Whether you are putting the first coat of paint over new siding or repainting 100 year old clapboard house, painting the exterior of your house can make your home shine. Painting the outside of a house is not for the DIY faint of heart. It is probably the most physically challenging maintenance project you can tackle. An exterior paint job well done can give an old house new life, and you will enjoy the fruits of your labors every time you come home.
Proper preparation is key to paint that is both durable and attractive. The first step to preparing the outside of a house for paint is to remove any flaking or peeling paint. Please be aware that on any house built before 1978, you should test for the presence of lead paint before sanding or scraping anything. Lead test kits are available for $10-$15 at most home improvement stores. If you find lead paint, you will need to protect yourself and your family before removing any paint.
If there is a lot of flaking paint, you may be able to use a water hose to blast off the flakes. Only use a pressure washer on the lowest pressure setting, because you could erode the exterior of your house.
If you are painting a very old home with lots of built up layers of paint, you may need to strip the old paint down to bare surface before you can apply new paint. There are several ways to accomplish stripping all the paint off the outside of a house, such as scraping, sanding, heat gun, or chemical strippers. My personal favorite methods for stripping old paint is infrared paint strippers such as The Silent Paint Remover or Speedheater Infrared Paint Remover. Infrared paint removers are rather expensive, but they are non-toxic, don’t damage the surface underneath, and strip paint with very low risk of causing a fire (compared with a heat gun). Whatever system you use, check and make sure it is compatible with the material on the outside of your house.
After you have scraped or stripped old paint, you will need to hit wood siding with a light sanding coat. Use a random orbital sander and 80 grit sandpaper. If you still have patches of old paint on the house, sanding will help feather the edges of those paint chips. If you stripped all the old paint, sanding will smooth any roughness or furriness that has been raised from the process of stripping paint.
As you work around outside the house scraping paint, watch for any nails that have popped up and need to be hammered back in. Remove any hooks or nails that have been added for hanging plants or bird feeders.
After you have prepared the old exterior paint surface, you need to wash the outside of the house to remove any mildew, dirt or debris. A house wash such as Zinsser JOMAX dirt and mildew remover should allow you to removing the dirt and grime without much scrubbing. You may still need a scrub brush with an extension handle to remove stuck-on dirt.
After you have washed the outside of your house and allowed it to dry, the next step is caulking nail holes and seams using a flexible, paintable caulking adhesive such as DAP dynaflex 230. If you have any damaged wood siding, repair it with wood putty or caulk then sand smooth after the repairing compound has dried.
The final step in preparing a house for paint is to mask off the windows, doors, and anything else you don’t want to have painted. Carefully tape around any windows, doors, or trim that you don’t want painted using blue painters tape. Blue painters tape is designed to easily release from surfaces without causing damage to the new or old paint. If you are painting with an airless sprayer, completely cover window panes with brown rosin paper (found in the paint department of home improvement stores). Newspapers are a good substitute for rosin paper, but you may want to leave them folded as double thickness because newspaper readily absorbs liquids.
You will also need to cover any utility inlets (gas, electrical, cable), house vents, exterior outlets, and light fixtures. The best way to prepare light fixtures is to simply remove the fixture. You can usually do this by unscrewing a few screws and unhooking a couple of wires (turn off the power first) then cover the wire ends with electrical tape. Doing this will allow you to change the light fixture at a later date without repainting the outside of your house. If you don’t want to remove the light fixture, cover it with a plastic bag taped down with blue painters tape.
Once you have scraped the old paint, washed the exterior of the house, caulked seams, repaired damaged wood, and masked off the stuff you don’t want painted, you are ready to paint your house. Painting the outside of a house is not a quick and easy job, but with careful preparation you can give your house a fresh face and increase the value of your home.