Guide to Painting Your Home

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Home Improvement
Painting the entire exterior of your house can be a daunting task. However, there are ways to freshen up your home’s appearance and prolong the lifespan of your paint job through regular maintenance and minor repairs. Whether you’re painting a porch, the weathered side of your house, or an outbuilding, the process is generally the same as painting the entire house.

To begin, you’ll need to clean and prepare the surface, choose the right type of paint, and apply the paint. The ideal time to paint is during late spring or early fall on a dry day that isn’t too sunny. Temperatures below 40 degrees F and direct sunlight can damage the paint job. Before you start painting, inspect your house thoroughly and address any underlying issues that may cause paint failure.

Troubleshooting Exterior Paint There are several problems associated with exterior paint, such as blistering and chalking. Refer to this helpful guide for troubleshooting tips on exterior paint issues.

way to ruin a paint job. If the paint is not drying, it could be due to humidity or a lack of ventilation. In some cases, the surface may not have been properly cleaned or prepared before painting. To fix this problem, increase ventilation in the room and use a dehumidifier if necessary. If the surface was not properly cleaned, remove the paint and start over, making sure to properly clean and prepare the surface before painting.

Buying high-quality paint is important because inferior paint can stay tacky for a long time, especially if applied too thickly or during high humidity. On the other hand, good paint dries quickly. If you suspect that you have inferior paint, test it on an inconspicuous area first. Moving on to the next section, we will discuss the preparation work necessary before starting an outdoor painting project.

Preparing for House Painting

If you’re fortunate, your house may only need a good wash before repainting. Use a hose to wash it down and a scrub brush with warm, soapy water to tackle stubborn dirt. Alternatively, you can use a power washer. If you’re not so lucky, then you’ll have to accept the fact that you have a time-consuming and dirty job ahead of you. However, if you do the job well, your paint job will look better and last for five to eight years on average.

Begin by thoroughly examining the outside of the house or outbuilding, including the exterior walls, eaves, windows, doors, and foundation. Look for issues such as split shingles and siding, popped nails, peeling or blistering paint, mildew, and rust stains. Once you’ve identified the areas that need attention, roll up your sleeves and make the necessary repairs.

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Use a wire brush and/or wide-blade putty knife to remove small areas of defective paint. Scrub under the laps of clapboard siding and on downspouts and gutters.


To remove small areas of defective paint, use a wire brush and a wide-blade putty knife. Scrub under the laps of clapboard siding, downspouts, and gutters. To speed up the process for metal surfaces, use a wire brush attachment on an electric drill to remove rust and paint with less effort. For more extensive paint removal, invest in a sharp pull scraper, which has a replaceable blade and is capable of stripping old paint all the way down to bare wood with a single scrape. Hold the scraper so that the blade is perpendicular to the wood, apply moderate to firm pressure, and drag it along the surface. Keep the blade flat against the wood so that it doesn’t gouge the surface.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Move an electric orbital sander up and down or back and forth to remove old paint and feather rough edges.

To smooth out scraped spots, you can wrap sandpaper around a wood block. For larger areas, an electric orbital sander is less tiring and more effective. Move it up and down or back and forth to remove old paint and smooth rough edges. Avoid using an electric disc or belt sander as they can leave swirls or dips in the wood. For heavy paint deposits, use an electric paint remover to apply heat and pull off the paint with the built-in scraper. Use liquid paint removers as a last resort as they can be expensive and slop onto good paint. Apply an appropriate primer to distressed areas before painting and use a primer that matches the type of paint you’ll be using. Rust stains, leaks, loose caulking, split shingles, and cracks must be attended to. Remove accessories such as light fixtures and downspouts to make painting easier.

Preparations for painting the exterior of a house can typically be completed in one day or over a weekend. However, if you’re only painting a porch or outbuilding, it may only take an hour. If you’re using latex paint, you can begin painting the next day. However, if you’re using solvent-based paint, it’s important to wait until all washed surfaces are completely dry before applying it.

The first step in preparing to paint the exterior of your house is washing it. Not only will this process clean the exterior and provide a clean surface for the new paint, but it will also help you identify any flaws that need to be addressed. Depending on the size of your house and how dirty it is, there are two ways to approach this task. If you have an average-sized house, use a garden hose with a carwash brush attachment to wash the big areas. For areas with caked-on dirt, use a scrub brush or sponge and warm water with a strong household detergent. Work from the top down and rinse all areas where you scrubbed with water.

To clean big houses faster or smaller ones more effectively, renting a high-pressure spray cleaner is a good option. This tool is connected to your home’s water supply system and produces a strong water jet at a pressure of approximately 600 pounds per square inch. The handheld wand is equipped with a trigger-activated nozzle. This pressure is powerful enough to remove stubborn dirt, mildew, stains, and dried-on sea-spray salt as well as peeling paint. However, if the nozzle is held too close to the surface, it can even remove sound paint, split open shingles, and drill a hole in siding. Therefore, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and wear goggles and protective clothing.

