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September 14, 2021

How to Prep a House Exterior for Painting in 10 Simple Steps

How to Prep a House Exterior for Painting in 10 Simple Steps

Telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell once said: “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” This is applicable to most processes, including home maintenance. For example, painting the outside of a house is a big job requiring tools, skills, stamina, time, and patience. 

It’s incredible to consider that a thin covering of pigment and resin protects people’s most valuable assets. That is, until it fades, peels or cracks, and needs to be repainted. Depending on its condition and the size of your house, painting can be a big undertaking, but not impossible once you know what to do. Here’s how to prep a house for painting the exterior. 


Tools and Materials You Need to Paint Your House Exterior 

All exterior home painters recognize excellent results require proper equipment. Most have the following exterior house painting tools in their inventory: 

  • Pressure washer or wire brush
  • Paintbrush or roller and tray 
  • Bleach 
  • Rubber gloves and face mask
  • Sugar soap
  • Epoxy filler
  • Varnish 
  • Ladder 
  • Turpentine 
  • Drop cloths 
  • Painters tape 
  • Lead home testing kit 
  • Paint scraper
  • Sandpaper 
  • Caulk gun 
  • Plastic sheeting 
  • Primer 

How to Paint the Exterior of Your House

As pro painters, our exterior painting tips come from first-hand experience. Be sure to follow these steps to ensure the longevity of your next coat of paint.

Step #1: Carry Out a Lead Test 

In 1978, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the manufacturing of lead-based house paint due to its dangerous effects on people’s health. But approximately 24 million housing units still have deteriorated paint underneath existing layers and lead-contaminated house dust. 

A store-bought lead test will alert you to the lead content in every painted structural part of your home, such as windows, walls, and doors. However, it can’t specify whether the paint is hazardous. If there’s cause for concern, you should hire a certified lead inspector to conduct a risk assessment that determines where lead hazards exist and how to correct them. 

Step #2: Wash the Exterior of Your House 

Pressure washers eradicate stubborn dirt caked into walls more effectively than hand or hose washing. Wire brushes provide an equally effective alternative but are physically taxing. Washing down your house is one of the key steps to painting a house because paint doesn’t adhere well to surfaces covered in dust and dirt. When washing, work your way down from top to bottom, overlapping strokes by eight inches. 

Step #3: Repair Damaged Surfaces

Spending time prepping walls results in a professional finish because paint takes well to smooth surfaces.  Damaged wood, masonry, metal, siding, and stucco should be repaired before applying primer and painting a house exterior. 

Slight imperfections can be repaired using an epoxy filler. There are loads on the market with different formulations manufactured for different surfaces, so be sure to use the appropriate type. Loose patches of plaster around windows and doors are also common. Those too large to be repaired with epoxy should be re-plastered. 

Step #4: Scrape off the Old Paint

A putty knife, plastic scraper, or oscillating tool with a rigid scraper blade is the easiest way to remove loosened, peeling, and chipped paint.  There’s no escaping that paint removal is a time-consuming manual job; however, you don’t need to remove all the old paint, only problematic areas where the paint is peeling, flaking, or bubbling. If you opt for a scraper, make sure it’s one with rounded corners and apply even pressure to prevent gouging the wall. 

Step #5: Sand Rough Places

Rough patches of wall require sanding to ensure the smooth application of paint. Use fine-grit sandpaper for water-based paint and medium-grit sandpaper for oil-based paint. While more costly, an electric sander will do the job faster, whereas a sanding block provides more control but takes longer. Most professionals will tend to use the former and latter only if necessary to reach precarious areas that require precision.  

Step #6: Caulk Trim

Painted moldings, trim, and baseboards look better when caulked. Caulk is a material used to seal joints or seams against leakage and can be purchased from local hardware stores. When painting your own house, be sure to use siliconized or high-quality acrylic products to caulk the necessary areas to prevent air leakage and water penetration. 

Step #7: Apply Primer

Primer is a resin-based material designed to seal underlying surfaces so paint cannot penetrate or soak into walls. It protects the walls and helps the paint go on evenly and stick for several years. Traditionally, painting the outside of a house required a good coat of primer, sanding, and then color coats. While this is generally how it works, paints with new technology may combine primer and paint into one product to make the job easier. Their viability depends on your budget and the wall surface. 

Step 8#: Protect the Doors 

Don’t forget to cover your doors, windows, and light fixtures with sheeting and painter’s tape. Drop cloths are also a good option to protect porches and outdoor furniture or fixtures that can’t move. 

