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Painting Exterior Walls

Painting Exterior Walls

Painting exterior walls is quite different from painting interior walls because of the variety of siding types available and the equipment needed for working off the ground.

Siding material ranges from cedar lap, board and bat, and slate, to masonite, stucco and masonry. Each requires slight technique variations, but all follow the same basic principles discussed in this section. The type of siding may dictate what you use to apply paint. Brushes, rollers, and sprayers all have advantages and disadvantages.




• Paint removal can be a messy process, so make sure you protect the area around where you're working with 
  a drop cloth.
• Even when used under ideal conditions, chemical paint removers and heat guns may not remove every last 
  bit of paint, varnish, or stain, so plan to also spend some time sanding your project.




• WARNING! If you scrape, sand or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE 
  ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE. Scraping, sanding or removal of lead paint may also be subject to Federal, State, 
  and local regulations. Consult your local building authority and visit: for more 




• Painting your windows yourself instead of hiring a professional saves money.

• Investing in quality paint will ensure a more durable and lasting finish.





When Getting Ready to Paint

Step 1 

Trim, tie back bushes or cover nearby plants

Trim or tie bushes and limbs


Trim or tie back any bushes and limbs that will get in your way. Cover nearby plants with drop cloths or tarps. Turn off any air conditioning units, and cover them with plastic and tape as needed.


Step 2 

fill holes with putty

Conduct painting prep work


Remove any shutters, and close the storm windows. Inspect your siding and trim carefully, looking for holes and cracks, then make the necessary repairs. You should fill holes and damaged areas with wood filler, then sand and smooth after drying.


Step 3 

Reglaze windows

Reglaze windows


You'll want to reglaze windows if the old putty is cracked or shrunken. You can remove the old putty with a chisel or stiff putty knife, but be careful not to break the glass. Apply the new glazing compound as needed, pressing it in place with a putty knife.


Step 4 

Scrub wall with brush

Scrub siding with broom or pressure washer


Use a brush or broom to scrub the siding and the trim with a solution of trisodium phosphate or a phosphate-free substitute. You can rent a pressure washer that makes fast work of this job, but be careful not to force water into any cracks between the siding. Be sure to wear gloves and other protective gear when using cleaners and chemicals.


Special Note: Remove existing paint only if it’s loose or flaking. If your home was built prior to 1978, be sure to follow proper safety and containment procedures for Lead Paint. Check with your local building authority and visit for more information.


Step 5 

Rinse house with garden hose

Rinse house with hose


Rinse the entire house with a garden hose until the runoff water is clear. If you used TSP to clean the house, rinse twice to ensure the solution is completely gone. Let the siding and trim dry completely, usually 2 days, before painting.


Exterior Painting

Step 1

Masonry surfaces always should be primed

Prime surfaces to be painted


Masonry surfaces always should be primed, especially if problems such as water stains are present or if glossy paint is to be top-coated. Cedar and redwood contain resins that bleed through water-based paints, so use oil-based primers on woods. Make sure the surface you are painting is dry and that there is no rain in the weather forecast. Apply primer to any bare siding. For best results, allow primer to dry according to the manufacturer's recommendation.


Step 2 

Paint roof trim and soffits before the walls

Paint roof trim and soffits


Paint the roof trim and soffits before the walls if they will be different colors. This prevents trim paint from dripping onto the newly painted walls.


Step 3

Paint inside corners and around the trim

Paint inside corners and around any trim


Paint the inside corners and around the trim. Use a corner roller or trim brush to cut in these areas.


Step 4

On clapboard or shingle siding, cut in the lip of the siding before painting the face

Cut in the lip of the siding


On clapboard or shingle siding, cut in the lip (bottom edges) of the siding before painting the face.


Step 5

Roll or brush starting from top of wall

Roll or brush on the paint


Roll or brush, starting at the top of the wall, work from as far as you can reach to your left, pulling the roller or brush toward you. Finish the stroke directly in front of you. Repeat until the block of siding you can reach is painted, then use the same technique for the right side.


Step 6

Start each stroke to the right by feathering the brush or roller

Complete brush strike or roll direction


Start each stroke to the right by feathering the brush or roller. Feathering means placing the surface of the brush or roller against the siding gradually, instead of abruptly. This eliminates a definite start line and makes it easier to blend the next block of strokes into the present block.


Step 7

Blend the two strokes together where they meet in front of you

Blend strokes together


Blend the two strokes together where they meet in front of you. Work quickly, it’s important to blend the new stroke into the completed stroke while the paint is still wet to avoid lap marks. Never stop in the middle of a section. Paint to the corner of the house so the paint color is consistent. Move the ladder so you can just reach the completed block of siding. To eliminate lap marks, rewet the feathered edges of the previously painted block with your brush or roller just before you start each stroke. Repeat the process until the top area is completed then finish the lower sections.


Step 8

To speed up the painting process use a sprayer

If available, use paint sprayer for quicker results


You can speed up the painting process by using a paint sprayer; a variety of sprayers is available for rent or purchase. Before you start spraying, ask your paint sprayer supplier exactly how the sprayer operates, what masking will be required and the appropriate methods to clean the sprayer. Choose a calm day to spray your house. A windy day can make spraying difficult. Regardless of how you paint the house, let the paint dry and then touch up any missed areas. You may need to correct drips or sags with a razor blade or sanding block.