An expertly painted exterior is critical to a home’s appeal. But there are some important factors to consider when deciding on how to upgrade your home exterior.
By Susan Hollis // Spruce Magazine
At some point, most owners will face the necessary task of painting the exterior of their house. It is an expensive endeavour and can be arduous to tackle oneself — even with endless buckets of enthusiasm and elbow grease.
The result of a job well-done, however, can have a positive impact on the integrity of your home, as well as on your bottom line. According to Consumer Reports, a freshly painted exterior can increase your home’s value up to five per cent — all the while acting as a shield against the elements. Plus, there’s the personal satisfaction of coming home to a place that looks and feels cared for — it may be hard to quantify those warm and fuzzies, but they are there and very real.
Prep It Right
Do-it-yourselfers eager to save on costs when they upgrade the exterior will often rely on a power washer to clean their home’s exterior before painting. While a clean finish is key to a long-lasting paint job, experts warn that the powerful spray can push water deep into crevasses that don’t quickly dry out, which can compromise any subsequent paint application.
“It’s very important for the house to be clean, and that means power washing; or you could do a less aggressive wash with a hose and a stiff brush — you need to get the dust and cobwebs and algae and mildew cleaned off before you paint,” says Terri Heal, manager of the Pacific Paint Centre on Keating Cross Road.
“A normal rainfall would never push water as deep as a power washer, so you have to let the water get out, because if there is moisture trapped under the surface and then you paint it, then it sits in the sun and it gets all steamy. It messes everything up. Your paint ends up forming bubbles and blisters.”
As a properly prepped and painted exterior can last more than a decade, most exterior painting companies offer some kind of inclusionary prep service; either in-house or through partner contractors who can handle the cleaning, plus the carpentry for dry rot, stucco patching, shingle replacement and other imperfections that occur in siding.
David Smith of Kingfisher Painting, says when it comes to exterior paint projects, prospective customers should start planning in the winter for a late spring or summer job. Checking references and getting a number of detailed quotes — detailed enough to allow owners to cross-check that all the prep and painting details are included in the final numbers — will ensure the project is done right.
As the process of cleaning, prepping and painting a house can be extremely messy, any painting company worth its salt will carefully drape any shrubbery, grass, and garden beds that could be damaged by falling paint or debris. Plants that grow too close to the house can erode paint over time, so it’s important to clip any branches that may brush up against the siding and create wear and tear through the storm season.
“When winter comes along, a twig can scratch the hell out of your paint,” says Heal.
Exposed to the Elements
Even with an expert job, expect aspects of your paint job to age differently, depending on its exposure to the elements.
“The outdoors and nature is a laboratory that we don’t control — the factors and all the variables that can occur when paint is applied in terms of temperature and moisture can affect the life of the paint,” Smith says. “On the sides where you’re not getting the sun beating down, you can see 10 to 20 years on those sides, easily. On the sides that are getting a lot of weather, you could see deterioration as soon as three or five years.”
Accordingly, warranties vary from company to company, averaging from three to 10 years, but expect horizontal surface areas like stairs, windowsills and railings to degrade more rapidly than vertical surfaces, no matter how well done. In Victoria, south- and west-facing exposed surfaces will show more wear and tear than those facing north and east, due to increased sun and rain exposure.
Finding the Perfect Finish
The esthetic movement toward natural finishes means there has been an uptick in semi-transparent exterior stains in recent years. While the application of these stains can bring out a range of appealing qualities in a wood siding, it also means more work.
“They need to be maintained regularly … like a two or three year cycle at the most,” says Smith. “It’s not a lot of maintenance; you don’t have to do much to them, but if you just leave it they will deteriorate, and then you have a big project versus just staying on top of it.”
Smith says while most clients have a good idea of what colour they’d like to give their homes to upgrade the exterior, some have a hard time expressing exactly what they’re looking for. One former customer in search of the perfect colour repeatedly turned down every brick-like colour Smith showed her.
“Then one day I went over there and she had a colour chip out, and she had some rose-coloured glasses and she told me to look at the colour chip through the rose-coloured glasses,” he says with a laugh. “The colour she ended up going with was basically orange.”
When deciding on a colour to upgrade the exterior, experts agree that going a shade deeper can help reach a suitable finish. Critical to getting your exterior colours right is coordinating with the home’s assets that won’t be painted — namely, the shades found in roof, stone and brick components.
“Outside, things tend to go paler than you expect, so you need to go a little darker or a little grayer than you think you might need,” says Heal. “One of the best analogies I can come up with is how stage actors have to wear dark makeup to show up under the stage lights, so even on a cloudy day it’s really bright … So what you think is a medium-toned colour is quite weak as soon as you put daylight on it.”
As noted, the benefits of a paint job go much deeper than the pleasing esthetics of that fresh colour — exterior paint is an investment that ups your home’s value and protects it from the elements. Consider the pleasing esthetic a bonus.
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