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Home decor: Exterior painting dos and don'ts

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Outdoor Living

Home decor: Exterior painting dos and don'ts

Painting the outside of your house can yield "wow" results like nothing else. It can make a faded house look fresh again, and transform a mousey one into a showstopper. A good paint job can last from three to six years, and is well worth the effort. Here are some dos and don'ts for getting started.

DO hire a pro (unless you're a truly obsessive DIYer)
Painting a house involves hard physical labour. Besides prepping it properly (see below), you'll be climbing ladders, getting spattered with paint, and working all day in warm weather. Unless you're willing to put that kind of sweat equity into your home without cutting corners, you're better off hiring a pro.

DON'T cut corners on the prep work
A professional looking paint job takes diligent preparation. Protect flowerbeds, bushes, decks, and paved areas with drop cloths. Scrape off blistered or cracking paint, sand the exterior surface so primer or paint can adhere properly. Wash the surfaces to remove dust. Whew! Now you're ready to apply primer, which is essential for even coverage on bare wood, repainting over bright or dark colours, or applying latex over existing oil paint.

DO use the right paint formula
Latex is a smart choice because it resists UV-fading better than alkyd, and is less likely to crack or peel. An added benefit is that water-based latex dries faster than oil-based alkyd, and clean up's a lot easier – just soap and water (versus solvent, in the case of alkyd).

DO check the weather report.
Avoid painting on rainy, overly windy or humid days, as these can detrimentally affect the finish. For best results, paint on days with temperatures in the 10-to-30-degree Celsius range. Don't paint in direct sun.

DON'T scrimp
Choose "premium" paints, not paints marked "economy," "contractor" or "value" grade. And don't buy just one vat of paint to take advantage of the volume discount. Select a semi-gloss for most of the exterior (unless you're painting siding, in which case lower-lustre eggshell is better), and easier-to-clean high-gloss for trim, doors and shutters. You'll need a special porch and floor paint for the porch and any wooden front steps.

DO ensure you've got the right tools and equipment
A good-quality synthetic brush is essential for latex, and you'll use it on trim, shutters and other areas needing "cutting in" pre-roller. Use the right width roller for your wall, as well as the right thickness and density of nap on the roller insert; check the packaging or ask a paint store clerk about what's best for your exterior surface. Don't rent or buy a sprayer unless you're a seasoned paint pro; they can be hard to handle. Make sure to have plenty of absorbent rags, a hat and or eye protection, drop cloths, and a step- or extension ladder in the right height. (See the website of soon-to-be-open-in-Canada DIY superchain Lowes for info on finding the right ladder for your needs, lowes.com )

DON'T go Technicolor on a sleepy suburban street
Far be it for us to tell you what colour to paint your home's exterior. But if you live on a quiet street where the houses follow much the same overarching aesthetic and palette, your neighbours probably won't appreciate a wildly coloured exterior palette.

DO exercise creativity with the front door (and shutters and porch gable)
That said, feel free to express your passion for colour on smaller sections of your home, where they're likely to make a stylin' impact. (TREND TIP: A high-gloss red door channels both "hot" and "classic" at the same time and gives any home designer caché. Purple-inflected lavender is another bold colour that can be used in small doses to great effect, especially if you match it with a yummy raspberry-red door.)

DON'T get lazy
Once you're painting, work in small areas but use long, even strokes to avoid a patchy paint job. Move your ladder frequently instead of over-reaching, which, besides being dangerous, also can result in a streaky finish.

DO maintain the look
Seasonal washing will keep your paint looking its best.

DON'T pollute
Dispose of old paint per your municipal waste disposal instructions.


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Home decor: Exterior painting dos and don'ts