How To Repaint Your House

Tips and how-to advice for repainting your home's exterior yourself.

The last time Mediamark Research Inc. (MRI) surveyed HANDY readers, it found that 95 percent of us do our own exterior house painting and staining and we buy an average of 9 gallons of coatings each year. That's a lot of painting, but it doesn't mean we've mastered the techniques. I've watched enough homeowners and contractors to know we all can improve.

A variety of approaches will produce good-looking paint jobs. However, with the right techniques you will reach the finish line much faster and the facelift will last longer.

The fast track
Today, many contractors paint or stain houses with spray systems. Typically, one guy handles the gun and a helper follows behind, back-brushing the surface with a dry brush or long-handle roller to mop up excess coating and prevent sags.

Spray painting arguably is just as effective as brushing, provided you start with a clean surface, don't thin the paint too much and back-brush the fresh coatings as you go. It also pays to buy (or rent) a professional-grade spray system. They typically have more power, better control and longer hoses than entry-level homeowner-grade systems.

I got my start in painting about 35 years ago with A. Morin & Sons Painters in Blackstone, Massachusetts. My crew and I would erect planks on ladder brackets or trestles, or we would suspend stagings from enormous roof hooks. The work platforms enabled us to brush on paint from one side of the house to the other and avoid lap marks, those ugly vertical lines that are DIY painting's first deadly sin.

With modern spraying, the work goes much faster. Now when I paint my own house, I enlist a helper and work from three ladders. As I move to the next ladder, my helper follows behind on the ladder I just left and moves the vacant ladder ahead of me for the next section. Warning: Don't try to step from ladder to ladder. It just takes a minute to climb down one ladder and up the next.

Airless spray-painting systems, such as the one shown, can enable you to paint a house in a weekend, greatly reducing ladder time, weather risks and fatigue.

To find out how my former colleagues work today, I recently contacted Chip Morin, the current owner of A. Morin & Sons Painters. I was surprised to learn that he now uses floppy 1-1/2-in.-nap rollers for some of his exterior house-painting jobs.

"I can coat a 4 x 5-ft. area, butts and all, every time I load the roller," Chip says. "Then I back-brush the area and move on to the next section."

Chip says he can roll and back-brush a house as fast as he would spray it because he doesn't have to mask the windows and doors and because he can paint the siding and the trim as he goes. Each painter on his crew does his own coating and back-brushing.

A fully loaded 1-1/2-in.-nap lamb's skin roller can coat a 4 x 5-ft. area, butts and all. While back-brushing is critical, this technique is much faster than using a brush alone.

"It really doesn't matter how you get the paint on the house as long as you finesse it with a brush," Chip says. However, he warns sprayers not to thin the paint too much.

"Professional spray systems can handle thicker coatings than homeowner systems. From my experience, that's important because thinner coatings don't last as long," Chip says.

Better brushing
In business, time is money, so professional painters make every stroke count. When you paint your own house, you already are saving a bucketful of money, even if you buy professional-quality spray equipment, so time itself is your most precious resource. Think of what you might do with a few free days you earned by painting your house quicker.

Because you usually end up wielding a brush no matter how you paint or stain your house, it pays to do so with top efficiency. This, more than anything, is what separates pros from amateurs.

Painting efficiency and neatness depend a lot on how you choose, load and move your brush. Start with a top-quality 4-in. brush designed for the type of coating you will apply. The more bristles the better. Brush manufacturers probably would cringe, but I still drive a nail into the lower part of the handle and bend it at a right angle to form a hook so I can hang it from the side of the bucket.

Coat bare spots with color-matched primer after scraping and sanding loose finish. The primer should be tinted with half as much pigment as the finish-coat formula.

Caulk will stick better if cracks are primed before they are filled. Use color-matched caulk so the finish covers in one coat.

Plan of attack
To maximize efficiency, always paint narrow edges before broad faces. For instance, paint the butts (bottoms) of a section of shingles or clapboards before you paint the faces. That way, once you coat a face, you don't disturb it. This face-last rule applies to friezes, soffits and corner boards as well, especially when the trim color is different.

If you're painting a soffit and frieze white and siding beige, start by painting the narrow underside of the frieze board beige. Then paint the fascia, soffit and frieze board. As you move on to the siding, begin by coating several rows of butts and the wedge-shaped edges where the siding meets the corner boards. Finally, paint the siding faces and the corner boards.

Dab paint into corners to achieve an effective seal. Then remove excess paint from the corner board with a rag before painting the trim.

Don't be afraid to get a little siding paint on the trim. The trim paint should overlap the siding paint for a good seal and a smooth line. However, if you slop a lot of siding color on the trim surface, wipe off the excess while it is still wet so it does not taint the trim color.

Increase speed and reduce skips by painting several rows of clapboard or shingle butts before painting the faces. Use the edge of the brush to cut in the wiped trim edges as you go for crisp, straight color lines.

Second, don't go off half-cocked. Load your brush with paint and simply tap both sides of the tip on the inside of the bucket with a quick wrist flick. Above all, don't drag the brush along the lip of the bucket. That robs you of half the paint. The secret to getting a fully loaded brush to the surface without dripping is to point the tip up as soon as the brush leaves the bucket. Remember: Drips come from tips. If you tap the tip of the bristles and point them up, the paint will run back toward the heel.

To deliver the most paint without dripping, tap (don't drag) the loaded brush on the inside of the bucket. Keep the tip pointed up as you bring the brush to the surface.

Holding the brush so your fingers cover the ferrule helps reduce fatigue and improve control. Lightweight, grip-enhanced gloves allow you to loosen your grip.

Third, when your brush reaches the surface, take long strokes. This will not only coat the surface faster and more evenly but also require a lot less physical effort. And if you feather your last stroke back toward the wet side, lifting the brush gradually as you near the end of the swing, you will never see a vertical lap mark.

Faster Prep
The Paint Shaver from American International Tool planes away multiple coat s of paint in one pass and directs the debris to a wet/dry vac via a hose. This is an ideal prep tool when working with badly “alligatored” or peeling lead-based paint because it creates virtually no airborne dust. Best of all, it will not clog like power sanders because it slices rat her than grinds the coating.

This project is part of HANDY's Top 5 Collection: Painting Tips.
Click here to check out the other four painting articles in this collection.