Preparing a House for Painting

Painting a home is a major project and it is important to do some preparation work before a bucket of paint is picked up. A great paint job can only be achieved when every square inch of a house is smooth and prepared to accept paint. Peeling paint is often mistakenly blamed on the paint, when the usual cause is a poorly prepared painting surface. Today, all paints and stains are designed to withstand years of exposure to the weather. Paint failure is extremely rare, so peeling paint is usually caused by the paint failing to adhere to the surface. When a home has things like:

  • Dirt
  • Grease
  • Oils
  • Other foreign elements

On it’s surface, a long-lasting paint job is not possible. That is why painting a house is similar to building a home, it can not be done well without a good foundation. Properly preparing a home for painting involves several steps.


The first step is to prepare the area around the home for painting. Most homes have plantings, lights, air conditioning units, lights, shutters, mailboxes, barbecues, children’s toys all on or very close to the house. If something can not be moved, like a shrub or a bed of flowers a cloth drop cloth should be used. When protecting plants always use a cloth or natural fiber drop cloth, a plastic drop cloth will choke or burn a plant. During this step, the goal is to remove or protect anything that is not going to receive a coat of paint.


At this time, it is a good idea to remove any aluminum gutters and downspouts. Aluminum gutters have a factory applied finish that should be able to withstand the elements for years. If the gutters have been previously painted, the gutter need to be sanded and rusted areas scraped with a wire brush. If a gutter or downspout has a hole, it needs to be repaired.


Remove the Loose Paint


The next step involves the labor-intensive process of removing all of the loose paint on the house. Power washing is an option to get the loose paint off. Extreme caution needs to be used when power washing because if it is done incorrectly the home can be severely damaged. A power washer generates thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch, so it can easily damage wood and break windows. When power washing, be aware of how much water the wood on the home absorbs. If the wood is not given enough time to dry, the paint will not adhere properly.


Although a power washer is an excellent tool for preparing a home for painting, it is not a substitute for scraping and sanding a home. Scraping must be done by hand, and it is the only way to ensure that all of the loose paint is removed from the house. Be sure to allow the house to dry before starting to scrap it with a paint scraper.


After the house is scraped and all loose paint is removed, it is time to repair any damages to the home’s wood. The wood may have holes or gouges that will need to be fixed with wood putty. Sometimes, when there are large segments of damaged wood, it is best to replace all of the damaged wood. When all of the wood damage is repaired it is time to sand the home. Sanding will create the smooth painting surface necessary for a great paint job. Sanding is done by hand, but there are tools like orbital sanders and blocks to help make this difficult task a little easier. Sand paper ranging from 80 to 120 grit is needed for this portion of the project.


Cleaning the Painting Surfaces


Once the home’s surfaces are smooth, it is time to make sure they are also clean. Failing to remove dirt, oils and liquids will adversely effect how the primer and paint adhere to the home. When washing a house, most people choose to either use a power washer on it’s lowest setting, or a car washing brush. Care needs to be taken to avoid damaging the home’s surface. A gentle wash is needed to remove any foreign elements, nothing more. A mixture of water and trisodium phosphate is often used to clean a home. After using a cleaning product containing trisodium phosphate, it is important to rinse the entire painting surface with plain water.


Mildew Can Ruin a Paint Job


Mildew will return to a home if it is not killed prior to painting. There are several pre-packaged mildew cleaning options available to kill and remove the mildew, or a mixture of bleach and water will do the job. A mixture of one quart bleach per three quarts of water is needed to kill mildew.


With the home now clean, any caulking problems need to be repaired. Caulk is used around windows, doors, moldings and other places with gaps. Another possible concern it the home’s windows, they may need reglazing. Glaze is used to hold a window in place and over time it can crack. While preparing the house for painting, window glazing may come loose or fall off. If a window is glazed, make sure the glaze is dry prior to painting. While doing a final inspection of the home look for any loose or raised nails. If a nail hole is countersunk, putty can be used to make the surface flat. Once all of this is done it is important to give the home time to dry. The drying time needed will vary. When using latex paint, the drying time can be as little as a day, and with an oil based paint the home could need a week to dry. When the home is dry, a layer of primer can be applied. Primer is used as a base for the paint. A home properly primed will provide a better surface for the paint and the paint job will last much longer.


Hiring a professional painting contractor vs. painting yourself.

