How to Paint a House (Exterior)
Step 1: Pressure-Washing the House
- Gas-powered pressure washer. I use a MiTM Work Pro (minimum 2700 PSI)
- high quality 50-foot garden hose
- Ladder (Xtend Climb ladder) One of my 5 favorite tools.
You need to rent or buy a pressure washer because a regular garden hose will not properly clean a house. Consider renting or buying one and get a 2700+ PSI gas-powered pressure washer at minimum. You will also need a spray gun and a rotating nozzle for proper cleaning.
Watch my video on how to properly clean a house: Click Here.
The best thing about washing a house is that is not hard to do but you can do lots of damage to your home if you are not trained properly. Watch my video. Don’t hold the rotating nozzle of the pressure washer too close to the house or it could do damage, especially to wood siding. If the house is peeling badly, expect a lot of paint to come flying off.
Sometimes water leaks into the house around windows and doors, so make sure you check inside when you are done. Wear rain gear (I use Frogg Toggs) and rubber boots if you do not want to get wet for the power washing.
Wear safety goggles. Whatever boots you wear, be careful climbing up and down wet ladders with wet boots. It’s easy to slip on ladders and the roof. Never get on wood roofs when power washing unless you know what you are doing. They are very slick when they get wet. Wet wood roofs are DANGEROUS.
Washing the house is a critical first step so it must be done well. Give the house several days to dry out. This really depends on weather conditions.
Step 2: Prepping and Scraping Loose Paint
- Curved or square-blade scraper with a 2 or 3” blade
- 5-In-1 painter’s tool. My favorite is the Hyde Wood 5-in-1
- Hammer, for banging in loose nails.
- Ladders. 6’ ladder for single story and 24’ for two story.
Most houses don’t require much scraping and some none at all. Ideally, paint should never be allowed to deteriorate to the point of actually peeling, flaking or blistering. At that point the fundamental structure of the house is exposed to the elements and damage can occur very quickly which just means more work.
You need only a few basic tools. One should be a stout handled scraper with a sharp, curved blade. I really like the Hyde scrapers. Replace the blade often. We also use our Hyde 5-in1 tools a lot for scraping.
As far as the actual scraping itself goes, the goal is to remove any paint that is no longer bonding to the surface. If it’s still adhering, it will be fine. When you scrape, make your strokes consistent with the natural direction of the siding.
The main issue some people have with scraping is that it results in a chunky look on the surface wherever the peeling paint stopped peeling and started adhering. We use a product called PeelBond to help cure this problem.
If you want complete paint removal there are various methods: chemical stripping, media blasting, belt sanding, heat peeling, or combinations thereof. If you want to go that route, hire a contractor who specializes in restorations.
Step 3: Caulking the House
- Dripless caulking gun. I prefer ratchet style
- watch my video on choosing a caulking gun: Click Here.
- Ladders. You can never have to many.
- Rubber gloves. Use gloves when you get good. I like these gloves for caulking.
- 45-year siliconized latex caulk minimum, white (12 tubes for an average house)
- Big Stretch is the best caulking I have ever used.
Caulk cracks wherever they appear, around window or door frames, next to corner boards or chimneys, or into any joints in the siding where the original caulking shrunk or has cracked. Remember the house needs to breathe, expand, and contract so be careful what you caulk.
Watch my video on how to prep a house. I will show you what we caulk: Click Here.
We caulk nail heads, back sides of fascia, corner boards, vents, batting boards, windows, and a lot more. When you get good you can wear rubber gloves so your hands do not get so messy.
Caulking keeps cold air outside, reduces bugs nesting on your house, makes the final product look better, keeps water out, and in some cases is what warranties require.
Step 4: Priming Bare Wood, Blistering, And Cracking.
- One 2-gallon bucket
- One 3-inch brush. Love the Purdy Pro Extra 3” for this.
- One 4” roller (or 9” roller if there are large areas to prime)
- One 5-gallon bucket with grid
- Drop cloths. You should have several.
- Oil-based exterior primer for wax bleed if you know what that is.
- Warning. Watch my video on wax bleed: Click Here.
- PeelBond for bare wood, peeling, or cracking paint.
Always perform a cross hatch test before painting a house. The test is simple: you paint a small section of siding with any latex paint, let it dry for a day, then come back and score the paint in a X pattern using a sharp knife. Put a piece of tape over the cross hatch you just made. Pull the tape off. If the paint peels off with the tape you need to oil prime the house.
