12 Things You Should Know Before Painting Your House Exterior

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It’s one thing to set aside an afternoon to change the color of the walls in your adorable half-bath, but it’s quite another to paint your home’s exterior, especially since the outside of your house is prone to UV rays, temperature highs and lows, and other weather events. Leaving this major home improvement job to the pros is just one tip our contractor experts shared with us. Read on as our experts sketch out the 12 things you must know before you paint your house:

1. Expect lots of prep

It’s easy to get excited about the colors and how shiny and new your house will look with a new coat of paint. However, keep in mind that there’s lots of work to be done before you start the actual painting. This includes removing debris and cobwebs. “It also involves scraping off cracked, bubbling or peeling paint and includes the proper removal of lead paint,” says Don Brunson, principal of Brunson Construction in Dallas, Texas. “Once that’s done, your painter will use a pressure washer to get your surface nice and clean so that the primer can be applied smoothly.”

2. Pick the right paint for your façade

An expert contractor will direct you to the right paint type for your home’s exterior. “Whether your house is made of vinyl, aluminum, cement siding, or brick matters when it comes to which paint to use,” says Tom DAntonio, a contractor in Hawthorne, New Jersey. “For example, you need to use a different paint for brick or stucco than you would for wood or fiber-cement siding. Understanding what materials your home is made of is really important.”

3. Do a patch test to try out colors

Gather some paint chips from your local paint or hardware store as your first step in picking a color. Then, narrow it down to two or three colors that may work. “It’s wise to buy a pint of each to test the color, as paint looks different depending on the light and the material,” says Tod Colbert, founder of Weather Tight, a contracting and remodeling firm in West Allis, Wisconsin. “Next, paint 2×2-foot squares on a portion of the house. Take a few days to view it in various light and times of day. This will help you decide on your color scheme.”

Credit: Minette Hand

4. Keep the look of the neighborhood in mind

While some towns have no rules on home colors, others have laws in place governing paint colors. If you live in a historic district, an attached townhouse or condo, or are part of a homeowner’s association, there will likely be rules to follow. Even if there aren’t any restrictions, experts say to keep the neighborhood context in mind. “In general, it’s a good idea to take a look at the color of your neighbor’s homes to make sure your home won’t clash,” says Cate Griffing, who blog about house painting at West Magnolia Charm and is co-owner of Wow1 Day Painting in Bergen County, New Jersey. “Also, you don’t want to bring property values down or, worse yet, make your neighbors mad.”

Credit: Emma Fiala

5. Have fun with your front door

“With the right color, your front door can be the ultimate statement for your home,” says DAntonio. “Adding a bright orange, a bright red, or royal blue front door is a great way to add pop without painting the entire house orange.”

6. Use paint to amp up your door and trim

“When it comes to the door and trim, I think a satin or semi-gloss is best,” says Jessica Barr, a development trainer for Behr Paint. “While you should paint the body of the house with flat paint, a more durable semi-gloss on the doors is easier to clean and will add volume to whatever color you pick.”

7. Track the weather

Once you’ve set the date to begin your exterior paint job, track the weather. You, or a professional crew, won’t be able to do the job if it’s raining, too cold or too humid, says Barr. “Extra moisture in the air can play a role in how fast paint dries,” she says. “On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re painting in Arizona where it’s 105 degrees, you don’t have moisture to worry about, but the surface temperature can be even hotter than the air temperature and that won’t be an ideal scenario either.”

8. Hire a pro

While you can download a step-by-step guide to painting your house, consider letting the experts do this home improvement job for you. “It’s not as much fun, or as easy, to paint exteriors as it is interior walls,” says DAntonio. “There are ladders and steep walls to consider. Also, your painter will do all the prep and scraping and cleaning and they have the tools, like sprayers, to do it. They also have tools to cord off trimming and they know the right brushes and rollers to use. Believe me, it will go way faster if you let the pros take this on.”

9. If you must, pick a small job

If you still want to try painting, work on something small. “For example, you can do some small trim work or paint the front door,” DAntonio says. “Or maybe you can paint the chimney, but you should reserve the large scale painting to the pros.”

10. Get your paperwork together

There are reasons painters have insurance and should be licensed with the state. “For example, say a painter didn’t pay attention to the weather report, painted your house, it rained and wet paint landed on your concrete walkway or finished deck,” DAntonio says. “Now those places are covered with rain-washed paint, which is going to be expensive to repair. That’s why you should always ask for a copy of a painter’s license and insurance documents before you sign any contracts.”

11. Prepare for pricing

Depending on the size of your house, the amount of detailing, the materials that make up the façade, how long the job will take and how many crew members are required, your exterior paint job will be costly. “An average house with all wood siding would cost $9,000 to paint, and the price goes up from there,” DAntonio says. Keep in mind that the color you choose will also affect the price, as you may need to paint several coats to get the color saturation you’re hoping for, especially if you use a dark blue or dark red. 

12. Be patient

Like most things, a job well done won’t be a quick one. Getting your house painted is going to take time. “If a contractor says your home will be prepped and painted within two days, be skeptical,” DAntonio says. “Even a small house can take at least a week to prep and paint.”