Heritage Restoration, Inc.

House Painting 101

I am planning on painting my house this summer. What are the best ways to prepare for doing the job? How should I prep the wood? What if some of the wood is dry and cracked? Are there any other precautions I should consider?

Frank, Bristol

My first choice is to have a professional do it, but bravo if you are ready to take it on. Here are some steps to getting the job done efficiently and making sure it lasts as long as possible.

Protect yourself, your family, your house, and your plants.
If your house was built after 1978, you are part of 20% of RI homeowners and can ignore this section. Paint manufactured prior to 1978 contained lead, so if your house was built before then you have it. The amount of lead depended on many factors, and the problem is once lead paint fails, or was prepped irresponsibly, or when parts rub against each other, the paint falls in chunks or becomes airborne by dust. The health effects of lead are not good for adults or children, so you must take precautions. Call the RI Department of Health or go to http://www.health.ri.gov/publications/brochures/RenovateRight.pdf for more information. Always wear eye protection, a proper mask and gloves when prepping.

Every house should have at least one and a half feet of space between the house and any plants. If you have large bushes, tie them back to a stake in the ground.

Plan it out
Paint one side at a time so no side sits for too long between prep and paint, or paint-to-paint. Once applied, most primers and finishes are good for only 30 days and you risk getting dirt between layers.

Make sure the house is dry
You can scrape the house at any moisture content, although the wetter it is the more fur you will create. Dry wood preps easier but makes more dust. Wood should be about 16% moisture content or so. You can buy a good moisture meter for about $50. If the house is wet when painting, or is about to get wet, the paint will fail prematurely.

Prep till it hurts
“A paint job is only as good as the prep.” If you are going to power wash, use it to clean the house not prep the paint. If you have mildew or any organic growth clean it with an appropriate cleaner, don’t try to just power wash it off. Remember, you are trying to keep the house dry.

Have several good pull scrapers with different widths and profiles, a 5 and 1, a hammer, nail set, two putty knives of one inch and 3 inch, and a sander with a good HEPA vacuum attached to it. Always use a sharp tool and scrape paint with the grain. You can go against it, but use caution not to damage the wood. There are mechanical scraper tools, but they require a flat surface. Just taking one-eighth off the wood’s surface can equal a hundred years of wear, so be gentle. Sand with care as well, using the right grit of 80 or higher. Don’t push down on a sander, let it do the work, and replace sandpaper when it starts to wear, since it is easier to prep with good paper and your time is worth more than the cost of the paper.

OK, here comes the easiest part to do and mess up. Use only good quality paint. Paint that is $12 a gallon has poor formulations, cheap pigments, and will fail sooner. It’s OK to spend $45 a gallon, really. Oil primer on bare wood and two latex finish coats on top. Fill holes (I like the one-step fluffy stuff for small holes and epoxy for bigger holes) after the first prime coat, sand then spot prime.

Invest in good brushes and keep them clean. A chip brush is one and done, and looses more hair in a day than most of us have in a lifetime. For latex cleanup it is as simple as warm water and a wire brush. Then wrap the brush in newspaper to dry out. Using a wet brush to paint is like painting with your fingers. A dry brush lays paint better.

Before you paint, clean or tack the surface of dust. Use a sticky tack cloth or some nasty solvent. You can apply the paint any way you want like a roller, just finish with a brush to even coverage with the grain. Not always a fan of spraying.

So Frank, good luck and happy painting!

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