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Oregon Family Magazine

How to Paint the Exterior of Your House – Prep to Finish

04/02/2024 ● By Kimberly Blaker
Does your home's exterior need a facelift? If so, it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. A bit of time and effort in prep work and a fresh coat of paint can restore your home's curb appeal and make it look new once again. With the right tools and resources, you can paint your home yourself and save a bundle on the cost of labor. The following guide will help get you started.

How to Choose Colors

There are several considerations to choosing the right colors for your home. Your street or neighborhood will be affected by the color you choose. So take into account the colors of other homes on your street and immediately surrounding yours.

The architectural style of your house and its era also play a role in color selection. Is your house contemporary? Or is it a mid-century or turn-of-the-twentieth century craftsman home? To determine the best colors for the era and style of your house, browse through books or online to see what's appropriate and appealing.

Are there any exterior elements that'll be difficult, costly, or unnecessary to change, such as the roof or driveway? If so, choose paint colors complementary to those existing elements.

Another consideration is visual effects. Determine whether your house would look better in a lighter or darker shade based on its distance from the road, the landscape, and other factors.

Use color and visual tools to choose colors that are complementary to each other for the primary color of your home; window trim, shutters, and doors; and the trim casing, roof casing, and railings. Many paint brands offer online color visualizers where you can upload a photo of your house to try out different paint colors and combinations virtually. One option is

Once you've decided on colors, buy a sample of each, and try it out on a small area of your house to avoid a costly mistake. Paint color sample cards and even online visualizers don't tell the full story. You need to see the actual paint color on your real-life home to know how it will really look.

Paint Types

The best all-around paints are those that say "100 percent acrylic latex" on the label, says Thomas Baker of This Old House in "All About Exterior Paint." He explains that one hundred percent acrylic resin "remains flexible, breathable, and colorfast far longer than paints made with vinyl resins or acrylic blends." Still, even among 100 percent acrylics, quality varies. So it's worth comparing coverage rates, dry-film thicknesses, and proportion of ingredients.

For certain surfaces, however, oil-based paints are better because of their smoothness, hardness, gloss, and resistance to dirt. Doors, trim, railings, wrought iron, and elements that get touched hold up better with oil based.

Prep Work

Before you begin painting, you'll need to inspect the exterior of your house, make repairs, and prep the surface. Look for and resolve the following issues:

  • flaking paint (remove by scraping, sanding, or with a wire brush)
  • rust on iron details (scrub with a wire brush then apply a rust-inhibitive primer)
  • chalky residue (efflorescence) on aluminum siding, trim, and soffit (lightly power wash siding, scrub it with a cleaning agent and brushes or pads, then rinse thoroughly)
  • mold and mildew (clean light mold with bleach; replace extensively damaged elements)
  • deteriorated or missing caulk in window sills and doors (remove deteriorated caulk and apply fresh high quality, paintable exterior caulk)
  • rotted wood (remove or cut it out and replace)

After you've completed your inspection, and have cleaned or repaired any problems, wash the exterior to remove dust and debris. You can use a hose, bucket, and rags, or rent a power washer, available through most home improvement stores.

Next, fill any cracks and crevices between siding and trim panels with an exterior, paintable caulk. This will give your house a professional, cohesive appearance after you've painted.

Choose a primer with a vinyl sealer, so both the sealer and paint adhere better. If you're adding a fresh coat of the same color paint, a sealer isn't necessary.

Also, gather your paint and the tools you'll need, including sturdy ladders, sprayers, brushes, rollers, drop cloths, plastic sheeting, and painter's tape.

Finally, just before priming or painting, tape off edges including trim, windows, doors, and hardware to protect them from paint. Even with tape, paint does tend to bleed through. So run a putty knife along the edge of the tape, to ensure it is flush and adheres. If you're using a paint sprayer, also tape up plastic sheeting to cover doors, windows, fixtures, and anything you want to protect.

How to Paint

Paint sprayers offer the most coverage in the shortest amount of time. Brushes and rollers are better for precision and control. Begin by applying the primer, which can be sprayed, rolled, or brushed on. Make sure it covers rusty nails, sap, or other similar problems to prevent bleed-through.

After waiting for the recommended time for the primer to dry, you're ready to apply color. You can spray the siding then roll or brush the trim and doors. Another option is to spray large areas that require minimal taping off and use brushes and rollers on the front of the house and in other areas where there's a lot of detail. Alternatively, you may decide not to deal with spraying at all.

Just carefully follow the instructions on the paint cans to ensure the paint properly adheres and provides lasting coverage.

Where to Learn About House Painting

Before you begin painting, learn as much as you can to avoid mistakes and discover time-saving tips. The following resources may be helpful:

  • Check home improvement stores to see if they offer any workshops. These are often provided in larger stores.
  • Visit your library, bookstore, or hardware store for a book on exterior painting.
  • Look for articles online, particularly those that address the specific type of siding on your home.
  • Watch YouTube videos to see house painting in action, so you understand how to properly tape off, use a paint sprayer, and other steps.