Although scaffolding is better, you can use the spray cleaner while working from a ladder, but it is recommended to practice at ground level first. The force of the spray against the house could knock you off a ladder if you’re not careful. Some of these machines come with separate containers that you can fill with cleaning solutions or anti-mildew solutions. Usually, sprayers are powerful enough that you won’t need a cleaning solution, but if you do, remember to rinse the surface with clean water afterward.

When giving the house a bath, you may notice nails that have popped out of the siding or rusting nail heads that have left streaks of rust on exterior walls. If so, use sandpaper or steel wool to clean the nail heads. On clapboard siding, use a nail set to recess the nail head about ⅛ inch below the surface of the wood. Dab on a coat of rust-inhibiting primer (unless the nail is aluminum or nonrusting galvanized steel) and let it dry. Then fill the nail hole with spackle or putty. When the filler is dry, give it a coat of primer. For flathead nails, which cannot be recessed, sand the heads until they’re shiny and coat them with primer.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
To keep trees out of the way while you’re painting, tie a rope around
the trunk, and pull the tree out away from the house. Stake the
other end of the rope out in the yard.

Protecting Bushes

Painting can be blocked by trees, bushes, and decorative shrubs. You should trim any branches that hang over the house or touch the walls. Wrap evergreen trees and tall bushes close to the house with canvas drop cloths. Tie a rope around the trunk at least halfway up and pull the top of the tree out and away from the house, then tie the other end of the rope to a stake placed farther out in the yard. Cover smaller shrubs, flower beds, sidewalks, and driveways with drop cloths to protect them from paint drips and spills.

Estimating the Required Amount of Paint

The amount of paint you need to buy depends on the size of the house, the condition of the surfaces, the type of coating you choose, and the method of application.

Narrow lap siding, shingles or shakes, masonry, or stucco exterior walls may require 10 to 50 percent more paint than smooth, flat walls.

Airless sprayers, which apply the equivalent of two coats of paint at one time, may require twice as much paint as brushes, rollers, or pads for the same surface dimensions.

You can get more standard, premixed paint if you run out. Or, if you buy too much, many stores will give credit or refunds for unopened gallons. With custom-colored paints, however, it may be difficult to get a precise match if you run short. Calculate your needs carefully, then buy an extra gallon for insurance.

To estimate how much paint your house needs, measure the house’s perimeter. Then multiply that figure by the height, excluding gable ends. Take the measurements with a steel tape measure, or reel out a ball of twine around the house and mark and measure the twine. If you will use a different paint on your home’s trim, subtract 21 square feet for every door and 15 square feet for each typical window. Divide the final figure by the square-foot coverage specified on the can of paint to determine the number of gallons you will need for one coat.

If your house has gables, add 2 feet to the height when estimating your needs. For more precision, measure the width of the gable wall and multiply that figure by its height. Divide the final figure by 2 to determine the gable’s square-foot dimensions.

For trim paint, the rule of thumb is 1 gallon for every 6 gallons of wall paint. To be more accurate, you’ll have to figure the areas of doors, windows, and shutters. For gutters, a linear foot is about equal to a square foot, so for 50 feet of gutter, buy sufficient paint to cover 50 square feet.

Now you’re ready to start painting. Keep reading to learn about painting siding and trim.

How to Paint Siding and Trim

A Guide to
Exterior Paint
Selecting the right coating is crucial for painting your home. Click here for more information about exterior coatings for your home.

After completing the necessary surface preparations, you are almost ready to apply the new coat of paint using a brush, roller, or spray. Before starting, it is important to mix all the paint together in one or two large containers, as paint colors may vary slightly from batch to batch. Any leftover paint should be returned to the original paint cans and resealed.

To ensure the best results, plan your painting day according to the sunlight. Work in the shade after the morning moisture has evaporated and try to avoid painting in the setting sun to prevent lap marks. If you need to take a break, finish painting an entire course of siding to avoid leaving any visible marks in the middle of the wall.

When painting high places, paint in horizontal sections across the top of the exterior wall. Avoid leaning away from the extension ladder or reaching out more than an arm’s length to either side. Create a painted band as you go by painting one high section, moving the ladder, and repeating the process until you reach the end of the wall. Always ensure the ladder is on firm footing and does not tilt to the left or right, and check that both extension hooks are firmly locked on the supporting rungs. Hang your paint bucket on an S-shaped bucket hook to keep one hand free while painting and avoid power lines.

