Angie's List | Exterior painting

Is your home's exterior in need of a makeover?

Adding a fresh coat of paint can help improve your home's curb appeal.

According to a 2012 project poll 57 percent of respondents are planning an esthetic home improvement, such as painting, this year.

How do I know when it's time to paint?

  • A good paint job should last 5-10 years.
  • The most obvious sign that you're home's exterior needs a fresh coat of paint is peeling.
  • Check the side of your house that gets the most weather exposure – this will be the side where the paint begins to show signs of wear first.
  • Peeling paint allows water to seep into the wood and can cause the wood to rot.

Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews , asked highly rated painting contractors about picking out the right paint.

Professional painting contractor Andy Wagoner says, "There are vinyl-safe paints, paints that are designed for darker colors on vinyl. If you have a darker color you want to apply to vinyl siding you definitely need to be sure to get that product. Otherwise, paints are very versatile so they can be used on brick, stucco, vinyl."

When asked about painting brick on a home Andy says, "I'm personally a big fan of painted brick. If someone wants to have that done, we have a process that we do it's one full prime and two finished coats.  Generally speaking, when it's properly done the way that we do it, it's going to last about 20 years. The price is dependent on the porosity of the brick, the type of home, things of this nature. But, brick can be painted and results can be spectacular!"

Pick the right paint:

  • Although exterior and interior painting shares many characteristics, the paints themselves are formulated differently. The binders and additives in outdoor paint are formulated to resist the elements well, while indoor paint most likely will not.
  • The materials of the home's facade should be considered. When painting flat surfaces like siding or wood, you can opt for standard outdoor paint. When painting a textured surface like stucco or brick, "elastomeric" paint is a much better choice. This type of paint can stretch more than normal paint, which allows it to bridge over small gaps and crevices, painting smoothly over texture.
  • Climate is another factor to consider. Sunlight, wind, rain and salty weather can all wear out paint. Oil-based paint is durable against wind, rain and temperature changes, but sunlight tends to degrade it. Alkyd paint chalks and sheds very thin layers when it begins to wear. Latex paint is the more durable option for very sun-drenched and relatively dry climate areas. Latex paint with high vinyl content should be avoided, however. Acrylic resin is by far the more durable binder for outdoor latex paint.
  • Areas that are subject to a lot of moisture, like the skirting around houses, may require mold-resistant paint, like outdoor paint with fungicide added. Another specialty paint to consider is a flame-resistant brand. Paint that resists fire rather than combusting could be a life saver for homeowners in wildfire-prone areas.
  • Though buying high-quality, specialty paint and getting a professional to apply it can be expensive, the investment will pay off with a high-quality, long-lasting paint job. Low-quality paint often lasts half as long as high-quality paint and even shorter if it's not applied properly.

Picking a color:

  • Take surrounding landscaping into consideration: If you have ornamental or colorful trees, shrubbery or floral selections around your home you should figure their colors into the color scheme selection that is made. Homes that have a great deal of trees can make the property darker and cast shadows onto the home. Avoid darker colors for these situations.
  • Accentuate the home's attractive details: Entryways, windows, shutters and other details on the home can be painted to make their design noticeable. However features such as gutters, downspouts, external air conditioning systems, unevenly proportioned windows and protruding garage doors should not be completed to draw attention to them as this will provide a negative results.

Consider colors of the home that cannot be changed: There are permanent features of the home that have their own colors which cannot be changed when painting the exterior of the home, but can have a dramatic satisfaction level that is experienced when the painting is completed. Roofing shingles, paving blocks, concrete surfaces, stones and other such features are prime examples of the colors that should be considered when selecting your exterior color scheme for the home.

"A lot of homeowners tend to tackle painting on their own, but keep in mind the most common mistakes made is not properly prepping

before you paint. And a lot of times consumers underestimate the true work involved in prepping properly – scrapping and getting the surface clean is really important to a lasting paint job. Also, keep in mind if you have a two-story house and you don't have the proper ladders it can be dangerous too,"  says Angie Hicks.

Paint preparation:

  • One of the most common mistakes amateur house painters make is failing to properly prepare the surface to be painted. If there is any peeling it's essential to scrape off any loose paint. Then, the bare spot needs to be sanded until the paint edges are smooth. If you're not willing to put in this type of effort, hire someone. Otherwise you will invest time and money into a paint job that won't last.
  • You also need to protect the surrounding area from paint splatter or other damage from the work. Cover air conditioning units, landscaping and other surfaces close to the work area with drop cloths, old sheets or blankets. Windows and doors should be taped off, while accessories such as light fixtures, doorbells, shutters, mailboxes and other detailed features might be simply removed and put back on after the job is done.
  • If you have a one-story house with minimal peeling and you have plenty of time, you can probably do the job yourself and save money. If the house is taller and/or needs significant preparation it may be wiser to hire someone to do it for you.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a painting contractor

  • Seek three estimates from professional house painters. You'll have a financial point of comparison and you may benefit from what a professional painter has to say about the condition of your home, color choices and types of paint available. 
  • Can the painting contractor make recommendations on what materials will work best for your project? A professional keeps up-to-date on the latest products/techniques/trends – makes color suggestions.
  • How much do they charge? Be sure not to hire on price alone.
  • Don't be afraid to ask the painter for references or for testimonials from previous clients. These references should give the prospective client a picture of how the work was done, the quality of the painting provided and timeliness for completing the contracted task. Go to the actual site and see the results for yourself.
  • Even though most homes have been repainted over the years, individuals may still find lead based paint if their home was constructed prior to 1978. The cracking, chalking, peeling and chipping paint can create a dust that is easily inhaled or ingested. As of April 22, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency requires all remodelers, painters and contractors who work on homes built prior to 1978 and disturb more than six square feet of lead-based paint to be certified by an EPA-approved training provider.

Andy Wagner, professional painter, says,"We would come out and we would chemically clean the home and rinse it. Following that we would do any scraping, sanding, and caulking that would need to occur. Spot priming as well. We do not rush the process. We are very thorough in our approach to the preparation. Then, depending on how many coats will be applied, we would put a coat on one day, wait and apply the next coat the following day."

If you're looking to have fresh look on your house but you don't have the budget to paint the entire house still go with a very high quality painter because you want the project to last. You don't want to go cheap and have a project that starts to peel after a couple of years. Instead consider painting the trim on your house, as well as the front door and the entry way. It's going to give your house a fresh look while being able to put off the big project for a little bit.

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