How to Have a House

Living with and understanding a home.

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Spring will be here soon. Paint your house!



A lot of people are thinking about painting the exterior of their houses.  It’s that time of the year.  Winter is the kind of thing that drives people so crazy they actually think it would be fun to be outdoors, in the warm weather, in the sunshine-painting their house.  I feel the same way.  Until I move to the Florida Keys I’ll be doing something ridiculous outside every spring.  Since I already painted my house several years ago I rototill my garden.  
Painting the exterior of your own house is practically Americana.  In my view, not enough people do this themselves.  It’s hard work. It takes a lot of climbing if the house is taller than one story.  Sometimes there are wood repairs needed.  Wasp nests, spiders and all other sort of vermin show up too.  Preparing the house takes a lot of work especially if it is old.  I could talk almost anyone out of painting their own house-but that’s not what I’m here for.
If you’re going to paint your own house this year, get started now.  Go to the paint store. Get your colors figured out. I recommend buying a color wheel from an art store, put it to work, it will get you in the ball park color wise.  Check with your city and neighborhood association for color definitions, outside of that, have fun.  Pick colors YOU like.  Look up houses similar to yours and see what other people are doing with them.  There’s about 6 million other colors than beige.  I’ve advised customers a hundred times, unless you’re  moving out in the next 3 to 5 years, paint the house the colors you like. Don’t worry about the marketplace.   Walk around the outside of your house, look for obvious signs of needed wood repairs, poke wood trim with a wooden pencil, if the trim is soft is needs to be replaced.  If you have the interest and tools you can do a lot of this. If not, get a carpenter lined up now, they’ll be getting busy when the weather warms up. Look for bird nests on gutter downspouts, eaves and in the attic vents. If you have bird nests clean them out and make arrangements for the birds to stay away while the house is being painted. No one likes evicting baby birds come spring. I’ve turned down work because birds were already raising chicks.  
Once your ready to get started the first thing to do is test your house for lead paint.  If it is older than 1970 or so, there is a chance it has lead paint.  If it is older than 1940 it will be surprising if it does not have lead paint.  Whether you paint the house or have it painted you need to know the lead status.  Lead is poison.  You’ll want to go to the EPA web sight and get informed on lead precautions.  If you hire a painter they are required by law to operate a paint job in compliance with EPA lead standards. Do not blow this off. You, your yard, the dogs and the landscape will not benefit from a load of lead paint chips and dust being spread all over the place.  
When you’re ready to paint your house go to Youtube and look up house preparation and painting videos.  As I’ve said before, there’s a lot of ways to skin a cat, pick the method that makes sense to you.  Which ever method you choose the basic principles go like this.  Prepare the landscape and surround for lead if it is present.  Make sure you pets, kids and the neighbors pets and kids are kept away while the job is going on. Kids and pets have a habit of spilling paint then tracking it all over the place.  Get the house clean, scrub it using house wash, or use a light duty power washer. DO NOT over-power wash your house.  Just get it clean. Do not strip paint with a power washer unless your house is concrete or stucco.  Power washers ruin wood if over-used.  Once the house is clean sand the open wood and feather the edges of the remaining paint.  If you really want an amazing finish you can heat strip or chemical strip the paint.  Once you’ve got things cleaned and sanded, oil prime the open wood and add two coats of premium color coat.  Remember house paint is like haircuts and tires. You get what you pay for.  Cheap house paint fades quickly, and comes off too soon.  Buy good house paint.  I am not a fan of the self priming, “one coat” products. While they are popular with spray applications I prefer a two coat roller and brush application.  I believe the paint is worked into the trim and siding better.   
While you’re doing this work make sure you use personal safety protection.  Eye protection is a must with a power washers, sanders and frankly, a can of paint.  Always wear a good dust mask or respirator when sanding. And, if you have lead paint, follow the EPA guidelines.  This is no joke. You don’t want to come in the house covered in lead dust and handle food or your kids.  Keep things clean and tidy. Brushes last longer and provide better results when cared for.  Paint chips will stick to concrete like tape and be impossible to remove if walked on.  Keep a good shop vac going and clean, clean, clean as you go. 
Take your time.  When we painted our house we worked on the weekends.  We started in the fall and finished the next spring.  We painted all the sashes and sash edges.  We have a premium paint job that will last for years.  When we painted one of my teenage kids turned out to be a natural.  He painted a lot of the house and seemed right at home on a small scaffold listening to his iPod and working away.  He was proud of his work and told his friends about the job. I’m amazed sometimes at what teenagers show up and do. My son still talks about “painting the house with dad”. Funny enough I’ll never forget roofing my dad’s house with him one summer.  Americana. 
If you decide to hire a painter get references.  Go see your friend’s houses who love their painters.  Look closely.  If the house was sprayed check things like the chimney and other non painted surfaces.  Look for over spray and sloppy cut in lines, you don’t want this on your house.  You want the outside of your house painted nicely just like the inside.  
If you have the interest, paint your house this year.  Most do-it-yourself projects are done with excellent results.  An exterior house paint job that is done carefully and with good materials will last years and provide a sense of pride.  Spring is on it’s way. Do this!