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,” which applies 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.

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, exterior painting preparation can be a big undertaking, but not impossible once you know what to do. Here’s how to prep the exterior of your house for painting to ensure a good paint job.

Tools and Materials You Need for an Exterior Paint Job

All exterior home painters who recognize excellent results require proper equipment. Most have the following tools in their inventory to prep a house for paint:

  • Pressure washer or power washer
  • Paintbrush or roller and tray
  • Bleach
  • Rubber gloves and a dust mask
  • Sugar soap
  • Epoxy filler
  • Varnish
  • Ladder
  • Turpentine
  • Drop cloths
  • Painters tape
  • Lead paint home testing kit
  • Paint scraper
  • Sandpaper
  • Caulk gun
  • Cleaning solution
  • Plastic drop cloths
  • Oil-based primer or acrylic-based primer, depending on your paint choice.
  • Wood filler
  • Eye protection
  • Hepa vacuum
  • Wire scrub brush
  • Buckets for a clean up
Exterior Paint Job

How to Prep a House for Exterior Painting

As pro painters, our advice comes from first-hand experience. Be sure to follow these steps to paint a house exterior and 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 lead 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, i.e., 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 to determine where lead hazards exist and how to correct them.

Step #2: Powerwash the Exterior of Your House

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

Step #3: Repair Damaged Surfaces

Spending time prepping the exterior of your house for paint produces a professional finish because fresh paint takes well to smooth surfaces. You should repair damaged and weathered and bare wood, masonry, metal, siding, and stucco, including previously painted surfaces 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 other surfaces, so be sure to use the appropriate type. Loose patches of plaster around windows and doors are also standard. Those too large to be repaired with epoxy should be re-plastered.

Step #4: Scrape off the Old and Loose Paint

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, chipped, and flaking 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 has rounded corners and apply even pressure to prevent gouging the wall.

Step #5: Sand Rough Areas

Rough patches of walls require sanding to ensure the smooth application of paint. Use fine-grit paper for water-based paint and medium-grit sandpaper for oil-based paint. While more costly, electric power sanders will do the job faster, whereas sanding blocks provide more control but take longer. When prepping a house to paint its exterior, most professionals will use the former and latter only if necessary to reach hazardous areas requiring 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 doing exterior house paint prep, use siliconized or high-quality acrylic products to fill gaps to prevent air leakage and water penetration.

Step #7: Apply Primer

Primer is a resin-based material designed to seal underlying surfaces, so the paint cannot penetrate or soak into walls. It protects the walls, helps the color go on evenly, and sticks for several years.

Traditionally, exterior wall preparation before painting entailed applying a coat of primer, sanding, and 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 suitable to protect porches, outdoor furniture, or fixtures that can’t move.

Step #9: Choose the Right Paint

Choose the Right Paint

When doing exterior paint prep, clients occasionally ask how to pick new paint colors for exterior painting. Preference is entirely personal, but lighter colors fare better on a home's exterior 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.

For exterior house paint prep, 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 do a better job overriding surface imperfections.

When painting, work your way from the wall's top to bottom 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.

A tip: Latex paint is excellent for interior and exterior paint jobs. It is washable with soap and water after drying.

How Much Paint Do I Need?

prep house for paint

Follow these exterior painting preparation tips to calculate how much paint you need:

  1. The first step to determining the number of coats you need is to examine the surface you'll be painting. More paint will be required when a surface is porous, rough, textured, or has never been painted. If you choose a deep, intense color, you may need multiple coats or a tinted primer.
  2. Multiply your home's circumference and height. Subtract doors and windows from your wall area calculation to achieve a more accurate estimate. A window is typically 15 square feet, and a door is usually 20 square feet.
  3. For each gable, multiply its width by its height, divide by two, and add the total to the body measurement.
  4. To estimate the amount of paint you'll need for the trim, calculate the length of the total trim. The average trim width is six inches. Multiply the total trim length by 0.5 feet.
  5. To estimate the gutter, determine the total length of the gutter. One linear foot of gutter approximates one square foot.
  6. As a rule, one gallon of paint will cover trim and gutters per eight gallons of body paint.
  7. Once you add the trim and gutter calculations, you'll know how much additional paint you'll need for them.

Decide Which Paint Application Method to Use

Whether you use a brush, roller, or sprayer to paint your house is a personal preference:

  • Using a brush: using a brush gives you greater control, using a roller is more efficient, and using a paint sprayer provides a heavier coverage. First-time painters usually prefer brushes, as they force them to be thorough and give them complete control over each square inch. Use the brush by dipping it halfway into the paint, then touching several points on the wall across a horizontal line. Fill in the empty spots and ensure even coverage by painting back and forth.
  • Using a Roller: roll the roller in the paint until all sides are evenly covered, then apply the paint in criss-cross patterns. Fill in the gaps using up and down strokes after painting over the same section.
  • Using a paint sprayer: fill the sprayer with your chosen paint. The sprayer should be upright, about 1 foot (0.3 m) from the wall. Spray the paint smoothly back and forth before pulling the trigger to avoid areas of heavy paint deposits. Each new stroke should overlap the previous one by about 8 inches (20.3 cm).
  • Using the spray and back-roll technique: this technique is recommended for its speed and evenness of coverage, but it requires two people. Painting is done with a sprayer and a roller, with one person sprinkling paint quickly and the other spreading and leveling it.

Bonus Tips

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

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

exterior painting preparation

Many start 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 find massive chunks because you’ve broken the project into smaller tasks.

Tip #2: Watch Out for the Weather

Need help determining when to paint the house exterior? Painting is best done in good weather in the spring or fall when temperatures are moderate, and there’s no rain or Still, wondering how to paint the exterior of your house? 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. You can feather our imperfections as you work rather than attempting to correct mishaps once the paint is dry.. 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. And, if you’re struggling with the problematic areas, break them up into smaller tasks.

Tip #4: Combine Paint Cans

Professional painters box paint. This process mixes 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 separate. If not mixed properly, your paint color may become streaky and inconsistent.

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

Tip #5: Paint from 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 about Exterior Paint Preparation

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 in Oahu, HI?

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

How Long Does it Take to Paint a House Exterior in 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 painting 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 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 residential painting and exterior house paint prep, we deliver top-quality work regardless of project size. Contact us to schedule a free estimate.

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

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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