The DIY mentality is a craze that’s been sweeping the nation for years. While the desire to save money is often one of the main factors, people also enjoy learning new trades and ideas. What better way to learn something new than by doing it yourself?
One of the main areas where homeowners try to do the work themselves is painting the exterior of their homes. Painting the exterior of your home is very possible, but you must know what you’re getting into before you get started. Here’s my comprehensive list of DIY exterior house painting tips.
Exterior House Painting Tips: Materials Needed
The first thing you should do is gather together all the materials that you’ll need to paint the exterior of your home.
- Exterior paint, preferably flat or eggshell, plus an exterior semigloss
- Pressure washer
- Paint sprayer
- Paintbrushes and rollers
- Painter’s tape
- Drop cloths
- Paint scraper
- Epoxy filler
- Medium-grit sanding block
- Putty knife
- Exterior caulking
- Caulk gun
Because an essential step in the exterior house painting process involves washing the side of your house before painting it, you’ll need the pressure washer and any additional attachments. If you decide to use a paint sprayer rather than just brushes and/or rollers, check out my article on The Best Paint Sprayer for Every Project.
Exterior House Painting Tips and Techniques
Once you have all of your tools and supplies gathered together, it’s time to get your hands dirty and start the exterior house painting process!
1. Check the Weather Forecast
Before you get too carried away, make sure to check the weather forecast for the next couple of days. This is one of my most important exterior house painting tips. Having ideal weather is an often overlooked component by amateurs when painting the outside of their homes. Early summer and early fall are the best times of year for exterior house painting. It’s warm but not hot, reasonably dry, and the sun isn’t beating down too hard.
2. Buy High-Quality Painting Tools
The last thing you want to do is skimp on your painting tools and supplies and end up with a subpar paint job. Painting skills and proper procedures are important with exterior house painting, but even the most experienced painters will struggle with bad tools and supplies. The same applies to the paint you choose. Purchasing a medium to high-quality paint and primer will go a long way in making your paint project the envy of the neighborhood.
3. Wash the Exterior
Here’s where the pressure washer comes in. Attempting to wipe down every square foot of your exterior by hand will take forever and won’t be as effective as a pressure washer. Pressure washers can effectively and quickly remove dirt, debris, loose paint, and anything else you don’t want your paint to come into contact with. A good idea for pressure washing is to work your way from the top to the bottom and go over parts of your house multiple times if necessary.
4. Scrape off Loose Paint
This is another really important exterior house painting tip. If the surface that you plan to paint was painted previously, it might be necessary to go through and remove any extra loose paint.
You can use a handheld scraper, a hot-air gun, or an infrared paint stripper to do this. You likely won’t have to go over the entire house but instead focus on areas where paint is visibly loose or chipping.
TIP: Paint Also Won’t Stick to Rotten Siding
Just as paint doesn’t adhere well to dirt and debris, it won’t stick to rotten siding. If you start to scrape away at the old paint only to realize that the wood siding underneath is rotten, you’ve got a problem on your hands. If most of the siding is rotten, your best bet is to replace it rather than paint. However, if only small areas are rotten, you can use a wood hardener to fill in the rotten areas. You can then paint over top of the wood hardener just as you would with the rest of your siding.
5. Repair Damaged Surfaces
No matter what kind of material the exterior of your home is made of, you may need to make small repairs to parts of the surface. Brick, stucco, metal, wood, and aluminum siding are all prone to wear and tear. Use an epoxy filler on cracks and holes to repair any small areas and apply it with a spackle knife. Wait for the epoxy filler to dry before lightly sanding it down and smoothing it out using a medium grit sanding block or piece of sandpaper. This will make for a much smoother and cleaner finished product for painting.
6. Caulk Trim
Another important exterior house painting tip is caulking properly. Depending on how old your house is, you are likely to have a ton of gaps between the siding and various pieces of trim. Check around your doors, windows, and any other attachments with trim around them and fill in the gaps between the trim and the siding. If you don’t follow this step, any voids will stick out like a sore thumb once the fresh coat of paint is applied.
Make sure to use a type of caulk that adheres well to paint, such as latex or acrylic latex.
