House painting is hard work. Properly prepping your home helps to ensure an exterior paint job that will last.

So you’re ready to select your exterior paint colors and update your home’s look with a fresh paint job. Just stop at the hardware store, buy some rollers and brushes and start painting, right?

Well … not if you want to maximize efficiency, minimize frustration and stretch the longevity of the work as far as possible.

There’s more to exterior painting than coming up with paint color schemes. Nearly half of the house painting process is preparation. Before you open that paint can, follow these steps to guarantee your exterior paint will look great and be sure to last.

1) Before house painting, wash the exterior. Before you tackle painting your home, be sure to wash your house exterior from top to bottom, all around. Renting a pressure-washer is affordable for even the budget-minded and will save untold hours of time and effort compared to hand washing. Straight water is good enough to get the job done. Cleaning additives should only be used in cases of mold and other severe stains. A thorough washing means a clean surface, maximizing the adhesion of the new paint to your home. Let your home dry for at least a day before moving on to Step 2.

2) Scrape and let dry before you think about exterior paint. After the house has thoroughly dried, scrape away any flaking paint. A standard paint scraper, a little elbow grease and a lot of patience are all it takes. We can’t stress how important it is to give your home at least 24 hours to dry before tackling this step. Scraping the house while it’s still wet will only result in more flaking paint once it dries.

3) Apply caulk before you tackle exterior home painting. Caulk any cracked seams between clapboards or along vertical junctions. Fill voids and cracks with caulk until it overflows, then wipe away the excess with a damp rag or towel. Be careful not to caulk gaps between structures that are supposed to be there for ventilation purposes — for instance, between the edge of a soffit and a gutter.

4) Make repairs … then consider your exterior paint colors. Repair any damaged or rotted areas first. In extreme instances, this may require the assistance of a carpenter or handyman. Don’t get in over your head with jobs that call for replacement of clapboard, stairs or overhangs.

5) Apply primer first when house painting. Prime any bare or exposed areas on your home’s exterior with an exterior-grade oil-based primer. This will seal the bare wood and create an air- and moisture-tight barrier between the house and your new paint job. A light sanding by hand, or with a palm sander for especially rough bare spots, is highly recommended prior to priming.

6) Trim nearby plants and trees before applying exterior paint colors. Landscape and trim any trees, bushes or plants in close contact to your home. This will guarantee enough space for you to work around the house without having to fight branches and thorns, and also will prevent foliage and plant life from hitting the wet paint once it’s applied. Any home improvement is an investment, and this is especially true of exterior painting. It’s always better to invest the time to do the job right, putting in all of the necessary prep to ensure quality home painting. A well-prepped job is certain to look better and last longer than a rushed one.

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