Avoid Frustrating Exterior Paint Problems

Identify Reason For Failure

Many homeowners are faced with the common problem of paint failure on their older home. Help with painting issues is one of the services most requested of the Cleveland Restoration Society’s technical staff. Paint can fail for a variety of reasons and sometimes seems to fail without any reason at all! The first step in addressing a paint problem is to pinpoint the underlying reason for the failure. Here are some types of failures, their typical causes, and solutions:

Cracking & flaking - Older, brittle paint with many layers. Solution: Removal of the failing paint down to bare wood or a sound surface.

Alligatoring - Age; It is a sign of old thick paint that has lost its flexibility. Solution: Same as above.

Blistering or Wrinkling - Painting in inadequate conditions such as intense sun or moisture. Solution: Remove the failing  paint & avoid inadequate conditions.

Peeling - Excessive moisture or applying paint to wood that has not been primed. Solution: Same as above

Required Prep For Exterior Painting

Once you have diagnosed the type of paint failure and the reason for its failure you can begin to correct it. Whether you are performing the work yourself or hiring a contractor, there are some important steps that should be taken to ensure a good paint application.  

1. Remove loose or failing paint.

New paint won’t stay on a house when it is put over top failing old paint. Use a sharp scraping tool and remove any failing paint until you have reached a sound surface – either previously applied paint or bare wood. There shouldn’t be any paint popping off or flaking away from the surface. Take care not to scratch or gouge the wood when scraping.

2. Sand to feather edges.

Sanding is important for several reasons: 1) it will help to remove any additional residues or impurities that may undermine the new paint; 2) it will ensure good adhesion of the new paint by lightly scuffing the surface; and 3) it will help to feather and soften the edges of any scraped areas, improving the look of the new coat of paint. Be sure not to use a grit that is too abrasive, as this could create grooves or scratches.

3. Clean off the dirt and dust.

You will want to be sure to clean away all dirt and debris from the prepping process before applying paint. Wiping down the area with a tacky cloth or even vacuuming dust and dirt will help to prepare the surface for the new paint.

4. Prime all bare wood.

Priming bare wood is essential when applying new paint. New paint should not be applied to bare wood without applying an oil or water based primer first. Primer will help to neutralize any unknowns on the surface while also assisting with proper adhesion. Primer also helps to provide an even undercoat so that the top coat covers consistently. Now you are ready to apply your finish top coat!

It is important when hiring a contractor or purchasing a paint product that you understand the warranty that is being provided to you. It is typical for a contractor to provide a year-long warranty for new paint applications in the event that you should have unexpected paint failure in the first twelve months. Paint companies now provide five-year, ten-year, and even lifetime warranties. Be sure that you read the fine print and understand that the companies are only guaranteeing the paint, not the surface that they are applied to or the way that they may be applied by a contractor. With that many variables, take a paint product warranty with a grain of salt.

Exterior painting is more than just a cosmetic issue. Keeping surfaces well painted is one of the best ways to ensure against rot and deterioration. Check painted surfaces once or twice a year, and when painting is needed, don’t wait too long before you start the process. The longer the paint deteriorates, the better the chance for damage to occur. If you need to find a contractor, start early in the season, as contractors usually get busy by

early summer. Also keep in mind that the cheapest painting bid is not always the best. The only way to scale down the cost of the bid is by eliminating labor and prep work, which are the keys to a long lasting paint job.

A paint job that is prepped correctly and uses quality products is one of the best ways to highlight the great architectural beauty of an older house, and should last for years to come.

Some Cautions:

DO NOT use any type of sandblasting. This is extremely harmful to any surface whether it be wood, stone, or masonry. Blasting with sand, corn cobs, almond shells, or any other kind of aggressive abrasive causes irreversible damage to the surface and leaves it more susceptible to moisture and deterioration.

DO NOT paint bare wood without priming first.

DO NOT paint without thorough surface preparation.

DO NOT paint masonry or stone. Masonry and stone are porous breathable materials that need to release moisture and natural contents. If they are painted, the paint prevents this natural process from occurring. Over time the stone or masonry will win out, getting rid of the moisture and minerals somehow - often by forcing the paint off of the surface. When you paint masonry or stone you not only inhibit the health of the stone, but also create a maintenance situation that is doomed to failure.

CRS will be presenting two of their workshops at the Lakewood Old House Fair on Saturday, April 16. The Old House Fair will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Harding Middle School and admission is free. Presentations will begin at 1:30pm and will be on “Painting Your Old House” and “Choosing Colors for Your Old House”.

Sara provides preservation consulting services, outreach and support for the Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS) and oversees the CRS Heritage Home Program that the City of Lakewood participates in. This program provides free technical consulting to all residents that have properties 50 years old or older. CRS also holds regular educational workshops at the Lakewood Public Library about common issues important to older homes. The Cleveland Restoration Society’s program staff is able to discuss any improvements you are considering for your home. Call 216-426-1000 for additional information on our low interest loan product and free technical assistance.

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Volume 7, Issue 6, Posted 2:15 PM, 03.22.2011