Prepare To Paint Your Home's Exterior

3-5 days or more, depending on the size of your home
Prepare to Paint Outdoors: Perfect Prepping for Exterior Painting

You may think of your home's exterior as the castle walls shielding you from the evil effects of Mother Nature. But guess what protects those walls from rain, snow and wind? That's right, your paint. Without that thick colorful barrier to seal out the elements, your wooden walls would eventually crumble to the ground. Simply, your paint is important. And if it's going to do its job of protection, it's got to be able to stick or adhere to the walls it protects.

So before you drop that dropcloth and unfurl that ladder, take a hard look at the surface you're about to cover up: is it properly prepared for a new coat of paint? The key is to make sure the surface underneath your new paint is clean, smooth, and sealed.


Think before you paint
You may think that prepping a house to paint doesn't require planning, but in fact this is the most important step in the entire process. Be sure that you assess your house fully and make any necessary repairs prior to priming and painting, you'll be extremely happy that you did!

Prerequisite Knowledge

Prior knowledge we needed for this phase: Paint 101, All About Brushes


It's all about Prep

Let's look at some techniques you'll want to use to make sure your new paint job is one that will last for years to come:

Project Steps

Step 1

Clean up grit and grime

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Photo courtesy of Husky

Consider renting a pressure washer from your local tool center. Hook up the hose, and start scouring every inch of surface with a blast of pressurized water that'll remove most of the grime in a jiffy. With a swath of water shooting out at a pressure of over 1000 lbs. per square inch (your shower is typically well under 80), it's a bit like washing your car with a fire hose. But it's incredibly fast and thorough; it'll even tear off loose peeling paint. Be careful, because all that power can also rip off awnings, shingles, and other stuff you'd just as soon not replace.

SAFETY TIP: Remember, a lot of debris will be thrown into the air, so you'll want to be sure you wear proper eye protection when using a pressure washer. Also, it should seem obvious, but make sure all your windows are secured.

Step 2

Remove loose old paint

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Photo courtesy of Wagner

Another great way to remove old paint is by using a power paint stripper, such as the Paint Eater from Wagner. If you've got more time than money, you can also use a garden hose with a scrub brush. If you have no other issues to resolve give it at least 8-10 hours of drying time before applying any primer or paint.

JANE TIP: If larger pieces of wood start coming loose as you spray, be sure to look on the underside for wood rot or a possible termite infestation. These can not only adversely affect your new paint, but can continue to fester if ignored.

Step 3

Smooth and flat

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If you've got cracks, holes, or gouges, now is the time to take care of them. Using a putty knife and some exterior grade patching compound (it's spackle for the outside of your house), simply apply as needed by filling in the cracks as if you're spreading cream cheese on a bagel. Scrape away any excess and let it dry according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once dry, use the #100 grit sandpaper to smooth the seam where the old paint meets the repair to help hide it.

Step 4

Prime and protect

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Once all of your surface holes and peeling paint are patched and sanded, cover any repairs with an exterior quality primer to protect the underlying wood.

Step 5

Caulk any gaps

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The biggest culprit in wood rot is water, so you'll want to be sure to seal the seams of your house with exterior caulking. You'll need to lay an even bead on the joints of every eve, window, and overhang—anywhere water is likely to penetrate.

TOOL TIP: Depending on the size of your house, you may use a lot of caulk and acquire some very sore hands if you use a manual caulk gun. You may want to consider purchasing a power caulk gun.

Step 6

Protect the Rest of Your Place

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You'll now want to be sure you cover any areas you want to avoid splattering with paint. This might include the windows, doors, sconces, trim, plants, walkways and driveways. Remember, for ease of removal, use blue painter's tape when masking. Old newspaper can be used to cover expanses of windows, screens, and doors and you can use inexpensive disposable drop cloths for walkways and hedges.

You are now officially ready to paint. Preparation is absolutely essential to a quality job. Professional painters often spend more time on preparation than actual painting, so know that this will be time well spent. After all, a few hours of preparation can mean a few extra years on the life of your paint job! 

Related articles:
How to Paint the Exterior of Your Home
Refinish Your Shutters
How to Install an Inviting Front Gate
Siding With Your House