Why use a primer? Because it’s not formulated exactly the same as paint, it’s made so that it bonds better to a surface and gives your topcoat a better chance of adhering to the previous coating.
If you have areas on the house where the paint is severely cracking but not actually peeling, consider applying a coat of PeelBond or PrimeRX, a clear primer that is designed to form a flexible barrier over cracking paint and prevent it from cracking through the topcoat.
Step 5: Lights Numbers & Downspouts
- Screw drivers (regular and Philips) We use a Stanley set.
- Dewalt Power drill with screwdriver bits
- 5-in-1 painters tool
- Ladders 6’ 4’ and 24’ ladders for 2 story houses. Werner is simply the best.
Removing the downspouts is simple: Unscrew all the screws holding them onto the house, starting with the bottom clamps and ending where the downspout attaches to the gutter.
See my video for some tips painting gutters and downspouts: Click Here.
If the downspouts are factory finished and in good shape you may not want to paint them. If you do paint the gutters they require a bonding primer first. Re-screw the screws back into the downspout so they get painted if you are painting the down spouts. Label each piece of tape with a black sharpie marker to identify what corner of the house the downspout came from. If you skip this step, good luck reinstalling them. It’s easy to forget where they go. Put the label inside the down spout so it does not get painted.
Now remove, bird feeders, thermometers, outdoor light fixtures, hanging plants, house numbers, and anything else not to be painted. When we remove screws or nuts we tape them to the fixture they came off of. Clear the space around the house by moving everything out of the way: the grill, the wood pile, flower pots, sprinklers, and anything else that might get in your way while you are painting.
Step 6: Masking the House and laying out Drop Cloths
- 3M M3000 hand masker
- Drop cloths You want as many as you can get
- Razor knife. I like the ones with break off blades.
- Duster brush (Just an old paint brush)
- Ladders (if you need them)
- 2020 1” tape You will need many rolls.
- 72” 3M masking film This is the only size we stock in our vans.
- 9” Masking paper This is the only size paper we stock in our vans.
- 1 box 9X400 painters plastic
When you drop and mask an area, you use a combination of tape, plastic, paper, and drop cloths to cover and protect every surface on which you don’t want to get paint.
There are dozens of handy tricks and techniques to dropping and masking, but the main thing is to be thorough because it will pay off in the end with a more professional looking paint job and far less time spent cleaning dried paint off places you don’t want it.
Get a 3M M3000 hand masker. No exceptions. A masker is a tool that dispenses paper and tape simultaneously, and it is one of the most essential pieces of equipment in a painter’s tool box.
Watch my video on how to use a hand masker: Click Here.
Remember you need to buy paper, plastic, and tape. I recommend using 9” paper and one-inch tape for most exterior masking. You should also purchase several rolls of 1½ tape for all the miscellaneous taping you’ll need to do. 3M 2020 tape will do for most exterior purposes. You will want to buy some of the expensive blue stuff if either of these situations exist: 1) You plan on leaving the tape on vinyl window and door frames for more than a few days (especially if it’s baking in the sun), or 2) You are taping the glass on your wood windows before painting them. Use FrogTape whenever you’re taping to glass or very smooth surfaces.
Use the masker to protect any small items adjoined to the siding: cable boxes, meters, light fixtures, etc. As you mask, keep a roll of 1” tape around your wrist like a bracelet because you’ll frequently need to peel off strips to seal up the gaps between pieces of paper. You will see my guys using the trick all the time.
If you’re spraying you need to completely seal off windows, doors, and anything else you do not want paint on.
You also want to mask and drop any surfaces that are directly below where you’ll be painting, such as decks, concrete, rooflines, etc. You cannot cover enough.
As for drop cloths, I suggest you buy at least four large, professional-grade canvas drop cloths. Paint won’t leak through these, so use them on critical surfaces directly below wherever you are painting, like driveways, sidewalks, and decks. Remember to never set an extension ladder on a plastic drop cloth because the feet might slip.
Try to have enough drop cloths on hand to completely “drop off” at least one side of the house and a little bit around each corner if you’re spraying. You’ll have to move the whole drop-cloth network along with you as you paint your way around the house. While this masking and dropping process takes time, it actually saves time in the end because it prevents you from having to think about anything except painting when you are painting. This is where so many DIY painters go wrong. Drop and mask everything.
