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A fresh coat of exterior paint is a terrific way to give your home a "face lift." It repels weather, protects the investment you've made in your property, and adds curb appeal if you've decided to sell. Painting is a relatively simple do-it-yourself project the whole family can help with. And by inviting friends over, it becomes a social get-together that can be fun.

But before you get out the brushes and paint, there are some steps you should take to prepare your house for painting. Following these easy "prep steps" will help make sure you wind up with beautiful results that also last a long time.



Skill Level & Time to Complete

  The times here depend on the size and condition of your house. Estimates for an average sized house:
  • Beginner - 10 to 14 hours 
  • Intermediate - 8 to 12 hours
  • Advanced - 6 to 10 hours
  - Many of the steps that follow may require a ladder. Use care, and be aware of where you are at all times. Follow all precautions on the ladder's warning stickers.
  - Do not use electric equipment outdoors when it's raining, or while standing in puddles or wet grass. Keep any extension cords and plugs away from standing water or wet grass. Taping the plug together can help keep the equipment from becoming unplugged while in use.
  - If you use a heat gun to help remove old paint, keep it away from all fresh paint, paint fumes, paint cans or paint thinner/cleaner to avoid a potential fire hazard.
  - Make sure you have all your tools and supplies on hand before you begin. Nothing slows a project down like having to run to the hardware store in the middle.


Materials List
   Rags and/or paper towels
   Masking tape
Tools List
   Garden hose
   Power washer, or
Hose brush attachment, or
Sponges & buckets for wash water
   Spray nozzle
   Extension ladder
   Paint scraper
   Wire brush
   Putty knives
   Heat gun, or
Rotary paint removing tool and electric drill
   Caulk gun
   Sanding block
   Work gloves


1. Start by thoroughly cleaning the outside of your home. Paint won't stick to dirt, grease, grime or dust. You may be able to get by just spraying the siding with a hose and nozzle. But you'll do a more thorough job and get better results with a brush attachment for your hose. These brushes often come with a reservoir for liquid soap. You can also wash by hand with rags or sponges. If you do use soap, be sure to rinse the siding after you've washed it.

Start at the top and work your way down the sides of the house. If your siding has areas of mold, mildew or discoloration, wash it with an anti-fungal cleaner, available in most hardware and home center stores.

2. On wood siding, fill in any gouges or holes with an exterior-grade patching compound, sometimes called "plastic wood." If damage is more extensive, replace the area with a new piece of siding.
3. Remove even small areas of loose, flaking, chalky or blistered paint thoroughly. If not too extensive, this can be done with a paint scraper, putty knife and wire brush. Loose paint can also be removed with a power washer. Sand the edges of the area of removed paint afterwards to help the new paint cover and hide the edge.
4. To remove larger areas of damaged paint, or multiple layers, you can use a heat gun. This device, which looks a bit like a hair blower, generates temperatures of 1000° F or more. Aim it at an area to soften the paint, and then scrape away the paint with a putty knife. Use work gloves and keep your hands away from the barrel of the gun. Never point the heat gun at anything except the paint to be removed. Set the gun down on the butt plate provided.
5. An alternative to the heat gun is a rotary paint remover you attach to an electric drill. Its stiff wire tines quickly remove large areas of paint. Take care not to press too hard on the siding, or it may gouge the wood. Practice on a board or other surface before you begin on the siding. Keep the tool away from your face or other body parts when it is in motion.


6. Caulk all cracks, seams and gaps with a top-quality, paintable exterior caulk. This includes areas like the perimeter where siding meets windows and doors, corners and the edges of exterior trim. Cracks and seams leave edges where fresh paint can quickly begin to deteriorate. For detailed tips and procedures see the tutorial on exterior caulking.
7. Mask off areas that are not to be painted. You may want to place masking tape along the edge of house trim, and around window and door frames and trim, since this is likely to be painted in a different color or with a higher sheen paint. You can also tape newspaper or plastic drop cloth material over windows and doors, including sliding glass doors, to protect them from drips.
8. Place plastic drop cloths over plants and shrubs, or where paint may drip on porches, roof sections, sidewalks, driveways or other surfaces. Now you're ready to go on to the Exterior Painting tutorial.

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