Start by thoroughly examining the outside of the house or outbuilding -- not just the exterior walls but under the eaves, around windows and doors, and along the foundation. Look for split shingles and siding, popped nails, peeling or blistering paint, mildew, and rust stains. Once you've identified the areas that need attention, roll up your sleeves and make the repairs.
Remove small areas of defective paint with a wire brush and/or a
wide-blade putty knife. Scrub under the laps of clapboard siding
and on downspouts and gutters.
Use a wire brush and a wide-blade putty knife to remove small areas of defective paint. Scrub under the laps of clapboard siding as well as on downspouts and gutters. For speedier work on metal, a wire brush attachment on an electric drill will remove rust and paint with less effort. For more extensive paint removal, invest in a sharp pull scraper -- a tool with a replaceable blade that's capable of stripping old paint all the way down to bare wood with a single scrape. Hold the scraper so the blade is perpendicular to the wood, apply moderate to firm pressure, and drag it along the surface. Keep the blade flat against the wood so it doesn't gouge the surface.
Move an electric orbital sander up and down or back and forth to
remove old paint and feather rough edges.
For smoothing the edges of scraped spots here and there, you can wrap a piece of sandpaper around a wood block. For larger areas, it's less tiring and more effective to use an electric orbital sander. Move it up and down or back and forth across the surface to remove old paint and smooth rough edges at the same time. Don't use an electric disc sander or a belt sander. Both can leave swirls or dips in the wood that will show through a new coat of paint.
For particularly heavy deposits of paint, heat may be more effective than muscle. One way to apply heat is with an electric paint remover, which is a device with a platelike heating element that "cooks" the paint and has a built-in scraper to pull it off. Wearing heavy gloves, hold the heating element against the surface until the paint sizzles. Pull the remover firmly over the surface. The attached scraper will pull off the cooked paint as you go.
Another way to remove old paint is with an electric paint
remover -- a device with a platelike heating element
that softens the paint and has a built-in scraper.
Use liquid paint removers only as a last resort. They work well, but they're expensive, especially on big jobs. Also, they can slop onto perfectly good paint, giving you one more problem to deal with.
Once you have removed all the loose paint, you should apply an appropriate primer to some of the distressed areas, especially if your paint-removal system has exposed raw wood or bare metal. The kind of primer you use depends on the kind of paint you'll be using later. For latex paint, use latex primers; for solvent-thinned paints, use solvent-base primers; and for metals, use metal primers. Not only do these coatings provide extra protection against the elements, they also form a firm foundation for finishing paints. Also, priming is always required when you're working on new wood.
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