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How often should I repaint the exterior of my home?

Maximizing the Life of Your Home's Exterior Paint
The darker your paint color choice, the more obvious color fading will be.
The darker your paint color choice, the more obvious color fading will be.
© Brian McEntire/iStock/Thinkstock

Having the right tools -- and quality tools -- for the job is important when it comes to painting. Choosing the right paint is critical, and we don't mean the color (although that, too, plays a factor in maintenance).

The sun's ultraviolet rays cause the chemical compounds in paint to degrade (particularly if you use an oil-based paint), which means it will lose its color and luster quicker than paint that's usually in the shade. This is especially true if you prefer dark paints, which will appear to lighten more quickly than white or light colors in the sun (light colors will still bleach, it's just not as noticeable). In addition to bleaching, sun damage can also cause blistering (that's when paint bubbles), as well as a phenomenon called chalking, which is when the surface of the paint becomes powdery and faded (the likely culprit here being alkyd paints).

Today, acrylic latex paints are less likely to harden, blister, crack or allow mildew growth over the years, making them a better choice than the previous go-to, oil-based exterior paints. And while glossy and semi-glossy paints may have a durable finish to them, their shiny, reflective qualities tend to put any imperfections, such as small cracks, on display. On the other end of the sheen spectrum you'll find flat finishes, which are pretty easygoing when it comes to paint maintenance but tend to become chalky and mildew-prone over the years. That leaves us, Goldilocks, with a third option: a satin finish, which works well on a variety of homes and surfaces [source: Southern Paints]

Because the quality of the paint you choose will contribute to its durability, it's important to select high-quality paints and painting materials. Cut costs now and you'll find yourself redoing the project sooner than you may have expected. Remember: Before you paint, prepare. Starting with a clean, well-sanded surface that's free of any mildew, cracks, or rot will help ensure exterior paints properly adhere to that surface. And if you think you can get away with just one coat, don't kid yourself. While a one-coat application may appear tidy to your eye, applying two coats of exterior paint will increase its longevity against its environment.

Regular maintenance will also help your home hold onto its paint longer. Inspect the exterior of your home every year, or every few years. Look for signs of moisture damage, peeling and cracking; addressing any damaged areas, including sealing and caulking, as soon as possible can add years to the life of an exterior paint job.