Frequently Asked Painting Questions: Exterior
Kenneth Axt sat down to answer your most Frequently Asked Painting Questions. Here you will details, product recommendations, best practices and more. Make sure to use our Table of Contents to find just what you are looking for!
It may be that the higher cost is a much better value because the painting contractor is very thorough and attends to a lot of details that the other contractors miss or ignore.
Obviously using high end materials can cost $20-$40 more per gallon and is worth it because of the longevity that they are forward. He may be using caulk which is the best on the market and cost $11 per tube. And caulking, being such a critical function is well worth the cost as it helps prevent rotting wood.
There are some specialty materials he may be using such as special metal roof paints that last twice as long as a regular house paint. He may be using an $80 per gallon oil base metal paint for the iron porch railings. Marine varnish is up to $100 per gallon for the highest quality. There are also special acrylics that are purchased to use on coach lamps and chimney caps. He might have higher skilled men that are paid better. All these things amount to great longevity.
He may be doing other things such as and washing all the exterior window, cleaning gutters, caulking the coach lamps at the brick or siding and may be just very detailed knowing that these are trouble spots and need attention.
The higher estimate is often times because they have paid very thorough attention to the details of the carpentry that is required to replace all the rotten wood. A visual inspection of the carpentry will miss a lot of areas of rot. He knows that if these are not attended to the homeowner will be replacing rotten wood and painting again the next year. It requires a physical inspection.
All these things contribute to a comparatively higher estimate but is well worth the money to make sure the house painting has great longevity and potential problem areas are attended to.
The bottom line here is how long will the paint job last. If you spend $3,000 and it only lasts 5 years, you’ve spent $600 per year. If your home lasts 10 years and you pay $4,000 for quality paint and skilled workmen, then you are only spending $400 per year. You also avoid the work and time of getting estimates and having to paint twice during the 10 years.
In Atlanta you can paint all year round. Even through the winter the majority of the days are mild enough to paint.
What is considered the best season would be approximately from March 1 through December 1.
During the summer it is best to avoid 95 degrees and above. Painting contractors will generally start, on hot days, in the morning on the sunny side of the house. Then by afternoon as the temperature increases they will work the shady side of the hose. It is best not to work in the direct sun because it reduces productivity and is, of course, uncomfortable, and the paint will tack up quickly when brushing.
Yes, there are many mild days through the winter months. Usually painting contractors will pick “weather windows” from 10am to 3pm. This allows the temperature in the morning to warm the surface and allow the paint to dry before the evening dew comes.
Generally, on winter days, they would start on the sunny side of the house in the morning and then follow the sun throughout the day and finish on the sunny side in the afternoon.
A good guideline is to start when the temperature reaches 40 degrees and to stop painting when it begins in the afternoon to drop below 40 degrees.
If you paint too late in the day and the evening dew settles on horizontal surfaces before the paint is dry, you will lose the gloss of the paint. The next morning after drying, the surfaces can be repainted.
There are several Sherwin-Williams top-of-the-line paints that allow you to paint at 35 degrees. (Duration, Super Paint, Deckscapes).
You can actually paint straight through the Atlanta pollen season.
You have probably never seen pollen in a painted surface. Pollen through this season has many days of very light pollen and a number of days when there is heavy pollen. Even on the heaviest pollen days the acrylic paint dries so quickly that there is no effect from the pollen falling. Pine pollen season usually starts lightly about March 1st and can extend until May 15th. Heavy pollen season is approximately 2-1/2 weeks in duration, usually mid-March to early April. Pine pollen comes from the cones at the end of the lower branches. When dry, warm, sunny days occur the cones open and the pollen is released.
The pollen will lay on the surface but not impregnate the paint. The simple solution is to just rinse lightly with a garden hose at the end of the day or to wait for the first rain to rinse it off.
The exceptions to painting in heavy pollen would be when coating decks with oil base stain and doors that are varnished with an oil varnish. Also wrought iron railings done with oil base paint.
