Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Proper Painting Lasts Longer

The seasons have changed from miserable to warm sunshine, so our attention switches from inside to out.  Painting is back to the top of the list.  The realization of scraping and painting, again, starts to sink in.  Stop.  Before you pick up the scraper and the brush, there are some important tips and techniques to consider. A basic tenant of painting holds true; painting is the easiest part of painting and success is held in the preparation.  It only takes one bad paint job to make every paint job thereafter fail.


Why Paint Fails

Wet wood

Ideal wood moisture content is 15%.  Typical wet elevations require one day to dry in the sun and several days in the shade.  Interior or trapped moisture can make paint bubble or peel to bare wood.  Early morning dew is considered wet.  Typical failure peels paint to bare wood.


Unfinished wood

Unfinished wood exposed more than 3 weeks, or has a mill glaze (machining creates an impenetrable surface film) should be lightly sanded to ensure a good bond. Typical failure peels paint to bare wood.


Too Cold or Too Hot

Ideal temperature is about 70 degrees.  A surface below 50 degrees and above 90 degrees can cause failure, so move around the house accordingly.  Typical failure is in between paint layers.


Poor Paint Prep or Just Bad Paint

All surfaces should be scraped and lightly sanded.  If paint is sound, then no primer is necessary.  Yet a full primer coat can ensure a better bond for your finish paint.  Typical failure is in between paint layers.


Too Much Paint

Too much paint causes the layers to expand and contract at different rates, causing “alligatoring” or finite cracks in the paint.  It still protects, but the only remedy is to remove it.


Dirt & Dust

Dirt and dust should be removed by cleaning the surface with a damp cloth, brush or power washing.  Power washing can add significant moisture to a house, so be gentle.  Power washing is not meant for prepping paint, it’s meant to wash a house with more gusto and less water than a hose.


Wood Decay

Rotted wood should be removed or properly consolidated and repaired with epoxy.



Paint preparation is key to a long lasting job, and about 2/3 of the job.  Be aware of the new Lead Laws. http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm.

  1. Get power lines covered by your power company, for free.
  2. Set ladders right.  Stay off the top of a stepladder.  When setting an extension ladder, pull it away from the building to make sure it does not sway left or right.  Adjust the feet, use blocks or shims to get it straight.
  3. Clean surfaces.  Really dirty surfaces can be cleaned with a light power wash or scrubbing.  Mold or mildew has to be removed.  Use a bleach and detergent mixture, not just water.
  4. Remove peeling paint with a good pull and push scraper.  Pulling is sometimes easier that pushing.  Get a 5 and 1 tool.
  5. Wet sand or use a power sander with a HEPA vacuum.  Scuff all surfaces.  Never grind, sandblast or do bad things to the wood.  You are just trying to get the paint off.
  6. Remove dust with a damp rag with solvent, like Denatured Alcohol.
  7. Fill nail holes after primer, sand, then prime again.
  8. Caulk after primer and before finish.  Start with the premise of never caulking, then understand how to do it right.  Think about how caulk keeps water in (it eventually WILL get in). Keep water out of the top with caulk, then let it out of the bottom with no caulk.  Caulk only vertical joints.  Never caulk the bottom of anything, like under clapboards, at the bottom of trim, etc.  Gaps over 1/8” need a foam backer rod behind the caulk.



  • Use good paint.  It has thorough research, better formulations, and quality pigments that assist in hiding colors underneath.
  • All paint is designed as a system, so use the same brand primer and finish.
  • Quick dry paints, like pigmented shellacs, are great for sealing, but are not a good base coat for finish paints.
  • The New England environment likes oil primer and a latex finish.
  • Read the label.
  • For quicker application, roll and brush out the paint.  Spraying outside does not ensure a good bond, and can fail from a dusty or poorly prepped surface.



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