The paint is peeling, the color is fading. It's time to update the look of your home. Some houses are easy to paint, while others are more complex. Before you position that ladder, be sure to take a few minutes to review these equipment, safety, and stress factors.
How tall is your home? Exteriors on a simple, box-shaped house make for more accessible work. Older, more elevated homes are the domain of a professional. Homes of two stories or more with dormers, gingerbread, or turrets require more preparation time. These architectural details are complicated and may indicate a professional is needed.
Any intricate designs? On more ornate homes, accessibility is also an issue. Ladders won’t get you into many high nooks and crannies. Professional painters have the experience and the correct equipment to inspect, remedy, and paint in what can be awkward positions. If your home has delicate detailing, decide if you are the type of person who enjoys doing detailed work. Those who prefer only painting the broad strokes might be better off leaving the detail work to a pro.
Flat or sloping ground? Look at the grade, the finished surface slant of the ground around the house, for ladder positioning. It’s a bonus if all elevations have flat ground up to the house. Walkouts with slopes make it difficult to position ladders safely. Check to see if obstacles like trees, shrubs, decks, fences, vines, or electric wires will be in the way.
How much prep-work? Examine your house for potential problems that may require extensive prep work. Wood rot, mildew, severe peeling, or alligatoring (the large formation or pattern of shallow and deep cracks) are typical siding problems. Other issues are cracked windowpanes, crumbling glaze, and loose caulking around the trim.
Do you have lead in your existing paint? Homes built before 1978 a likely to have paint containing lead. If you decide to paint your home yourself, you will have to learn how to handle and remove it safely.
Tools, materials. Each home project will vary. If you have determined your needs and already own the equipment, your decision may be more manageable. But be sure to price out the rental or purchase tools and equipment. Then compare the price of everything you need to rent and buy to estimates from local professional companies who will bring all of it with them.
Lifts and ladders. Do you need ladders, scaffolding, planks, or lifts? While a one-story home may only require a ladder, a multi-story house will need more giant ladders and perhaps scaffolding and planks or a lift.
Prep materials. Preparing the house is the first step, and cleaning it is the number one job. Basic cleaning supplies include scrub brushes, pails, bleach for mildew, a cleaning agent such as TSP (trisodium phosphate), and a hose with a spray nozzle.
Consider a power washer to clean exterior surfaces. They do an excellent job of removing loose paint and surface dirt, but they don’t usually remove heavy chalk created by the oxidation of the previous coatings. Check into hand and eye protection for this equipment and follow the guidelines. Have canvas and plastic drop cloths, rags, and masking tape around critical areas such as windows.
Paint removers. If you have any blistering or peeling paint areas, a good amount of scraping may be ahead. Carbide blade scrapers will be needed if a fair amount of scraping is involved. Also, try using an old, dry paintbrush to sweep the dust away. Just be sure to use dust masks to protect your lungs. Pressure washing should never be used to take off paint because it can ruin wood siding.Chemical removers may be necessary if the paint must be softened to be removed, as is the case with many older homes with multiple coats of paint. Power sanding can be dangerous because it can release many toxic elements into the environment.
Caulking. This is required to seal cracks around windows and doors and maintain flexibility and adhesion over many years. There are many types of caulk available.
Paint applicators. Quality brushes are made for latex, oil, or varnish paints. The brush hairs are typical of varying lengths and taper neatly. They have a ferrule or band that holds the bristles tightly to the handle. Quality brushes hold more paint, don’t lose hairs, paint more smoothly, and are easier to use than cheaper alternatives. Spray equipment is a possibility if the house has a lot of flat surfaces with few doors or windows. Sprayers require extensive cleaning. Rollers can be a big time saver.
Primer. You will need to prime any new, severely weathered, or problem areas to ensure a smooth surface for the paint. A primer does not need to be used on a clean, dull, coated surface in good condition. Choose a primer geared specifically for your job. For example, if your paint is acrylic latex, you will want to use an acrylic resins primer.
Paint. For most jobs, you will want acrylic latex paint. On the inside, you can get by with lesser quality, but you’ll wish to use top-of-the-line brushes for holding up to outside conditions. One hundred percent acrylic latex is the standard. A quality acrylic paint adheres best and holds its color much better than less expensive paints.
Assess experience and skills. If you have never painted before, even an interior surface, an exterior is probably not a good place to start. If you have painted an interior and had many problems or hated doing it, this is probably a good sign to call a pro. There are techniques and tricks to learn along the way. When issues are discovered, it’s vital to know how to remedy them.
Have you painted before? Knowledge of painting techniques is essential. People tend to over brush, extending paint too far and not putting on a thick enough coat. Sprayers can put on a lot of color in a hurry, but they require skill to use.
Can you physically handle the job? Being able to take the job physically is a consideration. The mind may be willing, but painting an entire house requires a certain amount of fitness. It is physically demanding work and takes arm and upper body strength. Climbing up and down ladders for prep and painting also requires stamina.
Will you have time and patience for needed prep work? Expect to spend 30–50%of the project time on proper prepping. You won’t want to skimp on surface preparation. Most exterior paint failures are due to poor surface preparation or structural defects that lead to water damage. Extra time spent on stripping the outer surface is almost always worth it. If the house has signs of water damage, the damage must be repaired, and the water source is corrected before painting. Check caulking around windows; replace it if necessary. Check the gutters and roof. Roof leaks, ice dams, and plugged or leaking gutters can lead to moisture problems in the exterior walls that affect paint.
How much time do you have? Painting a house takes a lot of time for an individual. A more extended timetable will be necessary if you can only handle a project for a few hours a day. Also, keep weather and change of seasons in mind since you might be in the middle of your project as the air gets damper. A project should be clean and dry. Typically, paint needs to dry for 24 hours. Time available away from work, time away from family and family duties, and household budget also should be considered.
You are making the decision. Think it through and avoid shortcuts. In the end, it pays to protect your home. The cost of hiring a pro may not be as high as you think, especially if you value your leisure time. Evaluate not only on the dollar estimate, but how confident the contractor appears. Get references and follow up on them. Ask those homeowners how long the project took, the crew’s professionalism, if they stayed on budget, and how happy they are with the results.
The additional cost of hiring a professional painting contractor is justified by the quality of the craftsmanship and the knowledge they provide. Better paint applied with craftsmanship lasts longer, and knowledgeable choices (such as color, texture, and specifications) help to ensure that the correct result is accomplished.