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4 Steps to a Long-Lasting Exterior Paint Job

Published July 14, 2016

Many of today’s house plans don’t require much painting once built, what with stone, brick, and vinyl exterior siding, which are popular these days. But there are areas like door and window trim, deck or porch railings, and roof trim that may need painting. And some house plan styles, especially Victorian, which may use many different colors in the exterior décor, and Tudor, with different colored timbers and stucco, may need to be painted to look right.


If exterior painting is on your summer to-do list, there’s plenty of incentive to do the job right: By following proper procedures, you’ll help ensure that your paint job will not only look more attractive but also last much longer, so you won’t have to re-paint anytime soon.


So what are the keys to a great-looking, long-lasting paint job? Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert at the Paint Quality Institute, says it’s important that you do four things:


1. Prepare the surface properly. A professional-looking paint job always begins with good surface preparation. The surface should be clean and sound, free of dirt, mildew, and loose, flaking, or peeling paint. Areas that are bare – because they are unpainted or because the paint has worn off – should be primed with a top-quality exterior primer before they are painted.


  • New, unpainted wood. Remove dirt and other contaminants (if present) by washing with soapy water. If mildew is present, apply a solution of one part bleach to three parts water, allow the solution to sit for 20 minutes, then scrub clean. Sand and spot-prime knots and other surface imperfections. Complete the job by applying a coat of primer to the entire surface.


  • Previously painted wood. Remove all loose, peeling, or flaking paint with a scraper or wire brush, then sand any rough edges that remain. Dull any glossy painted areas with sandpaper and spot-prime those that have no paint at all. Brush off any remaining dust particles. If mildew is present, remove it as described above.


  • New, unpainted metal. Remove any loose paint or rust with a scraper or wire brush, then wash the surface with soap and water, and rinse clean. Apply metal primer to help the paint adhere better, and paint quickly, before new rust begins to form.


  • Previously painted metal. Remove loose or peeling paint with a scraper and/or sandpaper, then sand any glossy areas to a dull finish. If needed, use a bleach solution to remove mildew. Next, wash the surface and wipe clean. Prime areas where any bare metal is exposed.


  • Unpainted masonry, stucco, brick, or cement. Clean thoroughly with soap and water, and if necessary, use a wire brush to remove loose material. Treat weathered, very porous surfaces with a masonry conditioner before applying alkali-resistant 100% acrylic latex paint.


  • Previously painted masonry, stucco, brick, or cement. Remove loose or peeling paint using a scraper or wire brush. If heavy “chalk” is present, remove that also using a wire brush. Wash the surface clean. On very porous surfaces, apply a masonry conditioner prior to painting.

The masonry/stucco exterior of this Mediterranean style luxury home plan is in the process of being painted, above (House Plan #107-1013). The surface has been properly prepped for a long-lasting paint job. The finished painting project is shown in the aerial photo below.


2. Use high-quality brushes and rollers. Quality tools and accessories make painting more effortless and apply a thicker, more uniform coat of paint, which in turn enhances its durability. If you choose to speed your work by using power washing and spray equipment, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.


3. Apply top-quality paint. The highest quality paints adhere better, are far more flexible (to withstand expansion, contraction, or other movement in the exterior), and contain special additives to resist mold and mildew formation. That makes them much more durable than ordinary paints. In most cases, the best choice is a top-quality 100% acrylic latex paint.


4. Paint in the right weather conditions. It’s best to do exterior painting in mild weather, ideally when the temperature is between 60 and 85 degrees F., with little or no wind. Paints form the most protective coating in this type of weather.

This modern 4-bedroom, 3-1/2-bath Craftsman style home plan, with its solid-stain wood shakes, crisp white trim, and stained-and-sealed roof brackets, columns, and railings, makes it clear that a good paint job makes a great impression (House Plan #168-1099).


As you can see, it isn’t difficult to get a durable exterior paint job, as long as you go about things in the right way. So follow this expert advice, and use these four keys to unlock the perfect exterior paint job on your home. Share your painting experiences in the comments section below.

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