Why exterior painting should be the first thing on your spring to-do list
Preparation is important. Without this, good paint and hard labor will be wasted.
These are the days of do-it yourself. Only a couple of generations ago, people often hired others to do a lot of the work on their home. However, painting always seemed something anyone could do.
But if you ask a real house painter they will tell there is a lot more to painting than just going to the hardware store and picking up some paint and brushes and hoping the job will turn our right.
Yet people tend to think it is an easy job. and as the springtime weather shifts from messy to mild, every homeowner's attention turns to the out of doors. It's time to clean things up, tend to the garden, and make needed repairs to both the home and its surroundings. Where to start?
Assuming that your exterior paint is failing, it's best to focus on that first, according to experts.
Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute, says there are plenty of good reasons to start spring chores with exterior painting:
"First, spring is a very comfortable time to do outdoor painting. Second, it's smart to paint before putting down mulch, which along with your plants, will just get trampled if you paint later on. Third, why not get your painting done before more pleasant 'distractions' like gardening, sports, and barbecues begin?"
Zimmer says that if your house paint is near the end of its life expectancy, you're taking a chance by postponing repainting. It doesn't take long for exposed wood to begin to rot, and other types of exteriors also suffer when the paint wears off. Wait too long and you may have to make repairs before starting to paint.
There is another reason to get to your painting first. Exterior latex paint forms the most durable, protective finish when the weather is mild.
"It's always best to do exterior painting when the temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but not too hot," says Zimmer. "Very hot days can cause the paint to dry too quickly and impair good paint film formation. By painting in moderate weather, you'll likely get a longer-lasting paint job."
If a day starts off mild, but turns very hot, try to avoid painting in direct sunshine, since sunlit surfaces can be 10 to 20 degrees hotter than the air temperature. Work your way around the house so that you are always painting in the shade. And best of all you will always be in the shade when painting.
When painting, pick a day that isn't too windy. Like the heat of the sun, wind can cause latex paint to dry too quickly and prevent optimal paint film formation. Plus, wind can stir up dust and other contaminants that can embed in the paint to create an inviting surface for mildew, which feeds on such matter.
You should also try to steer clear of "weather events" that could affect the paint, waiting for another day if it has rained within the last 24 hours, or postponing the job if several days of rain are expected right after you will finish painting.
Of course, it's important to properly prepare the surface before doing any exterior painting. That includes applying a coat of primer to any new surface that has not been painted before, or spot-priming previously painted surfaces where the paint is worn away.
Surface preparation includes washing the exterior of the home. You want to remove all the dirt, vines (and vine stains), and any other marks from the surface that exists. Using a pressure washer can make this job fast and easy. Of course smaller areas can be washed by hands, but if you are going to paint the entire home, use a pressure washer. Small inexpensive ones can be purchased or units can be rented.
Next comes the part most people really hate. It is the scraping and sanding phase, although is is probably the most important part of a paint job in many ways. If you power washed you will eliminate some of this, but seldom all. Rough wood requires a wire brush. You want surfaces to be ready to accept new paint and any old paint that is flaking off or caulked areas that are coming apart need to be cleaned off. Then put new caulk in where it is needed. Caulking is important because if this is not done right moisture will seep in and destroy the paint job quickly.
Next you need to mask areas you do not intend to paint. Use drop cloths so that paint doesn't get on sidewalks or patios. Masking is time consuming and some people try to hurry it up, but the best paint jobs usually also show up when the masking of windows, light, fixtures, trim that will be a different color and other things are masked properly. If you want it done right use the right supplies (paper, painters tape and plastic) to cover what you don't want the paint on. The more meticulous you are the better the paint job will be.
Next comes priming. It is a good idea to prime all surfaces, even though many paints have primer built into them. Primer gives the surface coats some thing to stick to. Sure it's more work, but how much more work is it to have to do everything all over again in just a few years?
Kinds of paint
When painting the exterior of a home you need to consider a number of things when selecting the paint. For instance what types of exterior surfaces do you plan to paint? Are the surfaces wood (raw and worn or painted) metal, brick, stucco or concrete. What kind of paint is on them already (because it is doubtful you will take it all off in the preparation stage)?
