Exterior Painting | Options and Considerations

To a contractor, painting the exterior of a house is the best way to keep it in good shape. Caulk and paint may be a home’s only weatherproofing, so it’s essential that they be applied with skill. If siding is painted poorly, for example, it can incur very costly damage, especially in a harsh climate. Bottom line: Hiring professionals to paint your exterior may feel like a big expense, but it’s nothing compared to what you’ll pay later if the work isn’t up to snuff.

Aspiring do-it-yourselfers should keep in mind that exterior painting projects tend to be complicated and exhausting. A job is done well the first time is a good value, but it’s also a preventive measure that makes repainting unnecessary.

How Does Exterior Paint Stand the Test of Time?

While weather can be unpredictable, some regions offer especially harsh conditions for exterior paint. Subfreezing temperatures, sleet, storms, and punishing heat are just a few of paint’s natural enemies. To make matters worse, no building stays put completely; every structure shifts over time, which can make things hard on an exterior paint job. Houses swell in hot weather and contract when it’s cold, and wood cracks and warps all the time.

The amount of skill that goes into applying exterior paint strongly influences its ability to withstand the elements. Of course, it’s also wise to use first-rate materials. The combination of expert work and top-notch products should minimize future costs for the homeowner. Good paint, well applied, also boosts a house’s value — never a bad thing in the current economy.

Painting Outside Surfaces

A successful painting project must proceed step by step. The first step is a scan of the house’s exterior to determine what kinds of paint products will be needed. It’s also vital to prepare the outside surfaces/substrates:
1. Remove any dirt, mold, or mildew, by washing by scrubbing or pressure washing.

2. Prepare surfaces to a sound substrate

3. Caulk all water entry points

4. Use proper primers, and pre-prime wood if possible

5. Apply the appropraite type and grade of paint to the right thickness in the proper weather and moisture conditions..

Slow But Steady Creates Lasting Work

Every home exterior is unique. This means that your project may call for techniques and types of paint that your neighbor’s didn’t require. Stained wood exteriors demand the proper stain; cedar siding and redwood trim are common, but many other varieties exist. If outside surfaces are to hold stain for a long time, they must be permeable. In some cases, the prior stain may need to be disposed of. Whether a home is painted or stained, surface preparation should not be given short shift.

Paint is generally more viscous than stain, which makes it easier to manage on a  wall. Otherwise, staining is much like painting. No two hues or kinds of stain should necessarily be applied the same way to a particular surface. You may have to learn each stain’s optimal application through trial and error.

Most people who paint outside surfaces use one of two techniques: spraying or brushing and rolling. You should choose the method that suits you, the type of paint you’re using, and your home’s architecture. Houses without a second floor, for example, lend themselves to brushing and rolling. An airless paint sprayer may help with nooks and crannies once the major work is done, but it’s a bit more challenging than a simple brush or roller. However you apply the paint, don’t skimp on the quality of your rollers, brushes, and sprayers.

No Two Surface Types Are Alike

One style of painting can’t accommodate every inch of your house’s exterior. Furthermore, the kind of finish you prefer will affect how you apply it. The main types of outside surfaces are the doors, windows, trim, and body.

The Body Requires the Most Paint

When it comes to wood siding, each region prefers certain species. In some western states, for example, pine, cedar, and redwood are prevalent and tend to appear as lap siding. Hardwoods like larch or white pine may be used for siding, but that practice is becoming increasingly rare. Either paint or stain may be applied to siding.

T-111 is a kind of siding that’s much easier to stain than to paint. This is because its plywood has  a tendency to split, which harms the paint job. In contrast, Masonite holds up well and is thus a rising star in the siding business. It doesn’t usually crack or warp, but it’s not easy to paint, either. Back-rolling — going over a coat of paint with a roller to ensure even distribution — is a good technique to use when painting Masonite siding.

As with the aforementioned types of siding, vinyl and steel don’t always lend themselves to painting. You may be tempted to paint them if their color has faded, but several alternatives exist. Vinyl siding may simply need a thorough wash to shine brightly again. Steel siding isn’t more difficult to paint than most other kinds, but it isn’t especially easy, either.

Alternative Masonry Types

Stucco isn’t just used in Arizona and New Mexico. It’s a type of outdoor finish that isn’t hard to keep up, and considering how long it lasts, it’s a bargain. Best of all, it’s a material that can be painted with minimal fuss, which means both color flexibility and a quick fix if it gets dirty.