Step 9#: Choose the Right Paint

We’re occasionally asked by clients how to pick house colors for exterior painting. Preference is completely personal, but lighter colors fair better on home exteriors because they don’t absorb as much heat and if the paint chips, it’s not as visible. 

Additionally, water-based acrylic is easier than oil-based counterparts because it dries quickly and is easy to clean with soap and water. However, if your home already has oil-based paint, which is more durable than latex, you will want to stick with it. 

When exterior house painting, select paints with a higher sheen for finishes because they reflect and block the sun’s rays. A satin finish works well for shingles and clapboards, while gloss is recommended for high-traffic areas, such as windows, casings, door frames, and porches. 

Step 10#: Paint Your House Exterior

For even application, we recommend using a paint sprayer. It will cover larger surface areas with less effort than paintbrushes or rollers and override surface imperfections that paint, and roller brushes struggle with. 

When painting, work your way from the top to the bottom of your walls in a smooth and controlled manner, overlapping each application by 8 inches. The general rule is to use two coats of paint, but this depends on color, quality, and the surface painted.

If painting by brush or roller, the best way to avoid lap marks is to work quickly in small sections, so the previously painted area stays wet until you can brush newly applied paint into it. A second coat will also cover lap marks. 

Bonus Tips

As professional painters, we have many helpful exterior painting tips that make the world of difference when painting your home. 

Tip #1: Consider Each Side of the House a New Project

Many start out saying, “I want to paint my house outside,” only to become discouraged halfway by the project’s enormity. What’s the best way to overcome this? Pretend each side of the house is a new project. You don’t have to stress about when to paint the house exterior or finding massive chunks because you’ve broken the project into smaller tasks.

Tip #2: Watch Out for the Weather

Unsure when to paint house exterior? Painting is best done in the spring or fall when temperatures are moderate, and there’s no rain or excessive humidity.  Avoid extreme weather fluctuations, as the paint might not cure properly, leaving an uneven surface that peels and cracks.

Tip #3: First, Do the Hardest Part of the Job

Ornate homes with intricate architectural work and under a house’s eaves are challenging to paint, requiring more attention to detail, which isn’t always easy when you’re on a ladder at an odd angle. Make sure you have the correct equipment to do the work and tackle hard-to-reach areas first. 

To increase productivity, use the psychological trick of tackling challenging tasks early on. Once these are complete, it will make painting the rest of your home feel like a breeze in comparison. And, if you’re struggling with the difficult areas, break them up into smaller tasks. 

Tip 4#: Combine Paint Cans

Professional painters box paint. This is the process of mixing multiple cans of paint into a larger container for color consistency. Remember to stir the paint before applying it to your walls. Pigment and binding agents can and do separate. If not mixed properly, your paint job may come out streaky and inconsistent. 

The store you purchase the paint from should use a mixing machine to blend the pigment and base paint properly. Before you start, stir the paint until you feel the solids at the bottom dissolve. If you’ve purchased a full can of paint, decanter a quarter out before stirring. 

Tip #5: Paint from the Top to Bottom

Still wondering how to paint the exterior of your house? As in, is there a tried-and-tested method? Yes, there is. It’s impossible to avoid drips when painting, but starting at the top and working your way down will lessen streaks because you’re working with, and not against, gravity. This also allows you to feather our imperfections as you’re working, rather than attempting to correct mishaps once the paint is dry. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Pick House Colors for Exterior Painting? 

Lighter colors are generally more practical. Regardless of your choice, you should select three colors within your chosen color scheme, as you might want to highlight door and window frames with different shades. 

How Much Does Exterior House Painting Cost on Oahu, HI? 

The cost depends on the materials used to construct the house, its size, and current condition. If you contact us with your requirements, we can happily provide you with an estimation. 

How to Estimate Painting a House Exterior on Oahu, Hi? 

Professional painting contractors typically complete a home within two to three days, whereas a solo homeowner may take two and three weeks. 

The Bottom Line

As professional contractors, our tips for painting a house come from years of experience renewing the exteriors of many happy homeowners. If you can afford it, it’s always better to hand over the work to professionals.

If you set out thinking, “I’m going to paint the outside of my house” and aren’t keen or would prefer to hire professionals, we can help.  As experts specializing in exterior residential painting, we deliver top-quality work no matter the project size. Contact us to schedule a free estimate

Sign up for a free estimate online today, or call us at 808-468-5604

How to Prep a House Exterior for Painting in 10 Simple Steps
Written By:
Karl Van Zadnt

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