First of all a high-quality paint is important particularly for exterior surfaces because of the harsh conditions those surfaces face throughout the seasons of the year. Good paint for exterior use is not cheap, although those kinds of paint can be purchased. Just remember that over 80 percent of the work put into painting an exterior is done in the preparation and if cheap paint is used after all that work, you will be doing all that again in a short time.
The choice basically comes down to water based paint or oil based paint. Each have their advantages and depending on what is already on the surface, you may not have much a choice between the two.
For the most part water-based paints are the most popular for exterior applications, but oil-based paints may perform much better under various conditions. In simple terms water-based paints are flexible and expand and contract with the siding on a house. They also don't keep moisture or peel. Once applied they also dry quickly.
Oil paint, on the other hand, often takes up to 24 hours to dry when the conditions are right. Oil-based paints stick to surfaces better and resist the stains that come from plants and abrasions.
To pick the paint you need go to a professional at a hardware or paint store that has a good reputation and knows what they are doing. They can recommend the best paint for the work you are going to do.
It is very easy to buy cheap tools to paint with. Often even grocery stores will carry inexpensive brushes, rollers and edgers. But there is a reason professionals don't buy the brushes that come four to a pack for $5 at the discount table.
The tools needed will depend on the job that is to be done. But there are some basics that are needed for every job. Tools can be put into three categories: Those for access (for both preparation and painting) actual preparation tools and those for actually painting.
Access tools include ladders, scaffolds and poles. Ladders come in two basic types, step ladders and extension ladders. Always use good heavy duty ladders because being on a ladder is the most dangerous part of painting. Use the proper ladder. For the most part extension ladders should only be used for access, not for standing on and painting. Step ladders are good for standing on and working. That may mean some big step ladders, but they are much safer. Also adjustable ladders are available tha allow the ladder to be set up on uneven surfaces. Scaffolds are good if you must do a lot of work on a spot to do repairs, such as broken trim or boards that need to be repaired. Howeve scaffolds can also present their own unique problems as well. The main thing to do is to use common sense. If it feels unstable or unsafe, it probably is.
Preparation tools include wire brushes, scrapers, putty knives, and sanding tools. You can speed a lot up by using a pressure washer (as noted earlier) and power sanders. Although remember you can seldom eliminate the need for at least some good old hand work.
Masking guns can also be helpful. These can help you to mask areas quickly and smoothly.
Not enough can be said about good paint tools. These days a lot of people prefer using power sprayers to paint, but many like the feel of using a roller and a brush.
Generally when selecting brushes have three diffeent sizes available for various areas that need to be painted. Buy good quality brushes. Cheap brushes will immediatelly begin to fall apart and will not give you even coverage.
Rollers can also vary in quality. Cheap roller covers will not last even one painting sometimes. Good ones, when cleaned properly, can last for a number of jobs or sessions. Good frames for the roller covers are also important. Cheap ones will wear our a persons hand long before a good one will.
When doing it themselves most people will buy paint pans to run the rollers into. This is fine for small jobs, but when putting paint on a large area, use a five gallon bucket with a roller grid in it. The problem is that often when using a pan people will stretch the paint out too far because they are nearing the end of a wall or job and do not want to put any more paint in the pan. With a bucket there is a large supply of paint and that way coats will not get to thin towards the end.
Power rollers have their detractors. Often non-professional units fail easily and don't work right. Good ones cost more and are often hooked to airless sprayers.
Tools are like anything else; you generally get what you pay for, so expect to do a lot more work and be more frustrated if you don't buy good painting tools.
But when it comes right down to it, in the end the paint is what we are talking about. Quality is important. To extend the life of your paint job, Zimmer recommends that you apply the very highest quality 100 percent acrylic latex paint, which is especially durable, flexible, and colorfast. Top quality paint often lasts 10 years or more, compared to about four years for ordinary paint, saving you time, work, and money in the long run. For the longest-lasting paint job, always apply at least two coats - either a coat of primer and a coat of paint, or two coats of house paint.
Once you've finished your exterior painting, you can turn your attention to the other things on your spring to-do list. What's more, you'll have peace of mind knowing that you've done right by your biggest investment - your home.