If you’re fond of decorating exteriors, split-face block could be the material for you. Like concrete in general, split-face block is nearly ideal for painting. Paint on concrete can last a long time without much upkeep, and applying it is a breeze, relatively speaking. Like concrete, brick holds paint well, and for a good while. While few outside surfaces can’t be painted, stucco, concrete, and brick are excellent materials for this purpose.

How to Paint Outdoor Trim

Applying paint to exterior trim can be the crowning glory of your home’s new look. Bands of wood, corner boards, soffits (the undersides of a roof’s overhang), and fascia boards are among the elements that can be considered outside trim. Soffits are usually kept the same shade as the body of the exterior, but that isn’t a requirement.

The trim on a home’s exterior is customarily made of medium-density fiberboard, Masonite, or wood, though steel or vinyl isn’t unheard of. These materials can be prepared, treated with primer, and painted like any other exterior surface.

As with outside surfaces in general, a brush, roller, or sprayer may be used to paint trim. Of these techniques, brushing is most common, but a roller can be quicker. Although it’s unusual to spray trim, some Victorians serve as an exception to this rule, due to their sheer amount of trim.

Windows and Doors: How to Stain or Paint Them

Of a house’s many elements, windows and doors may shift the most. The older the house, the harder it is to keep a paint job on a window or door intact. These portals are often made of wood, fiberboard, steel, and/or fiberglass, all of which can hold paint. In the cases of wood and fiberglass, staining is also an option.

Windows made of wood naturally require paint from time to time. Steel windows, on the other hand, are prefinished. While painting them isn’t out of the question, the original finish should be retained unless it’s lost a lot of color. In contrast, it’s simple to paint a steel door, and fiberglass doors are just as easy. Either material can also be stained. That said, a fiberglass door that’s embossed is a good bit harder to stain than a wood one. Don’t be deterred, however; if you have a decent chunk of a weekend to spare, you can make it happen.

Newly Built Homes

A house built from scratch deserves a well-painted exterior. This may not be inexpensive, but it’s worth it. Frugality has its place, but spending what needs to be spent on a quality outside paint job pays off in the long run.

Just as there’s no second chance to make a first impression, the first paint to coat your new home’s exterior will influence future events. Substandard work will haunt you later, because primer, caulk, and paint are supposed to keep the elements out. If they do their job right, you won’t notice how well they’re doing it. On the other hand, if the paint is of low quality, or it’s been applied poorly, no amount of course-correcting will completely reverse the damage. Like structures built on unstable land, new layers of paint will be only partially effective due to what’s below.

In case the point isn’t clear: Skimping on the exterior paint job can lead to heartaches, headaches, and sizable bills down the road. It’s fundamental, so channel your funds accordingly.

To DIY or Hire Someone? That is the Question

Painting a home’s exterior isn’t rocket science or brain surgery, and it doesn’t require superhuman powers. What it does demand is a willingness to learn, follow directions, and clarify areas of confusion before going into action.

Applying paint to the outside of a house can be hard on a body. You don’t need to be a marathon runner to do it, but if you’re not in great shape, it may not be the project for you. Be honest with yourself about your fitness level before committing.

If you’re afraid of heights, even not-too-high ones, painting your exterior could be a bit traumatic. After all, you’ll be spending a considerable amount of time on ladders of one kind or another.

Similarly, if you’re not keen on grime, grit, and other varieties of dirt, you may want to take a pass. Exterior painting can get messy, so wear clothes you’re not emotionally attached to.

Are you unfazed? Terrific! Grab the painting tool of your choice and go to it. If you feel a bit daunted, and your gut is telling you to skip the DIY route this time around, think about putting a contractor on the job.

If you happen to know a good one, give him or her a call. If not, talk to friends, family, and colleagues to get recommendations, and make sure you deal only with licensed contractors. Get references from each prospect, get bids from several, and don’t be shy about asking questions, even “dumb” ones. The more fully you understand what kind of shape your house is in, and what a solid exterior painting job can do for it, the better off you’ll be.

Similarly, if you’re not keen on grime, grit, and other varieties of dirt, you may want to take a pass. Exterior painting can get messy, so wear clothes you’re not emotionally attached to.

Are you unfazed? Terrific! Grab the painting tool of your choice and go to it. If you feel a bit daunted, and your gut is telling you to skip the DIY route this time around, think about putting a contractor on the job.

If you happen to know a good one, give him or her a call. If not, talk to friends, family, and colleagues to get recommendations, and make sure you deal only with licensed contractors. Get references from each prospect, get bids from several, and don’t be shy about asking questions, even “dumb” ones. The more fully you understand what kind of shape your house is in, and what a solid exterior painting job can do for it, the better off you’ll be.
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  • Robin

    I am painting a block home. It’s concrete block inside and out. Any hints?