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Painting Tips & Tricks: Exterior Painting

Exterior Painting TipsWhile exterior painting is sometimes perceived as much easier than interior—you don’t have to move furniture, and paint drips aren’t as critical—the opposite is true. Exterior painting generally requires more prep work than interior; the area to be covered is significantly greater; getting to the work is frequently more difficult because of height or ease of access; and it is subject to a more severe environment.

One of the first steps to consider when painting outdoors is the weather; and it’s not only rain that can pose a problem. Paint performance is directly related to the temperature at which it is applied—too cold and it can freeze before it cures, too hot and it will dry too quickly, shortening its life and leaving unsightly lap marks. Even the wind is a factor. While a nice breeze may feel good to the painter, it too, can cause the paint to dry too quickly and can sometimes pose problems by blowing drips onto other surfaces. Avoid painting in direct sun as the heat—even in winter—will dry the paint too quickly.

Before beginning any exterior painting project, thoroughly clean the surface to be painted to remove any loose paint. Use a scraper and wire brush to remove flaking or cracked paint and to insure that the surface to be painted is sound. Old, cracked caulk should also be removed. A properly prepared surface allows paint to perform as advertised; and a poorly prepared surface is a guarantee of a poor finish and future problems.

If one is available, a pressure washer is a great tool to help prepare a home for painting. If there is exposed foundation that must be painted, the pressure washer will remove all the dirt and grime that has accumulated and will provide a clean surface for the new paint. Paint will not stick to dirty or peeling surfaces.

Caulk any cracks where water can penetrate joints in siding or trim prior to painting. Be especially aware of areas where window or door trim meets brick, stone, or siding. Look for open areas where water can penetrate and caulk them using the techniques in the section, “Caulking Tips.” Also check where siding meets the roof overhang or soffit. If there are cracks or open joints, caulk them prior to beginning. Good prep work sometimes takes longer than the painting, but it provides the foundation for a beautiful and lasting paint job.

Wood or composite siding can be painted with a 4” brush working from top to bottom and across entire sections avoiding the potential for lap marks. If you have a flat surface such as stucco or one of the vertical sidings, you may choose to use a roller. Choose one with at least a 3/4” nap to insure good coverage. Extremely rough surfaces may require a longer nap roller.

Begin by painting all the overhead soffit and trim, but not vertical trim, doors, or windows. When the soffit is complete, then paint all the siding, finishing with the remaining trim. You’ll generally create fewer problems by following this sequence. I try to wipe up drips when possible to avoid the difference in texture, but any paint that is dripped onto siding can easily be touched up later.

If you choose to spray the exterior, see the section, “Is Spray Painting Easier?”


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