If you are using latex acrylic paint you need at least two hours of sun for paint to dry before the rain comes. If heavy rain is forecast or several days of rain are coming in the next few days, you will need about six hours of good sun to dry the paint thoroughly enough to not be affected. Paint will dry to the touch in one hour or so depending on the heat of the day. It takes about five days of normal weather for paint to dry all the way through and for the paint film to reach its maximum hardness and durability.
If it rains before the paint surfaces dry the rain will wash some of the paint off surfaces that were painted last. This is rarely a problem because the surfaces, when dry the next day, can just be repainted.
Exceptions to this rule would be if you are using oil base pant. Oil base takes longer to dry and therefore rain should not be in the forecast for about 24 hours. Oil base paint is not recommended on exterior surfaces in southern climates. The oil base paint weathers very quickly in a sunny climate and loses its gloss and does not have the flexibility it needs to endure the hot sun. It will generally crack and peel much more readily then acrylic paint. It is also begins to break down in three or four years and becomes very susceptible to mildew which feeds on the resins in the oil base paint. It is subject to rapid color fade and chalking.
Generally if the surface is dry to the touch you can paint the surface if using acrylic paint. The acrylic paint allows small amounts of moisture to pass through the coating from the surface to the air. It is a rare occurrence for acrylic paint to bubble due to moisture.
If using oil base (which is not recommended) you must have a perfectly dry surface which may take one or two good days of drying weather for bare wood surfaces to dry thoroughly.
Yes, there is a mildewcide that is exceptional and gives years of resistance to mildew. There is a vast difference in mildewcides as far as their effectiveness.
Quality paint comes from the factory with 1% mildewcide. That is helpful and usually gets 4 years or so before you start to see mildew buildup on your home.
In government testing of mildewcides based on a good, fair, poor, rating there is only one mildewcide that received a good rating. MX3, made by the M1 Company, is the best out there of the others tested did give more than 1 year of protection. MX-3 mildewcide provides the broad spectrum fungicidal capability that others cannot and does it without hurting the environment. It is also non-toxic.
We add MX3 to every gallon of exterior paint we use and see most of all our clients’ home mildew free or only a very light build up after eight years.
The advantage of using this mildewcide for the homeowner is it is unlikely that they will have to pressure wash the house between paintings. This, of course, saves the cost of pressure washing the house.
The second method is to spread out newspapers on your pine straw areas and pour the paint out on the newspaper and let it dry. Do not spread the newspaper on the lawn or the sun will burn the grass while you are waiting for the paint to dry. When it’s finished drying, simply roll up the newspaper and put out for your garbage man. Painters will often leave some of each color of paint that they used, interior and exterior, of your home. Save these cans of paint to enable touch ups to be a good match when needed. Even if you keep good records and formulas of your colors, the original cans will be the best match.
Not necessarily. Many contractors will encourage you to replace all the siding on the house. You can however, replace individual pieces of siding or sections of siding without having to replace all of it.
Usually the lower siding boards get the most weather. They are exposed to more rain and more sun than the siding boards up closer to, and shielded from the sofits or overhangs. If a siding board is swollen or soft then it should be replaced. The first indicator of the siding going bad is on the chimney. Because the chimney receives very little heat from inside the house it has a tendency to have more moisture inside and therefore weathers the siding more quickly. If the chimney siding starts to go bad it may be only the upper portion of the chimney, above the roofline.
It is not uncommon to replace all the siding boards on the chimney with Hardie Siding. When you look at the siding on the house you need to look underneath the bottom drip edge or weather bead of the siding board. If looking at the bottom you begin to see fractures or cracks in the bottom of the edge then you have to check see if the board is soft. This is one of the main problems that Georgia-Pacific and Louisiana-Pacific siding has. Due to the fractures in the bottom edge of the siding it will absorb rain or beads of water that hang on the bottom drip edge of the siding. That will cause the siding to continue to swell and rot. If the siding has these fractures and is still solid you can use a thick primer or even a caulk that is wiped off to help fill these small fractures so that it will absorb less moisture. This process extends the life of the siding. If there are no fractures, no soft siding and no swelling there is no reason to replace the Georgia-Pacific and Louisiana-Pacific siding.
