To get a paint job that lasts, prep properly first

Follow these expert tips to get a paint job that weathers the elements

Published: July 18, 2014 02:15 PM

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It’s fine to be house proud, and nothing shows it better than a couple of coats of fresh paint. But even the toughest exterior paint will probably fail before its time if it’s improperly applied or the surface isn't prepped properly. Here’s some tips on how to prep before you paint from the experts at Consumer Reports as well as some paints that made our list of top paint picks. Before you paint:

Protect the perimeter of your house. Tie back shrubs and tree limbs. Cover plantings, air conditioners, and exhaust vents with drop cloths.

Scrub and wash. Dirt, mildew, and chalky old paint will prevent fresh paint and stain from adhering properly. Scrub the surface with a wire brush or rent a power washer, and use a detergent such as Red Devil TSP Free to eliminate dirt. Use a chlorine bleach solution or a commercial cleaner for mildew. Be sure to give the siding several days or longer to dry thoroughly.

Caulk and prime. Scrape away dried and cracked caulk around windows, doors, and trim. Apply fresh acrylic caulk where needed. Prime any bare wood exposed during scrubbing and scraping, using the primer recommended by the paint manufacturer.

Scrape and sand. Using a hand scraper, power sander, or power washer, remove all traces of peeling and cracked paint. Scrape out rotted areas, fill with a wood filler, and then sand smooth to hide the patch.

Replace cracked or rotted boards. Simply filling and repairing cracked or split boards will still allow water to get in.

Paint a test patch. Create a sample board with each color you’re considering to see how each one looks before you paint.

Check the forecast. Many paints applied in cold weather might not dry properly, resulting in poor adhesion. Daytime temperatures between 60° F and 85° F and little or no wind are best. Try not to paint in direct sunlight. Never paint in the rain; postpone the job if necessary

Consider the surface. Materials other than wood might require other procedures. Stucco and masonry, for example, might need sealing first.

Valspar DuraMax Semi-Gloss

The best paints from our tests
Like interior paints, exterior paints come in a variety of finishes, with different properties. For best results, choose the right gloss level:

Eggshell and satin finishes have a slight gloss and can work well on siding, especially if the material is new and smooth. Our top three satin/eggshell paints are:

Flat finishes reduce reflections and hide imperfections. They look best on siding that’s older and more weather-worn. Our top three flat paints are:

Semi-gloss and gloss finishes, most often used for trim, highlight the details of woodwork. They're easy to clean. Pair them with flat, eggshell, or satin-coated siding for a strong visual contrast. Our top three semi-gloss paints are:

For more choices see our full exterior paint Ratings and recommendations and find out the best places to buy the best paints.

—Adapted from Your New Home, published by Consumer Reports

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