Preparing the exterior surface of your Athens home or other structure properly before applying paint is as import as painting itself. If you are going to take the time and effort to paint, you should prep it in a way that will allow the paint to adhere properly to the surface. Doing this will allow it to look nice for a lot longer than if you do not complete the necessary preparation work. An exterior house painting project usually requires additional tools and equipment. For example, on most houses or structures, ladders will be a necessity. You may be able to get by with an 8′-13′ step ladder if you are working on a ranch-style building. For larger homes with two or more stories you will need to have a longer extension ladder. A power washer is also an additional tool required for painting the exterior. Even though the house or structure being painted may not appear dirty, IT IS. In order for paint to adhere to the surface properly, you must get the majority of the dirt and chipping paint off of the structure first. If you are planning to paint the exterior of your home yourself, which will probably save you at least $1,000, but are not sure of the proper process, here are step-by-step instructions to properly prepare the exterior surface.
Step 1: As stated previously, it is necessary to power wash the exterior of the structure that will be painted prior to any paint being applied. If you do not own a power washer or do not know anyone that you can borrow one from, you can rent one at most Athens paint stores or any rental facility that offers contractor equipment. The power washer should preferably put out at least 1800 psi. When power washing, you always want to start at the top of the structure and work your way down. If you start at the bottom, all of the dirt from the top will run right over the clean areas. Also, you want to ensure that you are a proper distance away from the structure. Different levels of power will require different distances to stay away from the structure. It is better to start farther away than to start too close. some of these washers can produce enough pressure to put grooves in wood surfaces as well as dent aluminum. For this reason, you should also avoid contact with any body parts. Believe me when I say it hurts. It feels like thousands of needles pounding into your flesh. You probably will want to stay further away from windows and other surfaces that are easily breakable. I suggest practicing on a different surface before doing your house in order to “get a feel for” how powerful the particular power washer is. Remember that you still want to clean the surface so do not stand too far away. Once completed, allow ample time for the structure to dry before applying paint. I suggest at least two days and maybe more if you are painting over wood (cedar siding). While you are waiting for the structure to dry, you can complete step 2.
Step 2: After power washing, you will want to do any additional cleaning of other surfaces that may have not been able to be sprayed with the washer (i.e. soffits). Even if you do not plan on painting the soffits or gutters, they might as well be cleaned too. Why make the rest of the structure look “fresh” and leave them dirty? You will also want to search for chipping paint. All loose paint must be removed prior to painting or the new paint will simply flake off before painting. That doesn’t mean forcing paint to come off or using too sharp of a blade to remove the paint. I typically use a 3″-5″ drywall knife to scrape off chipping paint. If there is an area chipping, I suggest scraping the area from every angle (360·). This should be sufficient unless the paint continues to easily chip off. In this case, continue chipping in the same manner until it will not chip anymore. Also, remember to inspect windows and doors as well for chipping or peeling paint.
Step 3: If you do not have cedar siding or other wood surface to paint, skip to Step 4. A lot of Athens homes with cedar or other wood siding have small holes either from woodpeckers or knots in the wood dislodging over time. To remedy these holes, use a wood filler. Minwax, as stated in my article entitled Right Products for Completing Any Painting Project, produces a good latex wood filler. You will want to ensure that the wood is dry a clear of dirt before applying the wood filler to the area. After filling the hole completely (which may require a couple of applications, allow sufficient drying time. The filler should be dry completely in about six hours unless there is an extreme amount of moisture in the air. Sanding may be required after the filler compound is dry. However, I would not sand the surface completely smooth. Most wood siding has a texture to it, so try to blend the patch with the rest of the siding. A putty knife or using the edge of a folded piece of sandpaper can help accomplish this texture. Another thing to look for with wood siding are nails sticking out. Sometimes the nails can simply be hammered back in, but if they do not catch, you will need to add an additional nail or two in order to properly secure the board.
Step 4: Now, for the final step in the preparation process, apply caulking around doors, windows, or other areas where cracks exist. If the cracks are large, do it once and allow it to dry, and then apply a second bead. When caulking only apply it to no more than a 4′ section at a time. This will allow you to wipe it down before it starts to dry. After applying the bead, use a finger to smooth out the caulk in the crack. You can also use a damp cloth or sponge if you are afraid of getting splinters or being cut by the surface.
After completing these four steps and allowing everything adequate drying time, you should be ready to start applying paint.
Exterior painting is not an undertaking for the faint of heart, so always keep in mind that if you find yourself in over your head you can always contact your Athens painting contractor who can handle the project from beginning to end.
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