Another problem that occurs but less frequently is that Georgia-Pacific and Louisiana-Pacific siding appeared to have nail heads that were sunk too deeply by the nail gun of the contractor. That does not happen occasionally but generally you observe that the nails have remained in position and that because the siding has swollen at the bottom edge, there are holes at the nail head. This is easy to remedy if the siding has not swollen too much by simply filling the nail head with caulk and wiping off excess caulk.
Another less frequent problem with the Georgia-Pacific and Louisiana-Pacific siding was that it would sometimes spall of the surface of the siding board. This appears as if small chips of the siding has occurred. Again this problem can be solved by sanding lightly by hand and then using a good acrylic primer. This is not a long-term solution but generally will get you through another painting season.
You can do a lot of single boards or sections of the house without having to replace all the siding. If approximately 30% of the boards need replacement then it may be worth considering full replacement at this point. The siding boards can be replaced with Hardie Siding. If you have textured siding, Hardie siding has a similar texture. It’s not exact but is in most cases difficult to discern the difference from a short distance that there is a slight difference in the texture pattern and also the bottom weather bead edge configuration.
Generally if the shrubs are rinsed with clear water before and after bleaching there is no damage to trees or shrubs. Flowers will be nipped and turn brown. This generally does not kill the flower but just the delicate petals. Shrubbery is rarely affected by bleaching except for current new growth. By adding a cleaning product called Jomax to the bleach you can reduce the effect bleach has on the shrubbery.
Sodium hypo chlorite is the basic ingredient of bleach. It is necessary to kill mildew. When used as a ratio of 1 to 15 or 1 to 12 bleach will kill all the mildew and algae on the house.
Actually the dark stains on asphalt shingle on your roof is not mildew, it is a “blue-green algae” and requires another cleaning product to remove it. “Asphalt Roof Cleaner” made by the M-1 Company works very well.
It is generally a job left for professionals because it needs to be done from the roof using hook ladders over the peak.
Asphalt Roof Cleaner mixed with water is very effective but also slippery when stepped on. The solution is applied with either a pump up bottle or with a pressure washer at very low pressure. It is then rinsed from the crown of the roof gently down toward the gutters applying minimal pressure. Basically it’s a gentle rinse like a heavy rain. Caution should be taken not to use pressure because it may result in removing some of the grains of the asphalt shingle. This of course reduces the life of your roof. The process gives you a new or nearly new looking roof again.
The places on the exterior of the house that need careful caulking would be the fascia board joints of the overhang. Particularly at the corners where they are mitered together. Also any butt joints and joints at the peak of diagonal fascia boards. The next place would be the sofits or the plywood underneath the overhang at the joints where they meet the fascia and the siding. The caulk around all windows and doors on all sides should be checked for cracks and missing caulk. The bases of columns, the top of shutters, joints of the rail systems, and the panels of bay windows.
It’s important to caulk around the frames of the doors at the sill to prevent water intrusion.
Caulk above windows that are set into a brick wall where there is a lintel (a metal beam above the window to hold up the brick). These should be caulked where the lintel meets the wood casement or frame of the window. Do not caulk the front edge of the lintel at the brick as this must be allowed to weep any moisture from the brick. Also, where the siding meets corner boards and corner board joints. Another critical place is where the siding butts together in the middle of the wall. These siding joints can be caulked successfully if the gap is wide enough for the caulk to get into the crack. If the siding joint is so tight that the caulk only bridges the surface gap it may split again. Sometimes the old caulk in the siding joint is cracked and you need to cut the old caulk out with a razor knife. This allows for the caulk to get in and fill the gap correctly.
Basically any crack on the exterior of the house should be filled. Exceptions to this would be underneath the bottom edge of siding and the front edge of the lintels as discussed above. We recommend using S.W. Stormblaster, Proflex and Sher Max for the greatest longevity. They have great flexibility and are urethanized for great adhesion/
You want to cut the tube tip at approximately a 45° angle. Then take a long nail or wire and insert it through the tip of the tube to break the seal.
Puncture this seal in several places so you don’t have to squeeze the caulk gun as hard. The hole should be about 3/16 of an inch for most caulking joints.
