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Before You Paint That House

Aug 17, 2007
If you're a home owner looking to sell, you've doubtless been a little discouraged by the recent downturn in the real estate market. These things happen, and it's nothing much that can't be undone when the market gets to it's next boom. In the mean time, improving your home is one of the best ways to compete on the real estate market. But doing so incurs additional costs that you can only hope to get back on the sale.

Painting your own home is one of the most economical improvements you can make. It's also one of the most visible improvements you can make, and at least prospective buyers can see the results even if only in the picture in the home-finders magazine. But exterior painting is a slightly more daunting task than interior painting. So hopefully this will help you through the hardest steps.

Digital imagination

Your first task is to decide on the color scheme. Now maybe you have an artistic, vivid imagination and flawless taste in choosing a color palette. So good for you. If not, there is a new method that home owners are taking advantage of and that is digital imaging.

To do this, take a picture of the house with a digital camera, then load it into your computer and open it in a digital imaging program. You can then change the color of the house in the program by applying various color filters to it, using this to help you decide what color scheme to use. Commercial software is the first thing you might think of, but there are many freeware, shareware, and even Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) programs that are more than capable of handling this simple task. You should be able to find one for any computer platform.

Lacking that, you can either ask your computer savvy friend to do it for you, find a resource online that will image it for you, or try asking at the hardware store. Most paint and home improvement retailers now offer to do the same in the store, loading up a picture of your house which you provide and giving you a preview of different color schemes and palettes. Ain't modern technology wonderful?

Prep work

A rule of thumb to know is that three-quarters of painting is good prep work. That is the labor-intensive part that makes the job so much work; actually slapping the paint on it is the easy part. Here's the least you need to do:

Start by thoroughly cleaning the outside of your house. Paint won't stick to dirt, grease, grime and dust. You may be able to get by just spraying the siding with a hose with a nozzle attachment. But you'll do a more thorough job and get better results with a brush attachment on your hose. These brushes often come with a reservoir for liquid soap which will clean better. You can also wash by hand with rags or sponges, but the rule with house painting is that you don't want to do anything by hand unless you absolutely have to - Karate Kid notwithstanding! If you do use soap, be sure to rinse the siding with pure water after you've washed it. Start at the top and work your way down the sides. If your siding has areas of mold, mildew or discoloration, wash it with an anti-fungal cleaner which will be available in most hardware and home center stores for a few dollars.

On wood siding, fill in any gouges or holes with an exterior-grade patching compound, sometimes this is called 'plastic wood'. If damage is more extensive, consider replacing the area with a new piece of siding. Remove even small areas of loose, flaking, chalky or blistered paint thoroughly, as the slightest crack can peel a whole sheet away in the next storm. If not too extensive, loose paint can be removed with a power washer. If you're hard up this can also be done with a paint scraper, putty knife or a wire brush. Sand the edges of the area of removed paint afterward to help the new paint cover and hide the edge.

To remove larger areas or even multiple layers of damaged paint, you can use a heat gun. This device, which looks a bit like a hair blower, generates temperatures of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Aim it at one area to soften the paint, and then take away the gun and scrape away the paint with a putty knife. Always use work gloves and eye protection and keep your hands away from the barrel of the gun. Never point the heat gun at anything except the paint to be removed - it will melt almost anything given time! Set the gun down on the plate provided.

An alternative to the heat gun is a rotary paint remover you can attach to an electric drill. Its stiff wire tines quickly remove large areas of paint, very similar to how a buffer works. Take care not to press too hard on the siding, or it may gouge the wood, which will be hard to fix. Practice on a spare loose 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, and wear eye protection to prevent eye damage from flying chips.

Seamlessly caulk all cracks, seams and gaps with a top-quality exterior caulk. This includes areas like the perimeter where the siding meets the windows and doors, and the corners and the edges of exterior trim. Cracks and seams leave edges where fresh paint can quickly deteriorate.

Mask off areas that are not going to be painted. You will want to place masking tape along the edge of house trim, around window and door frames, and around trim, since this is likely to be painted in a different color. You can also tape newspaper, plastic sheeting, or drop cloth material over windows and doors to protect them from drips. The rule of thumb is, paint wants to go where you least expect it to. Place plastic drop cloths over plants and shrubs, or where paint may drip on porches, roof sections, sidewalks, driveways or any other surfaces. Remember that it's always easier to cover something up than it is to remove paint from it afterward.

Now you're finally ready to paint and let dry, then remove all the prepping. You're done! Wasn't that easy?
About the Author
Freelance writer for over eleven years.

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