Step 7: Painting the House with a Brush and Roller
- Four 5-gallon buckets
- 2-gallon cut in buckets with handles and 1 gallon grid
- 2 Brushes (I like Purdy XL Glide 3”) Really one for each color.
- 4” roller handles
- One 2-4’ foot extension pole. I love the Purdy poles.
- Roller covers or “naps” (Purdy White Dove). Thicknesses will range from 3/8,
- 5-In-1 painters tool
- Bag of Rags
- Ladders. Hard to paint without ladders. You can rent them to.
- High quality exterior latex paint. I use Sherwin Williams Resilience. I have paint estimating instructions on my website.
Painting a house is a lot faster using an airless sprayer: but a house can also be painted quickly and efficiently using a brush and roller. So if for some reason you can’t or don’t want to spray your house, know it can be done by hand as sprayers have not been around for all that long.
Here is how to do it: Use a 5-gallon bucket with a metal grid in it to paint the body. Use a high quality 9” roller with a 3/8” nap roller cover on it (the thickness of the roller cover “nap” will depend on the porosity of the siding and how much paint it will take); attach it to an extension pole that will extend from two to four feet. When painting the trim, I use a two-gallon “cut in bucket” with a high quality 3” angled sash nylon/polyester brush and 4” roller to go with it. I use the Purdy XL Glide 3” brush for trim. I like the Purdy White Dove roller covers trim.
Open your cans or 5 gallon buckets of paint and stir the paint if needed with a wooden stir stick. Stir sticks are free from your local paint store. Make sure to mix (box) all your paints of the same color together before using them so the color will be consistent.
I usually pick a side of the house based on the sun and the season. If it’s midsummer, I want to avoid painting in the sun during the heat of the day, so I’ll start out on the sunny side and move into the shade in the afternoon. But if its late fall, I want to concentrate on shady sides in the morning because they will need all day to dry in the cool air. I’ll then focus on sunny sides in the afternoon because the sun isn’t that hot and the paint will need that sun to dry before nighttime temperatures dip.
If the house has eaves (soffits) and fascia (and possibly painted gutters), you’ll need to paint them first. Start from top to bottom. Brush out the fascia and possibly the gutters first. Paint the underside of the eaves. Cut in the corners with the brush and roll the large, flat areas. Do one section at a time to reduce the chance of “flashing.” Paint all the eaves on one side before you tackle the siding.
When it’s time for the siding, your technique will depend on whether your house has 1) natural wood siding (lapboard or shakes), and whether it has natural grain or is smooth; 2) engineered-wood or cement-composite siding like Hardiplank; or 3) masonry (stucco or brick). Regardless of the type of siding, the paint will need to be rolled and/or brushed onto all surfaces. But the best techniques differ somewhat for each surface.
Start by rolling out an area of siding, maybe six feet wide by six feet high, depending on what you can reach. Roll in the same direction as the orientation of the siding—if it’s horizontal, you want to roll horizontally, if it’s vertical, you want to roll vertically.
Keep loading the roller and putting a good amount of paint on the house. From my experience, DIY painter do not use enough paint. Keep the roller wet, load again, load again. Use 20 percent more paint than you think you should—as long as you are not leaving sags and runs. Apply the paint on liberally. It is really hard to get a run with exterior paint.
Painting wood shakes siding
Shakes should be rolled with a thick roller like 3/4″, but I’ve found that sometimes the paint actually “bridges” the gap between the grooves and dries that way, not adhering to the deep, inner part of the groove like you want. One way to deal with this is to roll the paint on the shakes with a thick nap roller then back brush with your paint brush.
Painting stucco and brick houses
Stucco and brick houses can be the easiest type of house to paint. It really does not matter what direction you run your roller or whether you feather out your brush strokes. Just make sure you use a thick nap roller (probably 1 1/4 inch) and put on a good amount of paint because stucco will really soak it up. As long as you don’t leave any obvious thick lap marks when rolling, it should come out looking fine.
Step 7: Spray Painting the House
- Titan or Graco Professional grade airless paint sprayer (rent, borrow, or buy).
- At least 100 feet of spray line, one spray gun, one or more spray tips (Typically for spraying latex paint on an exterior I will use a 515 and 310)
- 12 gauge extension cord
- In addition to the sprayer, you will want to have the same equipment required when painting the house with a brush and roller for doing the trim. You will only need the 4” cut in set ups. However, the need for 9”rollers (and “back rolling”) will depend on the condition of the siding you are painting)
- Four to six 5-gallon buckets
- 2-gallon cut in buckets with handles
- Brushes (Purdy XL Glide 3”) 1 for each color.