Caulking on the exterior siding joints at the corner board if done carefully, does not need to be smoothed with a finger. Most other areas were caulk is necessary should be lightly smoothed with your finger. If the hole in the tube is too large you will find yourself removing an excessive amount of caulk. Cut the next tube smaller and you will have less removal of excess caulk.
When caulking interior use a wet rag or sponge to remove excess caulk.
The basic guideline is caulk that is just split and is still functional and is difficult to remove do not remove the old caulk .Simply caulk the split that has occurred. The goal is to keep water out of the joint. If the caulk can be removed easily and will strip out by just pulling it then remove that section of caulk.
Use a high-quality acrylic caulk for most applications. Sherwin-Williams have two products we consider to be excellent. Storm Blaster, Sher Max and Proflex caulk are among the longest lasting. You can get these in either white or clear. The clear caulk is great around brick and stone. These caulks have great longevity adhesion and remain flexible.
Use a caulk tube tip that has been cut at a 45° angle with a small hole about the size of a BB. After applying 3 to 5 feet use a wet rag to wipe off all the excess leaving the crack filled and no excess caulk showing.
You can use Proflex caulk inside your gutters to seal the end caps and the miter joints.
You need to have a pressure washer that has 3500 to 4000 psi.and 50 feet of pressure washing hose. A long wand attached to the end of the pressure washing gun is helpful, and an assortment of tips Chemical injector tip (used for applying bleach or soap) and a high, medium, and low pressure cleaning tip. A 5 gallon bucket, eye goggles to protect your eyes, gloves, a long sleeve shirt, and a hat is also helpful.
The difference between pressure washing a house and doing a “soft wash” is that when pressure washing you will use pressure up close on the siding or surfaces that are being cleaned. Soft washing a house on the other hand, is a gentle rinsing procedure that uses low pressure on the surfaces with soap or bleach that does the cleaning.
Pressure stripping a surface will make a surface look clean but does not kill the mildew or algae spores.
When pressure washing the house the pressure of the water, up close to the surface, may force water up underneath siding or through windows or doors.
Soft washing helps eliminate the concerns about excessive water pressure getting into the house.
Pressure washing the house is usually done off of ladders. Soft washing the house is done from the ground and does not require ladders. When soft washing the house we only use two tips. One is a wide bleaching tip that has a fan width of 4 to 5 feet and also a bleaching tip that produces a stream that reaches about 30 feet high. When you add an extension pole to the end of the pressure washing gun and also the height of the person doing the pressure washing you gently can reach a 40 foot height relatively easily. Also if you pull and release the trigger quickly you can shoot the stream another five or 10 feet higher.
The first thing to do is remove porch furniture or cover the furniture with plastic to protect it from bleach. Next, remove potted flowers away from the house. Then release all the screen clips from the inside of the house and remove the screens. It’s a good idea to pencil the numbers of the screens, counting from left to right on the front, and counting left to right on the right side, back and left side of the house this enables you to place the screens back on the appropriate windows. If you have a front door that is a stained door it is a good idea to cover it and tape it with blue tape and plastic so that no bleach gets on the surface. If the varnish is sound it generally will not affect the door, but if it’s weathered the bleach will lighten the wood in these weathered areas. (All other doors of the house should be taped at the door jamb and at the sill to prevent water leaking inside the house).
It’s usually good to wash one side of the house at a time. The bleach acts very quickly, usually 10 minutes or less. The first step is to use the pressure washer with the large bleaching tip to rinse the shrubbery it is near the house. The next up is to begin the bleach running through the injector of the pressure washer and start at the bottom and begin to bleach the house with this large pressure washing tip. Work your way up to the house to the overhangs. Allow the bleach to run out of the line and clear water starts to flow and begin the rinsing process. Start at the top and flood the surface from the overhangs all away down with clear water. When you’re finished rinsing the whole side go back one more time and do just the windows with a final rinse. The final step is to rinse the shrubbery a last time with clear water. Proceed to the next side of the house and repeat the process.
If you have a deck that is stained you need to rinse the whole deck with bleach and water so that it cleans evenly. Then rinse the whole deck with clear water.
Again this is all soft wash process and no significant pressure has been used on the house.
