not contain lead, paint applied before 1978 will likely have lead in it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that any home improvement work involving lead paint can create a cloud of lead dust or chips that can be hazardous to the health of children and adults. For lead testing and removal, the EPA recommends contacting a local lead-safe certified renovation contractor, which can be found on the EPA’s website.

4. Apply more than one coat of paint

Begin with a high-quality alkyd primer for your base coat if you’re painting over bare wood or metal, which will be specified on the paint label and will help keep the paint from bleeding. Some painters like to tint the primer toward the final paint color to minimize the need for two finish coats of paint. Others prefer to tint the primer with a contrasting color, highlighting any spots the final coats haven’t completely covered. After the primer, apply the first finish coat. After it becomes tacky, apply a second topcoat.

5. Use the right tools

Use a high-quality brush, roller, and, for some houses, an airless sprayer that can be rented at most home improvement centers or tool rental outlets. The easiest way to apply primer and paint to textured surfaces is to spray it on with an airless sprayer and then back-roll it by hand with a roller to ensure adhesion. If you have never used an airless sprayer, pay close attention to the directions, and gain a little experience by first painting a less-conspicuous side of the house. Work from a 5-gallon paint bucket, and use a paint strainer so the paint doesn’t clog the sprayer.

6. Be realistic

Don’t paint your house yourself unless you have the time, tools, skills, and stamina to do the work. Depending on the size and height of your home and the condition of the existing siding, preparing ad painting a house on your own can be a tedious, demanding job.

7. Wait for temperate weather

Don’t paint on hot days, in the rain, or during windy weather. Ideal temperatures for painting are between 50–90º Fahrenheit. Like the direct sun, hot weather causes the paint to dry too quickly. When possible, wait for the shade. Temperatures below 50º may prevent the color from adhering to the surface properly. Dampness or dew can bubble surfaces.

8. Cover everything

Protect decks, shrubs, gardens, patios, and walkways from paint spills and splatters with drop cloths or plastic sheeting. This will save you from big cleanup problems later. If you use an airless paint sprayer, masking, and covering are imperative – overspray can even coat your neighbors’ cars.

9. Paint using proven techniques

You can find lots of free information online, including videos by experts that break techniques down into steps. Work from the top down, starting with overhangs so fresh paint won’t drip on newly painted surfaces. Paint the siding, and when dry, tape around windows and doors, and paint the trim. Remove the painter’s or masking tape to avoid residue as soon as you finish painting the frame. After the paint has dried, touch up areas where the dye hasn’t fully covered the surface.

10. If you hire a professional painting contractor, get bids and references

Request detailed bids from three painting contractors and ask them for satisfied customers’ names and phone numbers. Call two or three of those customers or, if possible, visit their homes to inspect the craft. Networks like Angie’s, Home Advisor, and even Google and Yelp can help you find local professionals and see reviews from previous customers.

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