Paint Like a Pro with These 10 Tips

by Kelly R. Smith

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Prepping a home for painting.
Prepping a home for painting

This article was updated on 09/27/20.

Nothing enhances the exterior of a home like a fresh coat of paint. Although the job seems straightforward enough, there are things you can do to make the job easier, faster, and more efficient. One thing you should know at the outset — older homes might have lead-based paint. Have yours tested before embarking on this job. That being said, read on for 10 tips to paint like a pro.

  • Scrape and sand all surfaces prior to washing. Although some painters like to wash first and then sand and scrape, this can leave behind dust that prevents the new paint from sticking as well as it should.
  • When power washing, keep the setting on low. High pressure from a power washer will force water into the wood. Even when the outer surface seems dry, it may have moisture trapped inside. What should you wash with? I like to use a tablespoon of dish soap with a mixture of TSP (trisodium phosphate) and bleach. The dish soap helps the solution to cling to the siding and trim rather than running off the house. This is the same principle as using a bit of soap as a surfactant when spraying garden plants.
  • Cover plants, cars, exterior lighting, and anything else that might be affected. Like most situations, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Use breathable drop cloths for plants so they can breath. Protect lights, doors, and windows, with Cling Cover plastic.
  • Use a high-quality primer. Always prime bare spots before painting. If the home has oil-based paint that is peeling and cracking and complete removal is not a good option, use a product such as XIM Peel Bond primer.
  • Use the right tools. This should be obvious but many beginning painters and weekend warriors just try to “get by” with what they have on hand. You get what you pay for. Go for the pricier brushes, rollers, and sprayers. They might set you back a bit in the beginning but the finished job will be more professional.
  • Wear knee pads when working on a ladder. There’s always a rung where your knees are, right? Without knee pads to cushion your kneecaps, they will be squealing at you by the end of the day and tomorrow won’t be any better.
  • Plan to spend more time to paint window trim. Painting in the field might be a breeze, but window trim is confoundingly time-confusing. The devil is in the details and the time to apply painter’s tape and sanding really adds up.
  • Don’t paint into the evening. The main issue in the evening is that condensation forms on the surface of the paint when the sun goes down, particularly during the spring and summer. On wet paint, this causes the water-soluble components to break down and rise to the surface. This is called surfactant leaching. After the water evaporates, you’re left with a waxy-looking area. It may go away but there’s no need to take a chance to begin with. In the late afternoon, stop painting and do prep work for the next day.
  • Prevent sticky windows and doors. Where two dry surfaces painted with latex meet, they want to stick to each other. You have most likely noticed it yourself, even on drawers and garage doors. It is completely normal and is called blocking. You can prevent it with a thin coat of furniture wax.
  • Finally, don’t forget on-going maintenance. You might think you’re done, but that is just an illusion. Things like repairing caulking and touching-up paint should be done on a regular basis. Always write down all the details of the kind of paint, sheen, and color of paint that you used.

I hope these 10 tips to paint like a pro will make your painting adventure the best it can be. Doing it yourself can save you a lot of money if you have the time and inclination. Any specialized equipment like a spray rig might be available for renting.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

6 Replies to “Paint Like a Pro with These 10 Tips”

  1. I notice that most of the homes in my area have trim painted earth tones like tan, light brown. Any reason for this?

  2. If you have a homeowners association (neighbor Nazis) they mandate the colors and sheen you are allowed on their, uh, I mean your, property.

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