Painting your home’s exterior is a lot like preparing for a major event like a wedding or retirement: The painstaking prep demands a lot of time up front, but if it’s done well, the end result is well worth the effort. Better yet, you’ll also save thousands of dollars, extend the life of your home’s exterior and increase its value too.
Lane Underdahl, the owner of Eclipse Painting Inc. in suburban Minneapolis and a professional painter for 25 years, readily attests to the benefits of thorough prep work. “Doing things right is hard work,” he notes. “But the more time you spend on the front end, the more time it saves on the back end. If you want great results, you can’t cut corners.”
There are some things you’ll want to cut during prep work, like old caulk, painter’s tape or masking film that protects windows from paint splatters. For these jobs, Underdahl and his employees confidently rely on OLFA 9mm snap-off blade utility knives. The XA-1 model is popular with painters working outdoors because of its no-slip grip, safe one-handed operation (perfect when on a ladder) and handle materials that are paint and acetone resistant. Plus, getting a fresh, new blade is just a snap away. No more taking knives apart and fumbling around every time a dull blade needs replacing. Just snap off the tip of the dull portion with the built-in snapper and a razor-sharp blade is ready to go.
“You’ll find OLFA utility knives in all of our paint buckets,” Underdahl says. “With a regular utility knife, it seems like you never have a fresh blade when you need one, so you have to stop and get more. It’s way easier to use an OLFA snap-off blade.”
Speaking of easy, here are some tried-and-true tips from Underdahl for DIYers who want that pro result when it comes to both prep and painting:
- CLEAN THE HOUSE. Before you start, either hand-wash or pressure-wash your home. Accumulated dirt and dust forms a thin layer of film that prevents paint from properly bonding with the surface below, which leads to early peeling. “Getting a clean surface is the most important step,” Underdahl says.
- DIAL IT DOWN. While it’s okay to pressure-wash your home’s exterior at a low-pressure setting, don’t dial up the power and use it to remove old paint. “When you get that aggressive with a pressure washer, chances are you’ll either damage the siding or shoot water up under the slats, which will create moisture issues down the road,” Underdahl explains.
- FEATHER TOUCH. The more thoroughly you sand areas where you remove paint, the longer the paint job will last. Remove all peeling paint, but also “feather sand” to eliminate the tiny ridges that form between heavily sanded sections and areas where you didn’t sand because the old paint was still solid. “If you don’t feather sand, those areas tend to give way in 2 to 4 years,” Underdahl points out.
- PATCH ’N’ PAINT. If you find a patch of rotted wood that’s larger than a quarter, replace the board. If it’s smaller than a quarter, dig out the rotted wood with a putty knife, then apply a liquid hardener, which will firm up any remaining wet wood fibers you may have missed. Then fill the hole in with Bondo® (yes, the car-body repair product!), let it cure, sand off the excess and paint.
- UNDERCOVER WORK. Use window-masking film or painter’s tape to protect windows and other surfaces from drips and splatters. This saves you the time and effort of going back to scrape off mistakes.
- PAY THE PRICE. Paint is like many things in life: You get what you pay for. Don’t skimp! Buy a quality paint, which will perform better and last longer. If you don’t know which paint product to buy, call local painters and ask what they use.
- WEATHER WATCHER. Don’t paint if the dew point is higher than 70. Watch the weather and wait until the humidity drops.
- GIVE IT THE BRUSH-OFF. If you use a sprayer or a roller to apply paint, it pays to “back-brush,” or go over it again with a paintbrush. This ensures a firm bond between the paint and the surface.
- BODY FIRST, TRIM LAST. If your house trim is a different color than the body of the house, paint the house body first. The trim takes much more time to do right, and it is almost painful to mess up a painstaking trim job. Save it for the finishing touch.
- BEAT THE HEAT. Don’t paint in direct sunlight on hot days. “If it’s too hot, the paint sets up faster than it should, and then it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do,” Underdahl says. And hold off if nighttime temperatures are expected to fall below 35 degrees for two days in a row. Underdahl’s ideal for a perfect painting weather? 75 degrees with low humidity.
TIPS FROM THE PRO
- To boost efficiency and save time, use carbide-tipped scrapers for prep work.
- To more easily apply tape or rolls of plastic, invest in a tool the pros use, called a “hand masker.”
- Tint the primer paint a color that matches the top coat.