- 4” Roller frames (highest quality you can get) The Wooster are amazing.
- One 2-to-4 foot extendable roller pole (metal, stout, high quality)
- Roller covers or “naps”. 3/8” inch depending on how rough the surfaces are. 3/4”. I prefer Purdy White Dove
- High quality exterior latex paint. We use Sherwin Williams Resilience.
Spraying a house is entirely possible for the average person. You just need to follow the steps and procedures I teach in my videos, including how to set up a paint sprayer and how to clean up a paint sprayer.
Borrow, buy, or rent a real airless paint sprayer, the whole outfit including the spray gun. You’ll also need tips for the gun. I use a “515” and “310” tip for spraying regular latex paint. Ask the paint store what size tip they provide and if you have to buy a 515 and 310 you should do so. The tips they will give you will always blown out.
Before you spray, you need to mask off the house with painters’ plastic and paper as described in Step 6. Because you are spraying you need to mask thoroughly—much more so than if you were brushing and rolling. Don’t underestimate the power of the sprayer to blow through a bad masking job and spray a fancy front door or expensive outdoor light fixture with overspray.
Watch my video on controlling overspray: Click Here.
Once the house is masked good and tight and the drop cloths are arranged, it’s time to start spraying.
If you have never operated an airless sprayer, I have many videos showing your how to properly operate one and how to spray like a professional painter: Click Here.
Step 8: Painting the Trim
Equipment list (to paint one trim color)
- 2-gallon cutting pots with handles
- Small “grid” to put in one cutting pot for rolling with 4-inch roller
- Brushes (Purdy XL Glide 3”)
- One 4-inch roller handle (highest quality you can get) The Wooster is the best I have used.
- One or two 4-inch roller covers or “naps”. I use Purdy White Dove.
- One 2-4 foot extendable roller pole (metal, stout, high quality)
- High quality exterior latex paint. I really like Sherwin Williams products.
Use a combination of a 3” angled brush and a 4” roller to brush and roll your way around the house. A long roller pole helps for rolling high-up corner boards, but you’ll need to get up on a ladder anyway to cut in the corner boards against the eaves, so if you don’t have a long pole you can just roll when you’re up there and then move the ladder down, roll some more, and move down again until you get to the ground.
Painting trim usually includes window trim, fascia, door trim and other miscellaneous items like vents.
Painting the trim is the easiest and funnest part of painting the house. Just load up your 4” roller and brush and begin rolling and brushing it. Go over it 2 times giving it two coats. Just work your way around the house top to bottom.
Watch my video showing you how easy it is: Click Here.
Watch my video on how to paint a garage door: Click Here.
Step 9: Touch Up and Clean Up
- Screw driver, pliers, and or wrenches.
- Wire brush I use a Purdy wire brush.
- Window scraper for cleaning glass
- Ladders as needed
- Some of each paint color used on the house
- Dirtex glass cleaner Cleans paint off anything.
Reinstall all the stuff you took down: downspouts, hose holders, thermometers, bird feeders, hanging plants, and address numbers. If you removed all or part of your outdoor light fixtures, put them up now.
Touch up any light spots. Walk around the house slowly with the colors, look at everything with a critical eye. Touch up underneath hose faucets, around light fixtures, the sides of downspouts that got nicked when being put back up, etc.
Be aware of “flashing.” Sometimes touching up a spot in the middle of a siding board will be visible because the light reflects off it in a different way. The way to avoid flashing is to just repaint the entire board (between joints).
A simple wet rag will often clean dried speckles off vinyl window frames if you apply a good amount of pressure. A razor scraper will get dried speckles off the glass itself.
If you dripped paint onto concrete or cement anywhere, you can use water and a wire brush. A very stiff nylon brush is a better option. Last but not least, clean all your equipment completely and put it away neatly. I recommend taking the time to clean roller covers.
Watch my video on how to clean paint brushes and rollers fast and easy: Click Here.
Shake out and fold all your drop cloths. I have a video on how to fold them: Click Here.
Make sure your paint sprayer has antifreeze in the lines if you’re putting it in long term storage.
Hopefully it was a good experience and your house looks awesome. Send me some pictures.