For painting dormers, use a ladder that reaches at least three feet above the edge of the roof so that you can step onto the roof without standing on the top rungs of the ladder. Use a corner roller to make painting the undersides of shingles or clapboards easier and faster.

When painting clapboard or shingles, it is important to pay attention to the areas around door and window casings. At the top of each casing, there is a drip cap or metal flashing that goes under the siding. To ensure a tight seal between metal and wood, paint it carefully. For the sides of the casings, use a brush to apply paint to joints and then smooth it out. For casings and the undersides of siding laps, a corner roller may be preferred. Before moving the ladder, check for missed spots, thin areas, runs, and drips.

Painting exterior trim is a slow process, but it is crucial to keep the house looking fresh and protected from the elements. Working from the top down, paint gables, dormers, eaves, gutters, second-story windows, porches, stairs, and foundations. Use a paint shield to avoid masking around window panes. Ensure that caulking is dry before painting over it. Apply enough paint to form a tight seal between the siding and the trim to keep out moisture, wind, and insects. When painting windows, sashes, sills, and jambs, follow the same order as the interior ones. For screens and storm windows, remove and paint them separately. Doors should be painted with knobs, latch plates, and door knockers removed. Lay the door flat and paint one side at a time, starting with recessed panels and then raised areas. Sand the bottom and top edges and apply a thin coat of paint to protect from moisture and prevent rot. Finally, paint the jambs and the frame, and give the wooden threshold a coat of urethane varnish. Do not paint the hinges.

To repaint gutters and downspouts made of galvanized metal, use a wire brush to remove loose paint, then prime and paint in the direction of the flutes. For downspouts that are flat on all sides and close to the house, consider taking them down to paint. To waterproof gutters and seal tiny holes and joints, coat the inside with an asphalt-based paint. For ornamental metal work and porch railings, use a lamb’s wool applicator instead of a trim brush. This cleanable and reusable mitten applicator allows you to smear on paint as you move your hand from top to bottom. Remember that painting your house requires time and effort, but doing it well will ensure it lasts for many years.


1. What is the best time of year to paint a house?

It is best to paint a house when the weather is mild and dry. This means avoiding extreme temperatures and humidity. The ideal time to paint is in the spring or fall when temperatures are between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is low. Avoid painting in the summer when it is too hot and humid, as this can cause the paint to dry too quickly and not adhere properly. Winter is also not a good time to paint because the cold temperatures can affect the paint’s ability to dry and cure.

2. What materials do I need to paint a house?

To paint a house, you will need several materials including paint brushes, rollers, paint trays, drop cloths, painter’s tape, sandpaper, and a ladder. You will also need the paint itself, which can be purchased in a variety of finishes and colors. It is important to choose the right type of paint for the job, whether it be for the exterior or interior of the house, and to choose a quality brand that will withstand the elements.

3. How do I prepare the surface before painting?

Preparing the surface before painting is crucial to achieving a smooth and long-lasting finish. This involves cleaning the surface, removing any loose or peeling paint, sanding the surface to create a smooth base, and filling any cracks or holes with a suitable filler. It is also important to protect any surrounding areas with drop cloths and painter’s tape to avoid any drips or spills.

4. Should I use a primer before painting?

Using a primer before painting can help the paint adhere better to the surface and create a more even finish. It is especially important to use a primer if the surface is new, has been repaired, or is a different color than the paint you will be using. A primer will also help to seal any stains or odors on the surface, creating a fresh and clean base for the paint.

5. What is the best way to apply paint to a house?

The best way to apply paint to a house is to use a combination of brushes and rollers. Start by using a brush to cut in around the edges and hard-to-reach areas, and then use a roller to apply the paint to the larger surfaces. Be sure to apply the paint evenly and in thin layers, allowing each layer to dry completely before applying the next. This will help to prevent drips and create a smooth and consistent finish.

6. How many coats of paint do I need to apply?

The number of coats of paint you need to apply will depend on the surface you are painting and the type of paint you are using. In general, it is recommended to apply at least two coats of paint, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next. For darker or more vibrant colors, it may be necessary to apply three or more coats to achieve the desired depth of color.

7. How long does it take to paint a house?

The amount of time it takes to paint a house will depend on several factors, including the size of the house, the number of coats of paint needed, and the weather conditions. In general, it can take anywhere from a few days to a week or more to paint a house. It is important to allow enough time for the paint to dry and cure properly before exposing it to the elements.

8. How do I maintain the paint on my house?

To maintain the paint on your house, it is important to clean it regularly and inspect it for any signs of damage or wear. This may involve washing the surface with a mild detergent and water, and touching up any areas that have chipped or faded. You may also need to re-paint the surface every few years to keep it looking fresh and vibrant. By taking care of your paint job, you can extend the life of your house and protect it from the elements.

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