Preparing Your House for Exterior Painting

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Home Improvement

Preparing Your House for Exterior Painting

Many homeowners approach the task of exterior painting with dread, often because they don’t feel qualified to do the job but lack the funds to hire it done. With information, the proper materials and plenty of preparation, you can paint your house as well as a professional.

The first task is to estimate how much paint you will need. Measure the length of all exterior sides of the house, then multiply the length of all sides by the height of the house, adding two feet to the height for overhang. There’s no need to subtract doors and windows as you’ll probably need the extra for touch-ups. Take this information with you to the paint store. Paint cans display what’s known as “coverage rate,” which basically tells how much surface area the can will cover. Now divide the total square footage of your project by the coverage rate on the paint can you’ve selected.

Choosing a color and paint type is something you should take your time about. Remember that many housing developments have restrictions on exterior colors, so you’ll want to find out if you live in one. There are different kinds of paint as well:

► Gloss exterior acrylic enamel is usually used only on smooth, flawless surfaces, as the high sheen accentuates imperfections. It’s also the most difficult and time-consuming exterior paint, not to mention the most expensive.

► Satin exterior acrylic latex provides excellent coverage and good looks. Another advantage to this type is that it doesn’t attract dirt and dust like other paints. Also a good choice for trim.

► Flat exterior acrylic latex is the most commonly used exterior paint thanks to its good coverage, reasonable price, and versatility. It’s also easier to touch-up and doesn’t show imperfections as much as gloss.

► Semi-gloss exterior acrylic latex is used mostly for doors, gutters and window trim as it is washable and resists stains.

► Solvent-based paints are the most versatile, providing ease of application in a variety of temperatures and moisture conditions.

When selecting your colors, you make sure that any fixed colors, such as brick or stone work or stained wood, match your choice. Choose a lighter color if you have a smaller home to give the illusion of larger size. Painting the trim the same color as the rest of the house also makes a smaller house appear bigger. Light colors are also a good choice in warmer climates, as they absorb less heat. Because of this, light-colored paints also last longer than darker ones. Conversely, darker paints work well in cooler climates because they absorb heat.

Once you’ve chosen your paint type and color, you’re almost ready to go. You’ll need more than paint to do the job, however, such as applicators, tools, and materials. There are three types of paint applicators, and you may use any one or a combination of them: brushes, rollers, and sprayers. Brushes have different bristle types for different jobs. For instance, nylon or polyester bristles work well with latex paints, and natural bristles tend to do better with oil-based paints. Rollers are a good choice if you have a lot of surface area to cover and work well on siding. Don’t scrimp on a thin, flimsy roller – be sure to choose a thicker-rolled fiber roller for better coverage. Sprayers are typically used outdoors, and they can save hours of labor time.

Also add to your shopping list the following materials and tools: wide-width masking tape, scrapers of various sizes and a utility knife. Remember that it’s better to buy too much paint than not enough. Any leftovers can be used for future touch-ups, and unopened ready-mixed colors are returnable.

Now that you have your materials, you’re ready to get started with the most important step: surface preparation. Proper preparation will prevent problems like cracking and peeling and will determine how long your paint job will last. First, scrape loose paint until most of the surface is exposed. Next, use sandpaper to dull the surface and make it smooth. Use a pressure washer with a commercial cleaning solution to wash the surface of the house and rinse thoroughly. Let dry at least 24 hours before painting.

You may need to prime the surface before painting for any of the following reasons:

► if the surface is shiny, slick or hard to paint, primer provides something for the topcoat to adhere to

► to fill and seal pores in bare wood or weathered masonry

► to cover stains from water damage and sap

► to make metal surfaces corrosion resistant

► to provide surfaces that have never been painted before with better adhesion and coverage

After carefully covering windows, doors and trim with newspaper and masking tape, you’re ready to begin painting. Take your time and do a thorough job, and you'll have added value to your home, slowed deterioration and given yourself a sense of accomplishment.