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Exterior Painting and Staining

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Though not an essential component to the structural integrity of your home, your siding does have a very important, functional role. It is what protects the structural pieces and the interior from the elements like rain, wind, and other hazards. Keeping this in mind, painting or staining your home is more than just an aesthetic concern (though that is no doubt a part of it). Read this guide to learn the advantages and disadvantages of these two methods, and get some tips for getting the job done right.

Preliminary Concerns: Paint or Stain?

Whether you're painting or staining, you need to buy a product that is going to give your siding adequate protection. There are outdoor paints and stains that are specifically designed to keep water out of the wood and to last long against the elements. Whichever method you choose, ask someone at your local home improvement store to recommend the right kind of product. And don't skimp; low-quality paints and stains will only cause you headaches in the long run, and you'll only have to pay more money when you're fixing peeled or worn areas on your home.

Whether you choose to paint or stain will depend on a few factors. Some houses lend themselves to one or the other because of their style. Stains are traditionally seen as more "rustic," fit for cabins, A-frames, and houses in woodsy or beach areas. Paint, on the other hand, looks good on Victorian- and colonial-style homes. It really, in the end, is up to you.

Staining has the advantage of not requiring any primer (which, if it is the first time you are painting your house, you'll probably need). It penetrates the wood and can protect it longer than paint can in many cases. There are water- and oil-based stains. The latter is more expensive and difficult to use, but is likely to last longer. You'll also have your choice of glossy or non-glossy finishes. Glossy finishes provide more thorough protection but need to be scraped if you are going to re-stain down the road (which you will need to at some point).

Paint gives you the issue of peeling to contend with. While there are many outdoor paints that are resistant to it, there is really no way around your paint peeling at some point. Painting is also a more nuanced process, with drips and brushstrokes to think about. However, you can get the color or colors you want and give your house a distinctive look with paint.


Painting or staining your whole house is going to be quite an undertaking: you'll want to make sure you do things right the first time.
  • Check the label on the product you are using for optimal temperatures to paint or stain. You don't want it to be too hot out or too windy; paint should dry slowly, if possible.

  • Make sure to cover anything that you don't want the paint to drip on (e.g., shrubs, gardens, furniture, or walkways).

  • Scrape off all old paint if you are going to stain, and scrape and sand any loose paint if you are painting fresh over it.

  • Use plastic sheeting and masking tape to keep from painting roofing or other areas that you don't want to get paint on (for instance, if you are painting the siding and the trim different colors).

  • Wash the outside of your house before you paint it. Painting over dirt or other substances will cause peeling and compromise the color.

  • Depending on the type of paint or stain you are using, you may need mineral spirits or paint thinner to clean your brushes. Others will come off with soap and water. Ask someone at your home improvement store what you'll need when you buy the paint.
Adding a new coat of paint or a stain to the exterior of your home will do a lot for its curb appeal and do a lot for the integrity of your siding. Remember, before you undertake a project like this, make sure you have the time and physical fitness to handle it. Otherwise, just have professionals do it. That's what they're for!

Adam Mandelbaum  Posted by Adam Mandelbaum on January 7, 2013

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