How do I examine my exterior walls for peeling paint and fix it?

Each summer your to-do list seems to grow: refinish the floors, improve the patio area and don't forget...

Each summer your to-do list seems to grow: refinish the floors, improve the patio area and don't forget to check the paint job on the house. Unfortunately, wind, rain, snow and heat are tough on exterior walls, making paint peel and crack. Is it time to touch up the paint job on your Georgia home?

Step 1: Visual inspection

Older homes with painted siding or wood exteriors can use a good touch-up every few years. Head outside and stand back from the home. Look at all painted surfaces, paying close attention to areas hidden by soffits, shutters and a sloping roof.

Now, get up close and examine the walls hidden by landscaping. Overgrown bushes and trees can obscure a paint job in dire need of a little TLC. Finally, give exterior buildings an inspection. This includes garages, tool sheds, garden houses and barns. Remember, they need just as much protection from the humid Southern summers as your home.

Step 2: Paint removal

Once all areas of peeling paint have been discovered, it's time to get to work. The first step is to remove as much loose paint as possible. Since this is a manual job, consider using the following:

  • A wire brush
  • A plastic paint scraper
  • 100-grit sandpaper
  • A putty knife

Gently scrape flaking, bubbling, cracking or peeling areas of paint. Continue to remove paint from the damaged areas until the remaining paint appears smooth. Yes, the areas of peeling paint will appear larger than when you started. But this reduces chances for more peeling paint in the same areas in the near future.

Step 3: Power washing the walls

Scraping away loose paint can leave the exterior of your home littered with loose flakes of paint and a fine dust. Use a power-washing attachment on a garden hose to rinse away any loose debris. Use a gentle sweeping motion. This step will also clean the bare areas of the exterior walls, making it easier for the new paint to adhere to a clean surface.

Now, let the walls dry. Vinyl or steel siding will dry quicker than wood exteriors. Before starting to patch the paint, make sure the walls are dry to the touch. This may take several hours if you have a wood exterior.

Step 4: Patching the paint

As a home ages, the exterior color begins to fade. Instead of using a gallon of exterior paint that you reserved from the last professional house painting, you may want to have your current home color matched by a professional paint mixing service.

For example, what was once white may now have a hint of gray or yellow. This will make the patched areas blend more easily with the existing paint on the home. Simply take a small piece of the peeling paint to the paint store for a perfect color match. Ask for a latex paint-primer mix to keep this DIY task simple.

Prep for painting

  • Using painter's tape, mask all windows, vent openings or areas where two paint colors or exterior surface types meet. Just like interior painting, this will keep your paint neat and where it needs to go.
  • Lay a drop cloth on the ground under the area where you'll be painting. Cover flowers and bushes with tarps to avoid paint splatters.
  • Use latex caulk to fill in any newfound holes or recessed nail heads. After the caulk dries, use sandpaper to smooth the area until it's level with the surrounding wall.
  • Estimate one gallon of paint for 200 to 400 square feet of surface area. Smooth exterior surfaces, such as vinyl or aluminum siding, take less paint than absorbent stucco, cedar shake or wood siding.

Applying paint

  • Start at the top of the home, repairing patches near the roof. This way you can fix drips as you work your way toward the ground.
  • Leave the rollers for interior painting. Outside, opt for a small 3-inch or 2-inch siding brush. This will give you more control since you're only painting small sections.
  • Use a small hand-held paint cup if you're working from a ladder. This is much easier than balancing a paint tray. Plus a half-filled cup can loop over a work belt, keeping your hands free while you climb the ladder.

Step 5: Painting the house

Sometimes DIY projects become a little too much to handle. Did your visual inspection reveal peeling paint on nearly every wall of the home? Is more paint peeling than staying in place? Although this type of damage can be repaired, it requires a full house scraping before starting to paint.

If you're not up to this labor intensive task, hire professional painters. They can use power washers to fully strip the home to its bare exterior covering before giving the house a completely new paint job. Plus, this is your chance to try out a new home color or match your exterior paint with those new windows or freshly painted garage.

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