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How to Paint a House


How to Paint Siding and Trim

A Guide to
Exterior Paint
When painting or your home, it's important to select the right coating for your situation. Click here more information about exterior coatings for your home.

With the surface preparations out of the way, you're almost ready to brush, roll, or spray on a new coat of paint. First, because paint colors tend to vary slightly from batch to batch, mix all the paint together in one or two large containers. Leftover paint should go back in the original paint cans and be resealed.

Plan your painting day so you follow the sun, working in the shade after the sun has dried off the early morning moisture. Try not to let the setting sun catch you in the middle of an exterior wall at the end of the day. If you have to stop, try to finish painting an entire course of siding all the way across the house. Otherwise, you may leave lap marks in the middle of the course.

At the sides of window and door casings, jab your brush into joints, then smooth out the paint.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
At the sides of window and door casings, jab your brush into joints,
then smooth out the paint.

Also, plan to paint high places in horizontal sections across the top of the exterior wall. Never lean away from an extension ladder or reach more than an arm's length to either side. Paint one high section, move the ladder, and paint another, creating a painted band as you go. Repeat the process all the way across the exterior wall. Then, lower the ladder to work on a lower section. An extension ladder can be perilous. Make sure it's on firm footing about one-quarter of its length out from the foundation of the house. Also make sure it doesn't tilt to the left or right. Always check both extension hooks to ensure they are firmly locked on the supporting rungs. The two sections of the ladder should overlap at least three rungs. When moving the ladder, watch out for power lines. Here's another tip: Hang your paint bucket on a rung with an S-shape bucket hook so you can hang onto the ladder with one hand while painting with the other.

If your house has dormers, you may have to paint them from the roof instead of a ladder. If so, the ladder should reach at least 3 feet above the edge of the roof so you can step onto the roof without standing on the top rungs of the ladder.

A corner roller makes short work of the undersides of shingles or clapboards.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
A corner roller makes short work of the undersides of shingles or clapboards.

When painting either clapboard or shingles, pay special attention around door and window casings. At the top of each casing you'll find a drip cap or metal flashing that tucks up under the siding. Paint a tight seal between metal and wood. At the sides of the casings, jab your brush into joints, then smooth out the paint to seal them. At casings and for the undersides of siding laps, you may prefer to use a corner roller. Before dismounting and moving the ladder, check your work for drips, runs, thin areas, and missed spots.

Painting Trim

Painting exterior trim means you're making progress and the job is winding down. Unfortunately, painting trim is a slow process that consumes a considerable amount of time, even if you apply the same color used on the siding. Diligence and patience in dealing with these details pays off. If done carefully and thoroughly, trim painting will keep your house looking fresh and protect it from the elements for a long time. Here are some tips to make the job easier:

  • When painting exterior trim, work from the top down; gables, dormers, eaves and gutters, second-story windows, porches and stairs, and foundations. If you don't want to mask around window panes, use a paint shield as you work. Scrape off any spatters and drips later.

  • If you've replaced the caulking around doors, windows, and joints, make sure caulking is dry before painting over it. Use enough paint to form a tight seal between the siding and the trim to keep out moisture, wind, and insects.

  • Paint exterior windows, sashes, sills, and jambs in the same order as the interior ones, working from the sashes out to the frames. Be sure to pay close attention to the windowsills. They bear the brunt of rain, snow, and accumulated dirt. If the windowsills look particularly weather beaten, take the time to give them two or even three coats of paint, including the underside edges.

  • Screens and storm windows should be removed and painted separately. If the screens have holes, this is a good time to mend them or replace the screening. If the screening is sound but needs painting, coat it first (using a pad applicator), then paint the frame. Don't forget to do both sides and all edges of screens and storms.

  • Doors are easier to paint if you remove the knobs, latch plates, and door knocker. If possible, also remove the door from its frame, lay it flat, and paint one side at a time, working on recessed panels first, then raised areas. Sand the bottom and top edges, then apply a thin coat of paint to keep out moisture and prevent rot. While the door is open or off its hinges, paint the jambs and the frame and give the wooden threshold a coat of urethane varnish. Do not paint the hinges.

    When painting an exterior door, paint the panels first, then the rails, the stiles, and finally the edges.
    ©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
    When painting an exterior door, paint the panels first, then the rails,
    the stiles, and finally the edges, working from top to bottom.

  • Gutters and downspouts made of galvanized metal should be scraped with a wire brush to remove loose paint and then primed and painted again. On downspouts, paint in the direction of the flutes, usually up and down, to prevent runs, drips, and sags. Because some downspouts are flat on all four sides and are attached closely to the house, you may want to take them down to paint them. Consider coating the inside of gutters with an asphalt-base paint, which waterproofs the gutters and seals tiny holes and joints.

    For railing and ornamental metal work, use a lamb's wool mitten applicator instead of a trim brush.
    ©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
    For railing and ornamental metal work, use a lamb's wool mitten
    applicator instead of a trim brush.

  • On ornamental metal work and porch railings, use a lamb's wool applicator instead of a trim brush. The mitten applicator, which can be used on either hand and is cleanable and reusable, allows you to grasp a railing support, smearing on the paint as you move your hand from top to bottom.
Painting your house can be a big job, but the task isn't difficult. Take the time to do it well, and it will reward you by lasting for many years.

©Publications International, Ltd.