Project Book: Painting Your Home’s Exterior Part 3: Priming and Caulking
In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we covered how to wash your house’s exterior and how to do the prep work necessary to have a long-lasting, high-quality paint job. In this step, we get to do some actual painting! We’re not QUITE at the stage where you can apply the finish coat, but by priming and caulking your house’s exterior, you’re taking the final step to set the stage for your grand finale.
This project requires the use of extension ladders. If you are comfortable with working on ladders, be sure to practice safety. Always have your ladder at the proper angle and firmly footed. (For a full rundown of more ladder-use safety tips, click here).
If you don’t own any ladders suitable for the job, be sure to check with Koopman Rental. We have a variety of extension ladders and powered lift options available.
If you’re thrifty, you might think you can get away with using that old can of leftover paint you’ve had sitting around as a primer. But primer is different than finish coat paint. It is formulated to soak in, adhere and seal. So using that old can of paint you already paid for instead of buying primer would be penny wise and pound foolish.
You can simplify priming some if you do not have large areas that are bare. You can spot prime only the places that have bare sections, stains, knots or nail heads. Use a pigmented shellac to prevent unsightly bleed-through.
However, for the highest quality and longest-lasting job we recommend a complete application of primer before finish-coating. You can use a standard oil-based primer on the areas that do not have bare spots or stains. Spot priming may cause an uneven porosity due to the difference in the seal.
Tip: Adding pigment to primer to get it closer to the topcoat color is a great way to improve the overall quality of your paint job. This is especially helpful when your topcoat is a darker color. You may be able to cover any primed areas and the old paint surface with one finish coat.
If you have areas that where the paint is severely cracking but not actually peeling, consider applying a coat of Peel Stop. It is a clear primer that designed to form a flexible barrier over cracking paint and prevent it from cracking through a fresh top coat.
Always try to avoid priming (or doing any painting for that matter) in direct sunlight. The extra heat can dry the primer too quickly and prevent adequate penetration. It can also cause oil paints to develop blisters that will ruin the skin of the finish coat of paint. Also, keep in mind that oil primer is prone to flicking drops around. You’ll want to set up drop clothes and also keep a thinner dampened wiping rag with you to quickly clean any spills.
Only primer when the temperature is between 50-degrees and 90-degrees Fahrenheit. Do not apply the paint if the air temperature or the surface to be painted is below the recommended minimum on your primer’s labeling, or is predicted to drop below the minimum for the next 36 hours.
To keep out moisture and hide unsightly dark lines, apply caulking to all the seams and cracks on your house’s exterior after the surface has been primed. It’s important to prime first, then applying caulking because caulk sticks best to primed surfaces.
Caulking should fill the gaps and cracks around window and door frames, next to corner boards and trim boards and anywhere else where the original caulking shrunk or failed. High-quality Acrylic and Siliconized Acrylic exterior caulking are the best options for the job. These caulks are paintable, long-lasting, and easy to clean up.
WARNING: Clapboard siding naturally has gaps underneath each piece. This allows your house to breath properly and for moist air to be vented in a manner that prevents it from coming straight out through the paint job. NEVER apply caulking to underside of a piece of clapboard siding!
While applying the caulking, wipe any excess out of the gap and shape it with a moist rag. Excess caulking not only looks sloppy, it also increases the possibility of it working loose over time. When the finish coat is applied, no one will be able to tell that the caulking that fills the gap and cracks is there. It will appear as one with the house, creating a powerful sense of solidity and increasing curb appeal.
There’s only one last step before you finally get to apply the top coat of paint! There’s a good chance that some of your corner and trimboards are hiding behind downspouts. The only way to properly paint them is to remove the downspouts.
Unscrew all of the brackets that hold the downspouts in place, beginning with the bottom-most clamps and working up to where the downspout attaches to the gutter. As you remove the screw and brackets, place them in a ziplock bag and label it with the specific section of downspout that it belongs to. Also carefully label each piece of downspout with a piece of blue painter’s tape to identify its location. It might be a few weeks before you put them back up, and it’s easy to forget where they all go!
Set the downspout sections aside to be painted on a rainy day. Reinstalling downspouts with a faded, shabby coat of paint on them onto a house with brand new trim and siding paint is like wearing a dirty, fraying necktie over a crisp new, white dress shirt.
If your shutters are paintable and not factory-finished, also remove those from the house and set them aside for a rainy day.
This is also a good time to remove other miscellaneous items that would otherwise get in the way while you’re painting, such as bird feeders, thermometers, hanging plates, outdoor lighting fixtures and the like.
Priming and caulking for exterior painting can take some serious time. But like any good baker will tell you, the secret to a successful cake is getting the batter right. The frosting will only dress the dessert properly if the cake underneath it is solid and prepared properly. So it is with painting. You can have the highest quality finish coat paint and apply it masterfully, but it will only turn out as well as the surface underneath is prepared.
But have no fear! Koopman can provide you with all of the expertise and tools you’ll need to get your house’s exterior primed (pun intended) for a successful paint job. Stop in and see us! Visit Koopmanlumber.com and find the store nearest you!