Do-it-yourself home projects are very popular, and the temptation to do them is everywhere. It seems like there is a Home Depot or Lowe’s on every corner. At home, turn on the television and there are dozens of shows devoted to home improvement projects. With some much encouragement, it’s not surprising, so many homeowners choose to tackle a home project on their own. Unfortunately, most homeowners do not know that some professional contractors generate all of their income by fixing projects started by homeowners. Far too often, a homeowner begins a project only to find out they have bitten off more than they can chew. Of course, there are home improvement projects a homeowner can take on themselves, but there are also jobs that need to be done by a professional, and many painting jobs fall into this category.

This is a Do-it-Yourself Painting Job – 20% Are Wrong

There is really only one reason a homeowner would consider doing a painting job themselves, to save money, although many times there is a different result. According to industry sources, on average twenty percent of a professional painting contractor’s business comes from do-it-yourselfers who need professionals to bail them out and finish the project. That’s because to a home owner, most painting jobs appear much easier than they actually are. When a professional painting contractor assesses a job, they see all the problems, effort and intricacies involved in the project, things overlooked by the homeowner. For homeowners, this is a very common mistake, and it can create a great deal of problems. According to Angie Hicks, founder of Angies List, “A lot of homeowners tend to tackle painting on their own, but keep in mind the most common mistakes made is not properly prepping before you paint.” Hicks said. “And a lot of times consumers underestimate the true work involved in prepping properly – scrapping and getting the surface clean is really important to a lasting paint job. Also, keep in mind if you have a two-story house and you don’t have the proper ladders it can be dangerous too.” According to Hicks, a cheap paint job can actually end up costing you more.

When a homeowner decides to handle a painting project on their own, these are some of the issues they will need to handle. From a cost standpoint, there are the expected expenses: primer, paint, brushes, rollers, drop cloths, tape, to name a few. There are also unexpected expenses that appear after the job begins like repairs to damaged surfaces, clean-up issues and equipment issues. As a homeowner is deciding whether to do a project themselves, they need to factor for both the expected and the unexpected expenses.

In addition to the expense analysis, the homeowner needs to assess all of the necessary work the project will require to result in a quality paint job. The typical paint job requires all or most of the following work: washing, scraping, taping, spackling, hole repairs, sanding, priming. If the painting surfaces are not properly prepared, there is only one possible outcome, a subpar painting job. That is why it is critical for the home owner to assess all of the required work, and make sure they are comfortable doing all the everything necessary labor. If that’s not the case, the homeowner is better off seeking the services of a painting contractor.

The costs and the amount of labor involved are not the only factors a homeowner must consider, time is an additional factor. No one can dispute the fact that a professional painting contractor will be able finish a job faster than the homeowner. Plus, the homeowner must determine how much free time they can allocate to the project to complete the job. If the homeowner works a full-time job, that leaves only one or two days a week to finish the project. With such a limited time frame, events like bad weather can turn a one or two day job into a month-long project.

Advantages to Choosing a Professional Painting Contractor

For most people, these are some of the reasons a professional painting contractor is the right choice for them:

  • The inevitable mishaps – it is not uncommon for professional painting contractors to encounter problems on the job. Unlike a homeowner, painting contractors have specific insurance policies designed specifically to handle these problems.
  • Painting is not easy – some people incorrectly assume that painting is easy, but they are wrong. Painting contractors are skilled professionals who have invested a great deal of time and money into their craft. A painting contractor understands that the proper equipment is needed to finish a job, and it makes sense for them to invest in the best equipment available. For a homeowner, investing in the same equipment does not make financial sense. That is because the average homeowner will never use the painting equipment often enough to warrant the expense. For example, it does not make sense for the homeowner to purchase a professional-grade paint brush that can cost $25-$30 or more, when the brush may only be used a couple of times. Yet a painting contractor may use the same brush every day. So a problem arises because using sub-par equipment will always have a negative effect on any painting job. Yet if the homeowner chooses the best materials, much of the money they are saving by doing the job themselves can be lost.
  • Painting is a dangerous job – Almost any painting job requires a ladder, and ladders are dangerous. Falls from ladders represent one of the most common causes of emergency room visits, and the majority involve falls from two to six feet off the ground. So there is a real danger for the homeowner attempting any painting job on their own.
  • Product Selection – A professional painting contractor will select the right product for the job because they have both product knowledge and experience. If a homeowner selects the wrong paint for the job, that mistake can easily erase all of the savings anticipated by doing the project themselves.

When you factor in all of these considerations, it becomes easy to see why so many painting jobs end up in the hands of a professional.