Exterior Painting Prep in 5 Steps

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Wire brush
Brush for scrubbing
Pressure washer
Putty knife
Cleaning agent

Adding a new coat of exterior paint is an excellent way to revitalize your home and make it feel brand new. Whether you're planning on painting the entire exterior of your home or just repairing portions that are in need of attention, preparation for the paint job is the most important step in ensuring a job well done. Not only will the proper prep help make the paint look smooth and professional, but it will also save you a lot of work in the long run.

Step 1 - Protect Your Landscaping

Before you begin any work you’ll need to protect the landscape around the home. The cleaning and painting process involves some harsh chemicals that can be detrimental to the health of some plants and trees. Cover with plastic any brush or plants close to the parts of the home you are planning on painting. Using plastic will also help catch loose paint chips as you remove them, making clean up a little easier.

Step 2 - Give the Surface a Good Cleaning

Paint adheres best when applied to a clean surface. Dirt, grime, mildew, and any other source of debris can cause the paint job to appear uneven. The best way to properly clean a surface for painting is to use a pressure washer with detergent. However, pressure washers can damage wood and other surfaces if not used properly, so make sure you set the washer on an appropriate setting. For parts of the house that are not flaking or extra dirty, a garden hose and brush will do just fine. A common cleaner that many experts recommend is Trisodium phosphate (TSP) because it's easy to use and safe for the environment. If your exterior is stucco, then a thorough brushing with water is normally all that is needed to clean the surface.

Step 3 - Remove Loose Paint

After the surface has been cleared of any dirt and debris, you'll want to make sure any loose paint is scraped away. If you used a pressure washer in the first step, then a lot of this work should already be done. Use a wire brush to take away any paint that is readily flaking or coming off the house. Keep in mind that you don't need to remove all the paint down to the original wood -- if the paint is largely together, it can be coated over. For stucco, look for spots that have chips or pits, as you may have to apply a fresh coat of stucco to ensure a uniform surface. Additionally, houses that were built before 1978 might have lead paint. If this is the case, make sure you take the proper precautions in removing such paint as lead paint dust and chips are not good for your health.

Step 4 - Fill in Surface Imperfections

After all the old loose paint is gone, thoroughly examine the home for any cracks, nail head depressions, and imperfections. Whether the surface is stucco or wood, the idea is to create as smooth a surface as possible for the paint to appear uniform. If you come across any cracks, make sure you putty and caulk them to create a nice and smooth surface. If you see any old caulking that needs repaired, now is the best time to do it.

Step 5 - Give the Surface a Light Sanding

Now that the surface has been cleaned and any cracks or other imperfections are sealed up, it's time to sand. A light sanding will knock down any high points in the siding and help ensure a uniform surface. Again, the idea is to come away with the smoothest surface possible, so the amount of time spent sanding will depend largely on the amount of putty and filler you used to clean up those imperfections in the siding.

Step 6 - Apply a Coat of Primer

After all the surfaces that need painting are sanded down, the next step before you start painting is to prime. A good coat of primer will ensure the first coat of paint adheres evenly throughout the exterior surface. You’ll need to check with your local paint experts to help you decide which primer is best for the surface you're working with. After you have applied a coat of primer, you're ready to paint.