TIP: Prime Only When Needed
Contrary to popular belief, primer isn’t always necessary for exterior house painting. It all depends on the condition of the surface you’re painting and what color you’re painting it. If the new paint color closely resembles the old color and the surface is in good condition, there’s no need to prime. However, any problem areas where you use epoxy filler, wood hardener, or rusty spots will have to be primed.
If you’re not sure whether or not your exterior needs to be primed, opt on the safe side and apply primer. There’s nothing wrong with adding primer where it isn’t needed, but there will be visible problems if you don’t prime when you should have.
7. Prime and Sand
If you do decide to add primer before painting, this is the next step in the process. Primer always gets applied before the actual paint does. Something to keep in mind, however, is that new paint technologies have combined primer and paint into one product. Manufacturers say that combining the two will cut down on the number of coats you have to apply.
While this newer paint is more expensive, it might be comparable to the purchase of primer plus paint and is often slightly cheaper. Look at reviews of these newer paints, particularly from folks in your area who have used them.
TIP: Choose the Right Paint
Whether you decide to apply paint and primer separately or choose an all-in-one option, it’s important that you choose the right type. For instance, water-based acrylic latex paint is easier to apply and clean up than the alternative option of oil-based paint. It also dries quickly and makes for a long-lasting and durable coat. However, if your house has a pre-existing coat of oil-based paint, you’ll have to apply the same kind. You should also think about how you want the finish of your paint to look.
8. Start Painting!
Once you have the right type and color of paint and primer, and you’ve taken all the other exterior house painting tips to heart, it’s time to actually start painting! The best way to apply paint to a large exterior surface is with a paint sprayer. Paint sprayers allow you to apply even coats of paint and get into tight areas that a brush or roller wouldn’t be able to reach. It’s also much faster and easier than using a brush or roller, and it will certainly be worth the extra money to rent a sprayer.
You should also apply your coats using a top-down approach to prevent streaking in your paint job.
9. Apply Additional Coats if Necessary
The number of coats you need to apply to your exterior depends on many factors. Using high-quality paint and primer combos will mean that you need to apply fewer coats. Opting for lower-quality paint might save you money at first, but not if you have to apply twice as many coats.
The color of paint you use will also affect the number of coats you need. Darker colors typically need more coats than light colors. You’ll also need more coats if you’re going from a dark-colored exterior to a lighter one. Make sure to give each skin you apply ample time to dry before adding an additional one.
TIP: Seal It Off
When you’re finished with your exterior house painting project and satisfied with your work, make sure to take the time to seal your cans of paint properly. Although you might not be planning on it right now, you may have to apply more coats later. The last thing you want is for your expensive paint to go bad, forcing you to purchase an entire can for a tiny area.
10. Practice Good Maintenance
While the hard work might be over, protecting and maintaining your exterior house painting job never stops. It’s a good idea to make a checklist of things to do each year to check your exterior.
- Check the caulking around your windows and doors and reapply caulk if necessary.
- Wash away stains from birds, nests, and pollen as you see them.
- Touch up any blisters, peels, cracks, and chips in your siding to keep them from spreading.
- Don’t let your landscaping and bushes brush up against your home and stain or chip your paint job.
Wrapping Up Exterior House Painting Tips
As you can see, a ton of work and preparation goes into exterior house painting. Whether you’re painting the exterior of your home, barn, shop, garage, or anything else, one of my top exterior house painting tips is that preparation is every bit as important as the actual painting.
Properly washing and preparing the surface to receive paint is paramount to a lasting coat. You should also carefully research the type of paint you plan to purchase and make sure that it’s applicable to whatever you plan to paint.
Check out our Exterior Painting page for even more information on exterior painting, paints, and products.
I started painting in 2001 and have seen just about everything in my painting career. I started in production and commercial painting, then moved over to new construction and remodeling during the boom of the early 2000s. Post 2010, I niched down into residential painting where I have done everything from exteriors, decks, interiors, furniture and more. Over the last few years, I’ve had a focus on kitchen cabinets.
I started the DIY Painting Tips blog in 2015 to start sharing everything I’ve learned over the years and help all the people who’d rather tackle their painting projects themselves.
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