How to Paint the Exterior of Your Home (the Easy Way!)
Refresh your home’s exterior for spring with a new paint job. Our step-by-step approach divides the work so you won’t feel overwhelmed.
With the cost to paint a house’s exterior averaging about $2,500 nationally, homeowners longing for a new look may be considering their DIY options.
You don’t need to be particularly handy to make your home’s exterior look like new. All you need is some spare time between now and summer. You can wash your house in a day, prep it in a weekend, and finish giving it a dazzling makeover over the course of a few weeks (and for about one-fifth of the cost to hire pros).
1-day project: Wash your house
If you aren’t already washing your siding once a year, now is the time to start. This will remove any mold and mildew, expose any potential problems and get the surface ready for prep work and painting.
- A pressure washer is the most popular cleaning tool, thanks to its powerful spray — but it’s not a magic wand. In addition to patience, you’ll also need protective eyewear, a couple of five-gallon buckets, a pressure-washing cleaning solution and a stiff brush.
- Soak the surface first to loosen up debris, and then start cleaning with a wide, sweeping motion, from the bottom to the top of each wall.
- To prevent damage, start spraying at a distance of 10 feet and work your way in. Wash windows, garage doors and cracked seals at the lowest setting or by hand.
- If that big, loud pressure washer leaves you feeling a little gun-shy, you can get the same results with a scrub brush, bleach solution and garden hose.
Weekend project: Make repairs
Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned your home’s exterior, use the next weekend to prepare it for a paint job. On Saturday, sand, fill and weatherproof the surfaces. On Sunday, cover any stains with primer.
- Using a sanding block and razor blade, remove any protruding burrs or paint drips. To speed up the job, use a rotary tool or power sander.
- Patch and fill holes with the filler that’s appropriate for your siding. For example, you can use wood filler on wood, but fiber cement siding (sometimes known as Hardie Board) requires cement patch. Sand when dry.
- Replace old caulk with either a small putty knife or painter’s tool. Apply the caulk slowly for a smooth bead, using a damp rag to wipe up the excess. Practice in an inconspicuous area if needed.
- Replace any rotted trim or siding immediately. This will definitely add some time and cost to your project, but it sure beats painting over rotted wood and a colony of termites.
- Spend Sunday applying primer, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Even if you plan on painting with a two-in-one paint that includes primer, old paint jobs and stained areas will still need a layer of primer to help paint adhere. If you run out of prime-time this weekend, finish when you kick off the next project next weekend.
- In the meantime, do some planning. Decide on a paint palette with two or three colors (base, trim and accent) and get ready for the fun part.
Month-long project: Paint!
Once your exterior is washed and prepped, give it a total overhaul with new paint, trim and accents.
Week 1: Upgrade the front door casing
- Once you’ve found the perfect style, take measurements and plan out the placement on paper before purchasing and cutting the lumber.
- If feasible, purchase rot-resistant PVC trim. Pressure-treated wood is cheaper but must be preserved, dried and primed before installation.
- To remove the old casing, cut through the caulk with a utility knife and carefully remove casing with a pry bar.
- Cut the new casing to size, letting it sit flush against the bottom.
Week 2: Paint the siding
- This can be done in the afternoon or evening, so tackle the job in sections. Shake and stir the paint before you begin for even coverage.
- Cover any light fixtures, doorbells, and windows where you intend to paint, and use an angled brush to paint along edges without making a mess. Use a roller to fill in the broad areas, working from top to bottom. Paint the trim last, wiping up any stray spatters with a damp rag.
Week 3: Apply a second coat
- Sand out any paint drips or debris.
- Paint the siding and trim another coat.
Week 4: Tackle the details
- Paint the front door the color of your dreams.
- Add shutters, if you like.
- Upgrade and add extras: new crown molding for the porch, a doorbell, a new house number, door handles, and light fixtures.
Top image from Zillow listing.