How to Prepare for Painting

Preparation is key to a successful paint job. Before you begin, make sure your home’s exterior surface is properly prepared.

1.  Arrange drop cloths to shield plants and other landscaped areas or surfaces that won’t be painted.

2.  Scrape or sand chipped or peeling paint with a wire brush or scraper. Remove or replace loose or dry putty with a high quality paintable caulking compound.

Fill cracks of stucco, brick, and masonry homes with an exterior patching compound. WARNING! If you scrape, sand, or remove old paint, you may release lead dust or fumes. LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE TO LEAD DUST OR FUMES CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS, SUCH AS BRAIN DAMAGE, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE.

Wear a properly fitted NIOSH-approved respirator and prevent skin contact to control your lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop.

Before you start, find out how to protect yourself and your family by contacting the USEPA National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or log on to Follow these instructions to control exposure to other hazardous substances that may be released during surface preparation.

3.  Use a mild detergent to clean the surfaces and to wipe down all metal and aluminum surfaces.

4.  Be sure to prime any new, or bare (exposed) surfaces.


How to Choose the Right Product & Sheen

Latex vs. Oil

There are two types of paint—latex and oil.

Latex paints are water-based and offer excellent durability, flexibility, and easy soap and water clean up.

Oil-based paints also provide excellent durability and are known for their smooth application properties. Paint thinner is required for cleanup.


The next feature to consider is sheen. The body of the house is typically a mid-range sheen while the trim, shutters, and doors use a semi-gloss or gloss sheen. The lower the sheen, the less light that will reflect off the surface. Generally, lower sheens are used for the body of homes to help reduce sun glare and minimize harsh reflections. Lower sheens also help hide surface imperfections.

Conversely, the higher the sheen, the more light that will reflect off the surface. Higher sheens are used for higher traffic areas, such as doors and trim, often offering enhanced protection against dirt and outdoor contaminants. Use this chart to help decide which paint sheens are right for your project.

Body of HouseXX

Painting Supplies Checklist

Items you may need before you begin:

  • Putty knife
  • Caulking gun
  • Sandpaper
  • Wipe up cloths
  • Step ladders
  • Exterior patching paste
  • Wire brushes
  • Masking tape
  • Drop cloths
  • Paint thinner

How to Choose the Right Tools

  1. Brushes-Polyester blend for latex paints; natural bristle for oil-based paints. 4″ brush for large surface areas; 2″ angled brush for trim and detail areas.
  2. Roller and Roller Tray-Nap sizes vary depending on surface type. Generally, the smoother the surface the shorter the nap.
  3. Power Roller or Airless Sprayer-Used mostly by professionals. Please read instructions completely before use.



How to Get the Perfect Look

Painting can renew and refresh the exterior of your home as well as showcase its character. And, while selecting the right color is critical, choosing the right paint and using good application techniques are also key steps to a beautiful, lasting finish.

From siding to shutters, front doors to trim, paint gives you the opportunity to completely change the look or simply restore the original beauty of your home. Take a moment to walk around the outside of your house; look at it from the street. Make sure the colors you select complement your home’s permanent features, such as brick or stone accents, walkways, roof color, and landscaping.

Generally these colors are combined to create an exterior color scheme for a house: one for the body, one for the trim, and one for the front door and other accents. While neutral tones are more often used on the body of the house, distinguishing colors find opportunity on trim and accent colors.

Estimating Paint, Weather, and Primer Help

Estimating = How Much Paint Will I Need?

To determine the square footage of your home’s exterior, add the widths of the four sides, and multiply by the height below the roofline.

For gables, multiply the peak height x ½ the length of the roof base line. Subtract 21 square feet per door and 15 square feet per single window. Then, divide your number by 400 to arrive at the final number of gallons you need to purchase.


The temperature should be between 50°F–90°F with low humidity and no rain expected for 24 hours. However, most exterior paints can be applied down to 35°F.

Start on the shaded side of the house. Direct sun causes the paint to dry too quickly and may create lap marks. If you’re using oil-based paints, be sure all dew has evaporated.


Primers provide a strong foundation for the topcoat and create a more uniform appearance overall.

Oil primers are excellent for both new and existing wood, as well as chalky and glossy surfaces. Acrylic latex primers are ideal for aluminum, brick, masonry, wood, and vinyl siding. Specialty primers are formulated to tackle problem areas such as wood stains and have excellent adhesion qualities.

Be careful to choose a primer that best fits your project needs.


Application Tips & Techniques

Using a Brush

For best results with a brush, dip half the length of the bristles into your paint. Tap the brush gently against the side of the can but do not wide it across the lip. Hold the handle near the base, applying light pressure with your fingertips to make the bristles flex slightly.

Using a Roller

Work from the top down from unpainted areas into wet, painted areas. Oil paints take longer to dry and allow you to brush across the surface several times for a smooth, even finish. Latex paints dry faster and only one or two strokes are needed.

Paint the Body of the House

Work from the top down from unpainted areas into wet, painted areas. Oil paints take longer to dry and allow you to brush across the surface several times for a smooth, even finish: later paints dry faster and only one or two strokes are needed.

How to Paint Exterior Doors

To Start

Remove hinges, knobs, and latches or cover them with masking tape.

Panel Doors

Begin by painting the top panels, moulding, and edging first. Then paint the remaining panel area by brushing across the surface and then up and down. Finish by painting the remaining area and the door edges.

Flush Doors

Paint the edges first and then fill in the large area. Complete your job by the painting the frame and jamb last.

How to Paint Exterior Windows

Double Hung Windows

1.  Raise the inside sash and lower the outside. Paint the inside sash, crossbars, and frame. Do not paint the top edge of the inside sash.
2.  Next, paint the outside sash cross bars, then the frame. Do not paint the bottom edge. When the paint is dry, lower both sashes completely and paint the upper part of the rails.
3.  Once these are thoroughly dry, raise both sashes and paint the lower part of the rails. After the lower rails have dried, move sashes back to nearly a closed position and paint the part of the outside sash that was obscured and the top edge of inside sash.
4.  Finally, paint the window casing and the sill.

Casement Windows

1.  Make sure the windows are wide open (either in or out).
2.  Paint the top, side, and bottom edges first, then finish with the cross bars, frames, casing, and sills.

Cleaning Up

Latex, Water-Based Paints

Wipe excess paint from brushes and rollers then rinse them thoroughly with soap and warm water. Allow them to air dry.

Oil-based paints

Use paint thinner to clean brushes and rollers. Be sure to dispose of all water properly. Rags, steel wool, or waste soaked with these products may spontaneously catch fire if improperly discarded. Immediately after each use, place rags, steel wool, or waste in a sealed, water-filled metal container.


Contact your local environmental regulatory agency for guidance on disposal of unused product. Do not pour down a drain or storm sewer.