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Painting the Exterior of a Home

Painting the exterior of your home can make a big impact on its value. It can prolong the life of the exterior and protect your home from weather damage as well as increase curb appeal.

More in Painting

Step 1: Inspect the Exterior for Water Damage

This hundred-year-old house has a faded green facade and significant water damage at the base of the eaves. If the exterior painting job is done right, not only can the look of a home be improved, but the home will also be protected from further weather damage and it will prolong the life of the exterior.

inspect exterior of home for water damage

Step 2: Clean the Surface of the Exterior

Just as with interior painting projects, the first step in preparing an exterior for new paint is to make sure the surface is clean. For most homes, a power washer is the perfect tool for this. Use a power washer to clean dirt and loose paint (Image 1). When power washing, keep the wand in constant motion because at 2700 PSI, water will bore a hole into the wood if it sits in one spot for too long (Image 2).

Step 3: Clean Shingles with Scraper

On the house, the area to be painted is covered in century-old hand cut gingerbread shingles (Image 1). Shingles are brittle and fragile and would not withstand the pressure of the power washer. Instead, hand scrape each with a scraper or putty knife (Image 2). This is the messiest and most strenuous part of the prep. All the old paint does not need to be scraped off, but the loose paint chips must be removed in order to minimize the risk of bubbles or chips in the new paint job.

Step 4: Put Primer Over the Bare Spots

Paint won't stick to the bare wood, so once the scraping is done use a roller to apply primer over all the bare spots on the eave (Image 1). Apply painter’s caulk to any cracks and holes in order to keep weather out (Image2). Smooth out the bead of painter's caulk with your finger.

Step 5: Install Flashing Over Eaves

Over the years water damage can rot away shingles, leaving a gap between the eave and the brick on the house, allowing water to seep in between (Image 1). The best solution is to replace these shingles with new ones, but that would be very costly. A more economical fix, albeit more temporary, is to install flashing on the bottom of the eave that weatherproofs the gap and will act as a rain gutter (Image 2).

Step 6: Screw in the Flashing

Screw the flashing into the shingles (Image 1) and caulk the top to create a seal between the flashing and the siding (Image 2).

Step 7: Start With a Paint Gun

Now with the prep work completed, the house is ready to paint. For exterior work, professional painters use paint guns to spray the paint on quickly and evenly (Image 1). Like the power washer, a paint gun sprays at more than 2,000 PSI, so it is extremely dangerous if any body part comes between the spray nozzle and the house. The pressure is high enough to put paint through the skin and down to the bone, so be very cautious when painting the first layer of gray over the home's facade (Image 2).

Step 8: Repeat Painting with a Roller

Once the eave is covered in the first layer of paint, go back over the entire surface with a small roller, performing a technique called backrolling. Roll upward over the surface of each shingle in order to push paint into the minute nooks and crannies, creating a seal. Without this step, air bubbles trapped under the new layers of paint could cause chipping in mere months.

repeat painting by backrolling

Step 9: Prep and Mask off the Trim

Once the main color dries, prepare to paint the trim white. Use a paper taper to mask the main gray from the windows and the trim. Because the paint gun sprays a wide stream of paint, masking tape alone will not protect the gray from the white, so beef up the shield with an extra six inches of newsprint beefs, (Image 1). Next, reload the paint gun with white paint and spray the trim. (Image 2).

Step 10: Mask off the Trim for the Second Color

On this house the color plan calls for a third and final accent color on the exterior: a darker gray along the windowsills and picket trim. Once more, the paper taper is used to mask off the main gray and the white trim from the area to be painted.

mask off main gray and white trim

Step 11: Spray the Trim with the Second Color

With dark gray paint loaded into the paint gun, spray the trim and then back roll it to avoid drips. Once all the paint is dry, remove the tape and paper to reveal a job well done.

spray trim and then back roll it to avoid drip

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