published Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Exterior Anxiety: Painting the outside of your house is a lot more than just picking a color

This Brainerd homeowner used Sherwin-Williams’ version of a color visualizer app to select several different possible color palettes for his home, which is now
painted white with black shutters.
This Brainerd homeowner used Sherwin-Williams’ version of a color visualizer app to select several different possible color palettes for his home, which is now painted white with black shutters.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    This Brainerd homeowner used Sherwin-Williams’ version of a color visualizer app to select several different possible color palettes for his home, which is now painted white with black shutters.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    This Brainerd homeowner used Sherwin-Williams’ version of a color visualizer app to select several different possible color palettes for his home, which is now painted white with black shutters.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

3 MUSTS

Andy Vincent, who has been painting houses for more than 20 years, lists three must-haves when it comes to painting the exterior of a house.

* Clean. Get all dirt and debris off the old paint.

* Dry. Once you clean it, which will definitely include water, you have to give it a day or so to completely dry.

* Dull. "Paint will not bind to anything shiny," he says. You don't have to sand the heck out of the old paint, he says, just use it enough to knock the sheen off.

Randy Wilson hears it all the time. Someone calls and says the outside of their house needs a new paint job because one or more sections have discolored or lost their luster.

When he gets out there, though, he sees the real problem.

"Usually, when they start thinking about painting, they see some kind of problem with the paint, but it's really the roof or the gutters, some kind of leak or something's rotted," says Wilson, a professional painter in Chattanooga. "When we go out and look at them ourselves, we check all those things and, if it's gutters or carpentry work, that's something we do because it's something we run into on almost every job."

Without fixing the underlying problem -- be it bad wood or a clogged downspout -- painting won't help; it'll just go back to looking bad within a few months or years.

The warm weather coming 'round has many folks walking around the outside of their home and thinking, "Hmmm, could use a little sprucing up." But professional painters in the area say there are a few things homeowners need to consider before hiring someone to do the job or do it themselves -- and choosing the colors isn't the only consideration.

"Paint is only as good as what you put it on top of," says Felix Cordova, who co-owns Brand Painting Co. in Dalton, Ga. Not only do you need to make sure your shoddy paint isn't a product of termites, wet wood or mildew, he says, you also must get your house clean of debris and dirt before you put drop one of paint on it. If you don't, that new paint's flaking off a lot more quickly than it should.

Andy Vincent, who has owned Chattanooga's Tri-State Painting for more than 20 years, says it's also critical that you buy the correct grade of paint, especially if you're doing the painting yourself. There are high-quality grades that will last for years, and there are cheaper ones used by contractors who may have dozens of apartment rooms to paint in a hurry, he says.

"All the good paint stores have real good paint and they have apartment/contractor grade. It's important that the painter specify and say exactly what kind of paint they want," he says.

Wilson, whose family has been in the painting business since 1927, advises that, if you're hiring someone to paint your house, make darn sure the person is legit.

"Check out whoever you're talking to and definitely make sure they've got references because everybody's a freaking painter; they know everything about all of it and most guys don't know anything about it," he says.

If you're hiring someone, Vincent says, ask if they use a spray gun or a brush. Either is fine, although spray guns may take less time than a brush. However, if the painter uses a spray gun, make sure he or she is going to properly cover your windows, bushes and shutters before starting because fine mist from the gun will float onto any nearby thing that's not protected, he says.

And he says to ask the painters if they "backbrush," which means that, along with spraying, they have a paintbrush hanging on their belt or ladder to brush over the freshly sprayed paint, making sure it's covering completely and looking good.

A good latex-paint job on a clean, correctly repaired house should last about eight to 10 years, painters say, but that's about it -- even if the label on the can says it's guaranteed for 25 years. You can use oil-based paint, Wilson says, but it won't necessarily do a better job of holding up, and besides, almost no one uses oil-based paint anymore.

Whichever style of paint you choose, however, use satin or semi-gloss finish, he says. "You've got to have a sheen on it," he says. "It's like waxing your car; it repels water. Flat paint just sort of absorbs water."

And, even though you'd think it would be the first thing that people would decide, when the painter shows up to give an estimate, many people still ask: "What color do you think we ought to paint it?"

"I usually tell them, 'Look, we paint them every different colors every day. Drive around and look at other people's house and see what they have got,'" Wilson says.

If you see something you like, take a photo of it or even knock on the front door and ask the homeowner about the color, something the painters who work for him do on a regular basis, he says. "We ask people all the time about the color of their house," he says.

Vincent says "people will take it as a compliment if you go up to them and say, "I really like the way your house looks. Would you tell me what color that is?'"

In Cordova's business, customers these days are leaning toward more natural tones -- browns, beiges, off-white for trim. Generally, he says, you want to have one color for the walls and a contrasting color for the trim to give your house some visual pop.

And pay attention to any sections of your home that may sit in a lot of shade, Cordova says. The paint used on those areas should have an additive that prevents mildew since the sun doesn't hit those sections enough to efficiently dry up any moisture.

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