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.