7 Things to Know About Painting the Exterior of Your Home

Kristen Koehler
by Kristen Koehler
If you have a wood-sided house, painting the exterior of your home is one of those home maintenance expenses you love to hate. A nicely painted home is essential for good curb appeal and to stay within acceptable social norms  , but no one really wants to spend the money on it. It would be much more fun to add a great patio in the backyard or re-do a bathroom. But alas, it’s something that must be done, so let’s talk about getting it done the right way.
The Backstory
As a newly married couple, buying in what felt like the height of the housing market, we stretched to buy our house back in 2001, sinking every dollar we had into it. The place looked great, gave us tons of room we didn’t yet need and was move-in ready. No fixer upper here.
Then the second summer we were in the house, a mere year later, the paint on the house began to peel. This despite having been told when we bought the house that it had been recently painted. My husband fixed some of the lower spots, but the ones on the high peaks under the eaves were left alone to expand and multiply. We ignored them for another year, not wanting to spend what little cash we had for the house to get it painted.

Finally, in the fourth summer, we were forced to take care of our eyesore or risk permanently alienating our new neighbors. So, with a yeoman’s budget in mind, I made a rookie mistake: I hired one of those ‘industrious-college-kids-learning-about-business-will-paint-your-house-for-a-song’ outfits. I’m not here to disparage, just to state facts. I was taken in by the young project manager/entrepreneur’s pitch, the piece the local paper had written about her (nice touch) and her earnest demeanor. And that was how I signed my dreams of a decent paint job away.

It wasn’t long into the project when the “crew” showed up to paint in the rain, and I knew I’d made a grave mistake. And the problems just multiplied from there. Flash forward a year and the paint started peeling again-in the exact same spots. I could have flushed the $5K down the toilet and been more satisfied.

Needless to say, when we re-painted the house a couple of painful years later, I was determined to have it done the right way. Enter Mathew Richards, my knight-in-white-painter’s-pants. He and his crew did a terrific job on my house and were a pleasure to work with. So, as a public service announcement to anyone who finds themselves in my erstwhile shoes, I asked Mathew to share with us a few things everyone should know about getting the exterior of their house painted.
  • Preparation is everything! Make sure your painter is scraping, sanding, masking and priming before the actual paint even comes out of his truck.
  • Quality paint is important. This includes the type of paint used as well as how many coats will be applied – two is standard.
  • Take care of the rot. Carpentry could be a significant portion of your painting budget. No good painter will guarantee work on rotting boards. Consider going with a low-maintenance option like PVC or Boral TruExterior boards.
  • Timing: book your job early – in-demand painters start booking exterior jobs the Fall before the Spring rush. Recognize that job completion depends on the weather – you may want the house done before your 4th of July party, but if June was a washout, it won’t happen.
  • If your house was built before 1978, you could have lead paint. Have the painter test the house. If you do have lead paint, your painter must follow the EPA’s guidelines (in MA and other states there are more specific rules).  The painter must be certified to disturb any lead painted surface- think scraping and sanding when doing bullet #1 above.
  • Get it all in writing. Protect yourself from the “I thought that was included?!” conversation after you’ve hired the contractor. Find out exactly what will be done, how many coats, the exact product line within a brand that will be used, licenses the painter carries, payment terms, and warranty. Sometimes the most important part of the contract is what is NOT included.
  • Ask for references from friends and relatives. Word of mouth referrals are the gold standard here. But social media is another great option. And you should be able to see the types of projects a company can handle if they are active on social media.

Armed with this knowledge, you’ll know what to ask when interviewing prospective painters. If you invest in a good paint job, it should pay you back by lasting 7+ years (Mathew tells us the industry average is 7 years for exterior painting).  Mathew’s company gives a 3-year warranty on their exterior paint jobs and suggests that it’s in your best interest to inspect your house every year thereafter and take care of any areas of concern. His firm offers a one-day paint service where they will come out and address any problem areas before they become a larger failure. You might spend $400 – $800 for the service in year four, but it  could extend the life of your paint job to 8-10 years. Sounds like a no-brainer to me!
Many thanks to Mathew Richards of Castle Complements Painting for sharing his expertise. Mathew is an Army veteran (he offers active service members 10% off) and consummate professional. I’ve personally used him for exterior and interior painting projects for over a decade and recommend him without hesitation. You can reach Mathew at (978) 235 5678,  castlecomplements.com or info@castlecomplements.com.
Kristen Koehler
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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4 of 9 comments
  • Kristen Koehler Kristen Koehler on May 03, 2017
    Good tip - I didn't know that! Our house is a pale yellow that fortunately I like so won't be changing the color soon.

    • B. Enne B. Enne on May 03, 2017
      There are some companies that are adding UV protection, but those paints are still new. I only went 2 shades darker, and I still had a bit of warping on the South side.

  • Brenda  S. Brenda S. on May 03, 2017
    awesome tips!