There are surfaces that sometimes need to have some pressure in order to remove dirt or chalky paint. Be careful when using pressure around the doors and the windows so the water is not forced into the house.
This depends on whether the house has mildew beginning to grow.
If the quality of the paint is good you may not need to pressure wash until the next paint job.
If the house mildews in the fourth or fifth year it’s because the paint is breaking down. If you wash the house at this point it will only last about one year before the mildew begins to return. It’s probably a good time to think about painting again.
If your house has had good paint which contains a quality mildewcide you should be able to go eight or ten years depending on the sun and shading of the house. We recommend Sherwin Williams Duration, Emerald, Super Paint, Woodscapes and Deckscapes.
The M-1 Company produces MX-3. This is a product that can be added to your paint to help resist mildew even longer. It has a broad spectrum fungicidal capability and it is non-toxic.
It is best not to wash your house every year. The reason to wash a house is if it becomes dirty or has accumulated mildew. It’s a rare occurrence to have a significant accumulation of dirt unless there is new construction nearby. Or commercial and industrial pollutions. So mildew accumulation is generally the only reason to wash a house.
Traditionally you pressure wash your house using bleach. Sometimes you choose an additive that is designed to mix with bleach (Jomax) to help clean the surfaces. This process is slightly corrosive. It will break down minutely the paint film, and accelerate any potential rust almost immediately ( nail heads and galvanized gutters and other, ferrous metal surfaces.)
You should rinse the soffitts and areas that do not get washed by rain with a garden hose each spring. This will help dissolve salts that crystallize as the humidity on the surface evaporates.
Dissolving the salts helps reduce dirt buildup.
You might elect to paint the gutters which after 4 to 5 years, they usually have black streaks as result of debris accumulating in the gutters and run over after a heavy rain (the factory finish is usually wearing thin). Sometimes these stains are from mineral stains from water that’s sitting on top of the gutter edge or from leaves and pine straw decaying inside the gutter.
Maintenance painting of certain areas of the house might be needed. For example first floor window sills, porch handrails, stair cases and fascia boards that are exposed more to weather than other parts of the home.
A good and thorough carpentry estimate and inspection requires two things attention to detail and to take the time to do it correctly.
A good carpentry inspection is done by physically touching all the areas of the house.
We check the soffits, fascia boards, the fascia corners, the corner boards, the window trim, window sash, doors, door frames, pediments, shutters, band boards, porch ceilings, porch rail systems, spindles, columns, siding, chimney cap, frames, louvered vents, etc.
We make a detailed list of the particular pieces that need to be replaced and the location on the house of these pieces.
It is important to catch all the carpentry before the house is painted otherwise you will be doing carpentry and painting again the following year.
The reason for the physical inspection is that you actually have to touch a piece of trim of siding to actually see if it solid. Sometimes you can touch a brick molding of the window that looks solid and sound but is soft and rotten and hollow inside. These areas cannot be detected with a visual inspection.
Wood that is used in homes over the past 25 years is wide grain pine. Because the grain is so wide and porous this wood has a tendency to absorb moisture readily and rot quickly.
Older homes were built with a tight grain pine and were much less susceptible to the absorption of moisture and therefore did not rot quickly, if at all.
The difference between wide grain pine and tight grain pine is that the newer pine was planted and harvested therefore it grew with lots of space around the tree which allowed for quick growth. The sun and the rain accelerated growth because it was not crowded by other trees. The older pine grew in its natural state with other trees crowding it and therefore grew very slowly and the grain was very tight. When you cut a tree down and you look at the stump and count the rings you will notice on the old naturally grown pine that the rings are very tight and on the new trees planted and harvested pine the rings are very wide and porous.
A detailed physical carpentry estimate takes approximately an hour to an hour and a half to complete correctly.
We feel it is a dis-service to our clients to overlook and miss carpentry items that will cause them a problem down the road.
PVC (Polyvinylchloride) is an excellent material to use to replace rotten wood. It is impervious to weather and it accepts paint very well and does not shrink or swell.
