How to Paint the Exterior of a House

A new coat of paint rejuvenates your home and increases its curb appeal, and if you tackle the project yourself, you’ll save a lot of money. It’s a big job, though -- one that can eat up a month’s worth of weekends. Use the right techniques and materials so you don’t end up doing it again in a couple of years.

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The Right Paint

You’ll pay more for premium paint, but it’s worth it. Most of today’s high-performance exterior paints and primers are acrylic or an acrylic-latex blend, “acrylic” being the key word because it resists weathering better than vinyl blends. Look for exterior paint that has a 100 percent acrylic binder.

Exterior acrylic paint is also suitable for brick and block homes, but if your home has stucco siding – ask for elastomeric paint, which remains slightly flexible to resist cracking.


    •  Ask the paint store to tint the primer the same shade as the paint for the best coverage.
    • Use
      an alkaline-resistant primer on bare masonry that has aged less than one

Prepping: The Key to a Great Paint Job

Preparation plays a major role in a professional-looking paint job. If you paint over loose paint, dust or grime, the new paint, no matter how good it is, won’t adhere correctly.

  1. You'll need to pressure-wash the siding twice to remove flaking
    paint and built-up dirt. A quick first washing will soak and loosen the dirt.  Wait a few minutes, then wash again, starting
    at the top of the siding and working your way down.
  2. Scrape or brush away all remaining loose paint that the pressure washer didn’t remove. If white efflorescence is present on masonry siding, remove it with a wire brush, but take care not to damage the masonry.
  3. Repair
    rotted siding planks, repoint crumbling or missing mortar, and fill cracks and
    seams with caulking.
  4. Remove exterior lights and outlet covers or tape
    them off. Professional painters don’t tape off window and door trim, but if you
    don’t trust yourself to cut in smoothly along the edges, taping them off is a
    good idea.


  • For mold or mildew, scrub affected areas with a mildewcide liquid before power-washing.

Priming and Painting

On a calm day, when the temperature is 60 to 85 degrees and the siding is dry, it’s time to prime and paint. Brushing is the slowest method for painting an entire house, but it offers good results. Cut in along edges and trim first, and then paint the rest of the siding, starting at the top and keeping a wet edge.

Rolling and spraying speed up the process, but in addition to cutting in the edges with a brush, you’ll have to back-brush plank and lap siding while the paint is wet for good seam coverage. It’s not necessary to back-brush stucco, brick or block.


  • To cover imperfections in the siding, choose paint with a matte finish.


  • Don’t paint on a hot, windy day. Wind and high temperatures cause the paint to dry before it has a chance to bond correctly. If the wind comes up unexpectedly and you can’t stop painting, add a painting extender to the paint to keep it from drying out too quickly.

Safety First

Use a sturdy ladder to paint one-story walls. To reach a second story, rent scaffolding. Don’t try to paint from a long extension ladder. Dropcloths should be canvas -- not plastic, which tends to slip underfoot.

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