It’s that time of year again and you’re outside, enjoying your yard. Then you start nosing around—maybe you’re inspecting your plants, or reviewing the condition of your lawn or setting up your sprinklers—and before you know it, reality hits.
You need to paint the house.
A daunting task. An expensive task. A necessary task—because it’s not just about how your house looks, it’s about your home’s value. Neglect is not an option.
Take heart, however. Information and resources have never been more readily available to help you through this project.
Know Your Options
Your options are to either hire a contractor or paint it yourself. Hiring a contractor is an expensive option, but if it’s in your budget and you do the necessary research to find a quality contractor, you won’t regret it.
The best method to find a professional painter is word-of-mouth. Ask a neighbor who’s recently repainted, or go to a local paint store and ask for recommendations. You could also use a service such as the popular Angie’s List. Once you’ve contacted the painter, ask for references before you even bother getting a quote.
Most professional contractors will give you a free estimate. They know what they’re looking for and can point out important issues you may have missed such as carpentry work on deteriorated siding.
If your house is extremely tall or has dangerous gables, professionals have the equipment and insurance to handle this type of treacherous job. And many contractors guarantee their work for a year, so if something chips or peels, you’re covered.
Your DIY Checklist
If your budget—or your house—is smaller, and you enjoy a good do-it-yourself project, you can paint your house yourself. It’s a multi-step process, and you’ll want to spend some time preparing for it. Here’s a brief game plan:
1. Decide when to paint. Spring and fall are the best times of year to paint. When outside temperatures are in the mid-50s and higher, the caulk, primer and paint cure properly.
2. Decide where to start your prep work. Do you need to scrape peeling areas? Do you have any rotten wood that needs to be replaced? Be sure to check the base of your columns and areas around and under gutters. Also check all window sills, especially windows that are in damp, shady areas. Replacing wood might require a handyman, and getting someone who knows what they are doing is worth every penny.
Do you have metal railings or awnings that need painting? This requires a whole different set of supplies and techniques.
3. Once all the scraping and potential rot problems are addressed, the next job is to pressure wash your house. Even if it’s brick or stucco, wash it anyway to remove any mold or mildew that will compromise your new paint job. If you’re doing this yourself, you’ll need to rent equipment and plan a day (at least) to complete the task.
There is skill involved in pressure washing. Not too hard, not too soft. Make sure you find out which PSI setting the sprayer should be on for your particular house materials. To bleach or not to bleach? If your bleach is too strong, it will kill your plants, so consider holding off on new plantings until the job is done.
You can do this yourself—just do your homework first. Pressure washing is a very satisfying job, but it’s not an easy one.
4. Now she’s clean—sparkling even. Time to caulk and prime. You’ll want to get every joint, every crack, every piece of wood. Caulking makes your paint job appear seamless, and seals off your home from infestation of termites, bees, and other problematic invaders. It also makes your home more energy efficient.
If your house already has several coats of paint, you may only need to prime new or recently exposed wood. The quality and type of primer you use in those cases is important. Many new paints have built-in primer, but old-school painters don’t go for that. Primer is an entirely different product from paint, so choose carefully. Primer not only protects your paint job, it can help you solve for lead-based paint issues and oil vs. latex.
5. Now for the fun part! The colors. If your house is brick and you only need to paint a few siding areas, shutters and trim, you might want to keep the colors that came with the house. But if you’re open, a change can make it feel like a brand new home!
The newest software at Behr Paint offers color visualizer options that help you select both interior and exterior colors. You can view varying styles of homes and select swatches to make a virtual colorboard. You can also get sample bottles for a small fee at local Home Depot stores so you can try it before you buy it.
Home Depot’s website offers a wealth of information on all the brands of paint it carries, including Martha Stewart and Glidden paints, and the top-rated Behr. Speaking of name brand paints, do your homework here as well. Cheap paint won’t hold up to sun and weather. This is an extremely labor-intensive job and you don’t want to have to do it again for at least another ten years. Don’t skimp on quality when it comes to exterior paint. If you are using a professional painter, make sure you find out what brand they prefer. Sometimes it’s more about their bottom line than the longevity of the paint job. Make sure they are using quality products.
Looking to choose an entirely new paint palette? Take a ride through nearby neighborhoods on a sunny afternoon to see what others are doing. It’s important to consider the colors of your roof shingles and any stone or brick on the foundation before you decide on a color. Reviewing exterior colors on other homes might change your ideas about what colors to choose for your own house.
If you just can’t make up your mind, hire a professional color consultant for a one-hour consultation.
Once you select your colors, you’ll need to determine quantities and buy supplies. Ask the experts at the store. Paint department employees have extensive training and experience and they really know their stuff. They can talk you through brushing vs. spraying, rolling vs. brushing, and all the other possibilities.
It’s a lot of work to paint your own house. But if you take your time with it, you can save thousands of dollars and take great pride in your finished product.