Hardie Plank siding is an excellent product and last for years and years. Hardie Trim is also made and is used extensively for wood replacement. Again, another excellent product. Hardie Siding and Hardie Trim is a cementitious-based product (cement fibers) hat weathers very well. The use of these materials and other permanent materials is state of the art carpentry. It is a disservice to a client to use wood products which are subject to rotting again. Yes the material costs a bit more but the alternative is constantly replacing rotted wood.
Is brushing my house better than spraying?
Spraying of siding produces an almost perfect finish. It is similar to the difference between spraying a car or brushing your car as far as the finished look. Most siding is perfect for spraying. The exceptions are siding that has texture or has small pores in the wood. These surfaces can be sprayed but must be back brushed to work the paint into the small pores and the texture.
Stucco is perfect for spraying except it must be back rolled to get the paint into the texture. Trim is best sprayed and back brushed so that any small cracks are filled with paint. Spraying a smooth surface or a surface with no porosity or texture will last just as long as a brushed surface. A spray gun is not able to force the paint into small pores and into heavy texture, there is a static tension on the surface of the paint that must be broken mechanically with a brush. It is like the meniscus on a glass of water.
Another advantage of spraying is it takes approximately 30% more paint because the coating is thicker than a brush coating. A spray coating is about 1.1 mills thick as opposed to a brush coating which is about .7 mills thick. It actually takes two brush coats of paint to perform for the same number of years that a good spray coating on the appropriate siding or surface does.
Cedar siding, stucco, and most wood siding require the spray coating to be back brushed while it is wet. This method of spraying and back brushing or back rolling is excellent because the spray gun will apply more paint and a brush or roller and will also get the paint worked into the texture. It is also a faster process than just brushing or just rolling and therefore will save you money. The general guideline is a surface can be sprayed if there are no cracks, pores or texture.
There are two fairly easy ways to dispose of old paint cans. It’s not too difficult but takes a few minutes to do.
If your city does not have a day they set aside for disposal of paint products then there is a good solution and you don’t have to wait for the yearly date.
If you will open the can, usually it’s a partial gallon of paint, add kitty litter and stir the kitty litter into the paint, leave the top off, and let it dry. If you have a full gallon just pour half into another container and follow the same procedure. Don’t skimp on the amount of kitty litter because the paint must be dry solid. Replace the lid and set out for your garbage. In most cities this is a legal and appropriate way to dispose of old paint.
When selecting the type of wall finish for the interior of your home, you must consider the amount and the type of traffic that it endures. If you have young children, pets, or lots of visitors, your wall finish will require a more washable and scrubbable paint. The second consideration is how high a sheen or gloss is necessary to enable washing and scrubbing maintenance. A third factor is the higher the gloss of a paint, the more sheet rock discrepancies will be observed, especially in rooms that are well lit or receive bright sunlight. For example, sheet rock seems, cracks, nail pops, and previous repairs. Also, the higher the sheen the more glare will reflect off the walls. This can be uncomfortable when sitting in a room that has glossy walls glaring at you continuously In general the washability of a wall finish falls into three basic categories:
- Washable: means you can use a sponge with a mild degreaser, such as dishwasher detergent, that can be wiped gently to clean the surface
- Scrubbable: the same process as above, but you can use gently rubbing pressure
- Stain resistant: This means you can apply some elbow grease while cleaning the surface with a sponge
So in selecting the paint product, you want to keep the gloss as low as possible and still be able to wash and clean the walls effectively.
The following are the products that we recommend for different rooms in your home:
- Low traffic areas: dining rooms, sitting rooms, master bedrooms, guest bedrooms, use Sherwin Williams Super Paint Flat or Cashmere Flat Enamel.
- High traffic areas: foyers, hallways, staircases, and mudrooms, use Sherwin Williams Cashmere Low Luster or Duration Matte.
- Rooms that will require frequent cleaning: kitchens, bathrooms and young children’s bedrooms, use Sherwin Williams Duration Matte.
- For two-story rooms such as foyers and great rooms, use Sherwin Williams Super Paint Flat, or Cashmere Flat Enamel.
- For basements, depending on the amount of use, use Super Paint Flat or Cashmere Low Luster, or even Duration Matte.