A primer: Painting your house

Putting a fresh coat of paint on your home will prolong the life of its skin, pump up the value, and revive its curb appeal, which are all important additions, especially when it’s time to sell.

The benefits you’ll get assumes, of course, the job of slathering on the latex or oil-based paint is professionally performed.

The pros make it look easy, but that’s because they’ve been at it for quite a while. Painting your home isn’t a do-it-yourself job unless you’ve got the know how, the proper tools and enough time off from painting the town red.

When hiring a professional, ask relatives, friends, co-workers and others you trust — and who’ve recently enjoyed a successful paint job on their home — for references to qualified, licensed home painters in your area. A specialist in exterior painting has more square feet of exterior painting under his or her belt. A home painter who works inside and out, can be just as professional.

Even when you hire a licensed professional, however, you should still play a role in choosing the colors and making sure the job gets done right.

The Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute and Jackie Craven, About.com’s resident architect, offer these tips for a solid house painting job.

• Choose the right paint. Oil-based paint is best on old oil-based paint, chalky surfaces or for painting when it’s below 50 degrees F. Otherwise, acrylic latex is suitable. Don’t’ forget the sheen — glossy, semi-gloss or flat. Glossy paints are more likely to show imperfections, brush strokes and touch ups, but the surfaces are easier to clean. Many homeowners use flat paint for walls and semi-gloss or glossy paint for columns, railings and window sashes.

• Choose the color scheme. Many homes are painted in three colors or shades of the same color, one for the siding or walls, another for the eaves, moldings and trim, and a third for doors, railings, and window sashes.

However, when you consider the architecture you may need a bigger palette. While Georgian or Colonial styles are better suited for two or three colors some grand Victorians can live with as many as five to six color schemes.

A historic property or a property in a homeowner association community could restrict what colors you can choose. Be sure to check for zoning and historic guidelines as well as association rules.

Likewise, consider your surroundings. You don’t want the same colors as the house next door, but you also don’t want your home to clash with it.

Your home’s materials may also dictate the colors you choose. Wood, brick, masonry or aluminum siding can be painted virtually any color. Vinyl siding, however, is best painted a similar hue, unless you choose a color in a newer paint formulated for vinyl.

Finally, consider how the colors you choose will mesh — or not — with other colors on or near your home that won’t be painted including the roof, wood, masonry, or stone components and other elements.

• Consider color characteristics.
Light colors make your house appear larger. Dark siding or dark bands of trim will “shrink” your home and draw more attention to details.

Fading is more obvious with intense colors. After a few years hot reds and vivid blues become more subdued. Dark colors will require extra maintenance and touch up work. They also absorb heat and suffer more moisture problems than lighter shades.

Don’t be deceived by color swatches which look different in the store than in natural sunlight. Colors also appear lighter on large surfaces than on small samples. Test selected colors in an area before committing to gallons of paint.

• Prepare the surface. The primary reason for a bad paint job is a surface that wasn’t properly prepared properly. You and your professional should make sure the paint surface is dry, free of grease, oils, flaking and loose paint so your primer and paint can bond with it. You wouldn’t build a house on a bad foundation. Don’t give a paint job a poorly prepared surface.

• Prepare the area.
Protect landscaping, air conditioning units, BBQ grills and the like. Turn off power to the air conditioner’s condenser unit and any outdoor appliances. Use canvas, rather than plastic drop cloths. Plantings will swelter under plastic. Cover and pull bushes and other vegetation away from the house as much as possible so it doesn’t interfere with painting. Remove everything you can that is affixed to the home, door knockers, light fixtures, mailboxes, address numbers, window planters, etc. Mask items you can’t remove.

For additional pointers, watch the video “How to Choose Exterior Paint Colors.”

Also consider architectural design software to help you visualize colors on your home. Google’s SketchUp, by the way, is free.

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