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Painting the Exterior of Your Home: An Interview with Robbi Greene of Restoration Specialists, Inc

By Robbi Greene

About Restoration Specialists, Inc:

Restoration Specialists, Inc. is a residential and commercial painting and construction company. Our mission is to provide high quality finishes that offer years of protection and beauty. We specialize in kitchen and bath cabinet refinishing, but do all aspects of interior and exterior painting and staining at competitive rates.

We also do finish carpentry and repairs, and many of our customers add crown molding to rooms or cabinets to dress them up. We can build drawers, shelving, or wainscoting, and install cabinets or make alterations to existing ones. We also install most interior trim, including doors and windows, and then apply a high quality painted or stained finish. Contact us at 401-864-7999 for a free estimate, or visit our website at restorationspecialists.biz.

Painting the Exterior of Your Home:

There are many variables that determine the longevity of a paint job, including but not limited to construction techniques, quality and type of products used, environment, the number of previous paint jobs, and application process.

If your home is painted, it should be re-done when you see the paint start to peel and crack in a good handful of areas. General maintenance, like power washing and touching up early break outs can extend the life of a paint job.

If the house is stained, it generally should be re-done every four to eight years, depending on exposure. Many people let stain go too long before recoating. Unlike paint, which is a protective coating on the surface of the substrate, stain is a preservative that penetrates and seals the substrate, protecting it from moisture. As the surface film breaks down, it becomes porous and loses its protective qualities. Just because there is color on the substrate doesn't necessarily mean the stain is still doing its job. If water splashed on the surface beads up and is repelled, then the stain is still working. If it is absorbed when wet, it is time to re-stain.

Because products vary so much, it is hard to say how much coverage you can get out of a can of paint. It also depends a lot on what your substrate is. On bare shingles that have become weathered, you may only get 200 square feet to a gallon of stain, and then on the next coat, you get 400 square feet. I often use 350 square feet to a gallon as a general number, but it's best to read the back of the can of the product and go by the manufacturer's recommendations.

To calculate square footage, it is your basic width X height calculation. Don't forget to back out the area taken up by windows and doors. These areas can add up, and if you don't back them out, you will probably buy too much paint. I generally estimate 15-20 square feet per window or door, and 50 square feet per garage door.

Proper preparation is critical to a long lasting paint or stain job. Substrates must be clean and free of dust, dirt, wax, grease, and mildew. Cleaning products like Rust-Oleum's Jomax and bleach do a great job of cleaning the surface and killing all mildew. A power washer can make this job a lot easier, but improper use can damage surfaces. Start by using the least aggressive tip and work you way up, if necessary. The A soft brush and good old elbow grease will get the job done, too.

All loose and peeling paint will have to be removed by scraping or sanding. Just keep in mind that if the house was built before 1978, it could contain lead and proper lead hazard reduction procedures should be followed to reduce exposure. You may want to have a professional do the job if this is the case. Information on these procedures is available on the State of Rhode Island's Department of Health website.

It is also good practice to de-gloss shiny areas by sanding or coating with a high quality primer. Filling holes and caulking trim will keep water out. If the product being used requires a primer, spot prime all bare areas to seal the surface and prepare it for the finish coat.

The days of only being able to paint when it is 50 degrees or higher out are long gone. Many high end products can be used down to 35 degrees. It must remain above that temperature for 24 hours, though, so the paint can cure properly. Generally, that means it is in the high 30s to low 40's during the day and down to 35 at night. If the temperature is going to drop into the 20s at night, it is not a good idea to paint. It also takes much longer for paint to dry at these temperatures, so the paint remains vulnerable to the elements for a longer period of time.

Another factor to keep in mind is the dew point. When the air temperature and the dew point are within five degrees of each other, paint won't dry. This happens a lot when we start dealing with colder temperatures. The best painting weather is probably between 50-80 degrees with low humidity. Who doesn't want to be out in that weather, anyways?

Latex paints are the best exterior products right now. Oil-based paints are much harder to come by because of environmental regulations. The oil paint your grandfather used to use doesn't exist anymore. I find the oil products that are still around are extremely thick and don't level like they did in the past. Most of them have been turned into hybrids called waterbornes. They use alkyd resins (synthetic oil), but still cleanup with soap and water and have much less odor. Some of these products are quite nice. I use them all the time for interior work. The industry and products have changed quite a bit over the past few years because of the volatile organic compound (VOC) laws. If you are using a high quality product, there should be no problems going over older oil or latex paints.

Hiring a professional to do the work could give the best and longest lasting results, because a professional can identify issues and address them to ensure a long lasting paint job. Professionals also have the equipment and product knowledge to do the job right.

The other aspect is the time involved to paint your house. If it takes three professionals one 40-hour week to paint your house, that is 120 labor hours. How many weekends would you have to sock away to accumulate 120 hours? And that doesn't take into consideration that professionals paint every day and probably move faster than a novice painter would. You could be at it all summer.

If you do paint your house yourself, break it up into manageable sections. Use quality products and read the labels. The paint can label provides the information you'll need regarding application. And don't be afraid to ask questions at your local paint store. They can recommend products that will address issues to achieve the best results.

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