10 Simple Steps for Exterior Paint Prep
The secret of a good paint job is that most of the hard work is done before a brush ever hits the building. Painting a poorly prepped surface will only result in disappointment, while quality pre-paint work pays huge dividends. So armed with the knowledge that preparation is king when it comes to painting, here are 10 tips to help your exterior paint prep projects go faster, look better and cost less.
Planning and Lead Paint Awareness
The planning stage is also the best time to consider testing for lead paint. If you have a house that was built prior to 1979, it’s always a good idea to know what you’re getting into. This is especially important because it’s likely that you’ll need to sand or scrape your existing exterior paint during the course of your project. See this Family Handyman article Testing for Lead Paint for more details on how to easily and affordably find out if you have lead paint.
None of this is to say that you can’t run an exterior paint prep project with pets in the area. It’s just a good idea to keep their presence in mind. And, if your pets get stressed out or overly excited about all the commotion outside, here’s a list of 10 gadgets to help distract them.
Ladders and Scaffold Setup
Review this Family Handyman article on working with scaffolding safely.
Exterior Paint Prep Ground Cover
As you place your ladders and drop cloths, keep an eye open for delicate plants or flowers. Avoid them if possible or if they’re fragile, consider relocating them into temporary pots. And definitely protect any water features such as koi ponds or waterfalls. A little bit of preplanning can save lots of aggravation and repairs down the road.
Remove or Tape Around Obstacles
Most of this work tends to be at ground level, but if you find yourself up on a ladder taping things off, keep in mind that safety trumps speed. Check out this article on extension ladder setup and safety for a quick refresher on how to work quickly but safely.
Sanding and Scraping
This is a tedious and tiring process, but it’s an incredibly important part of the process. Painting over flaking paint will only result in new paint that flakes off, and skipping the sanding process will leave large, unsightly “divot” areas on your home. Power sanders can help speed the work, but be sure to use proper respiration and dust control. See this article on painting preparation for more tips on the critical steps of sanding and scraping.
Surface Repairs and Cleaning
Once the repairs are done, you can clean off the surface. Sanding dust and debris will come off with a quick wipe down or air spray. But if part of the home is especially dirty — especially from road dirt kicked up by traffic — you may need to scrub the siding, either by hand or with a power washer.
If you do opt for power washing, be careful not to spray upward. Always direct the sprayer so that the force of the washer moves in the same direction as rainfall. Your siding was designed to shed rainfall, not protect from water coming at it from below. See How to Pressure Wash a House for more details.
One trick to exterior paint prep is learning to always keep one eye on the weather. Check out a map of cold weather areas and if vapor barriers are needed. Rain can shut down an exterior paint job, but there are other aspects of the climate to consider as well. For example, many caulks and paints have a limited range of working temperatures. Too hot or too cold, and they will cure slowly or not at all. Read their labels to be sure you won’t have trouble. And if you made the mistake of storing paint in your garage during a winter freeze, see Using Frozen Paint to find out if your materials are still good.
Humidity is another factor that can slow down cure times. If you’re painting in especially humid conditions, be sure to check the previous coat before adding another. Similarly, when planning the course of your work, take the path of the sun into consideration. Areas of the home that get little or no direct sun will set up slower. While sections that bake in direct sun will get a hard surface, becoming dry to the touch before they are fully cured.
Plans for Spills
A simple exterior paint prep step, but one that can save you an immense amount of aggravation. Before you reach for your paint, always make sure you have something close at hand to clean up spills. If you’re using latex paint, that will be water and clean rags. If you’re using oil or enamel-based paint, you’ll need mineral spirits or the thinner recommended by the paint manufacturer. (Check the paint can’s label, usually under the Directions for Clean Up.)
One pro tip: the term mineral spirits and paint thinner are sometimes used interchangeably. They are actually very similar. But mineral spirits are more often used indoors because they have lower fumes. Paint thinner is less expensive but has a high VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). See Mineral Spirits vs. Paint Thinner for a complete run down on the differences between these two products.
Final Test Swatch
At this point all the hardest work is done and you’ll soon be able to relax and enjoy the finished product. Check out these hacks for your next painting project.