How to Paint Your Home's Exterior

four open paint cans with paintbrush on top
Painting your home’s exterior yourself is a great way to add curb appeal on a budget. And the key to a successful exterior paint job is proper preparation. These step-by-step instructions will show you how to paint your house effectively and efficiently.

Importance of Exterior Painting Preparation

Painting the outside of your house needs to be done regularly to provide protection from the elements. But a good house painting job requires a lot of prep work, which is as important as the painting itself. Cleaning, sanding, and priming will help the paint adhere and keep the final product looking fresh. The following exterior house painting tips will help you achieve a look that lasts. 

Treat Mildew on the Outside of a House

Start by removing any mildew using a solution of one part bleach to four parts water mixed with a little detergent or trisodium phosphate (TSP) in a pump-up sprayer. Allow the bleach to remain on your home's exterior for 10-20 minutes then rinse off with water. Because bleach can damage plants, wet down and/or cover any shrubs or other plants in the area being sprayed.

Clean Your Home’s Exterior

Clean the outside of your house before painting. Pressure wash the house to remove any loose paint and dirt. If used too aggressively, a pressure washer can damage wood, so exercise caution. If you want to clean your house without a pressure washer, use a hose sprayer, soap, and long-handled bristle brush to scrub the walls.

Remove Loose Paint

The next step to prepare your house for exterior painting is to get a smooth surface. Use a paint scraper, putty knife, or wire brush to remove any loose or peeling paint. Repair or replace any rotten wood. Don’t try to hide problem spots with paint—you’ll just prolong the issue and potentially make it worse.

Sanding Can Speed Up the Process

Rotary sanders can speed up exterior paint removal, especially if you have large chunks of weathered paint. The goal is not to remove all the paint, just the parts that are loose or peeling. Feather out the edges so the finished paint will have a smooth appearance. If you don’t own a sander, you can rent one from home improvement stores.

Protect Yourself

It's important to wear safety glasses and a protective mask when scraping or sanding paint. Homes built before 1979 can contain lead-based exterior paint, which may need additional precautions. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to consult a professional.

Prime Bare Wood

Once the wood has been sanded, use a stain-blocking exterior primer on exposed areas to prevent knots, sap, and rusty nails from bleeding through. Pay special attention to cracks and crevices between siding panels. Be mindful of drips and smooth them out when you see them so they won’t cause any bumps in your paint later.

Fill Cracks with Caulk

Caulk helps keep air and moisture from getting into your home’s walls. Caulk any gaps or cracks and around trim with high-quality, exterior, paintable caulk. Allow caulk to dry thoroughly before painting over it. If you already have old, cracked caulk on your home, you’ll need to remove and replace it first. Use a utility knife to score along both edges of the caulk line, then gently scrape off the pieces with a putty knife.

Tape Off Edges

To avoid getting paint on other parts of your house, taping off around the edges is an essential step of exterior painting preparation. Mask off doors, windows, and any hardware, such as electrical boxes and light fixtures. Before applying painters tape, make sure these surfaces are clean. Prevent paint from leaking through by heat-sealing—run the flat side of a paint tool down the edge of the tape while pressing firmly.

Use Quality Paint

Apply two coats of a high-quality, exterior latex paint. Be sure to follow the directions on the can. Because the labor involved in painting your house is much more than the cost of materials, don't be tempted to substitute inexpensive paint. You have several options for paint application—brushes, rollers, or a paint sprayer. Brushes give you the most control and precise application, but a sprayer allows you to cover more area faster. You may opt to use multiple tools to best tackle the job.

Clean Rollers and Brushes

All done with painting your house? Don’t forget to care for your tools to keep them in good condition. Use the curved edge of a 5-in-1 painter's tool on rollers to remove any excess paint before cleaning. If working with a paintbrush and latex paint, wash with soap and water, then run a wire brush through the bristles to loosen any dried paint.

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