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When we were boys, our father taught us that 80 percent of the work in just about any paint job is in the preparation. He also encouraged us both to take art classes. We did. But it didn't make any difference. Today, our wives insist on picking the paint colors.

No matter who picks the color at your place, you need to prepare for lots of work if you intend to tackle a big job like painting the exterior of your home. Dad was right about preparation being the biggest part of the job. The number one cause of problems down the road (splitting, peeling, cracking, etc.) is poor surface preparation. Getting it right involves several steps. Here are a few tips:

First, check things out. Know specifically what you are going to paint. The kind of surface (wood, metal, masonry, etc.) determines the type of paint that will be needed. Each surface requires a different kind of paint. For example: paint made for wood does not do well on metal. The paint store person will need to know which surface type(s) for which you'll need paint. Take pictures and bring them along. This is the stage where you determine color and sheen. When we were younger we painted everything flat. Then we discovered shinier finishes. If you aren't sure what you want, purchase small quantities and paint a section near a window or door. Then study it awhile.

Next, determiner the amount of paint that you'll need...how many gallons that will be needed to do the job. This is done by calculating the area to be painted. Here's how:

First measure the length of all sides to be painted. Then measure the height of all sides to be painted. Multiply the two measurements to get the total square footage (area). Divide that figure by the “coverage rate” on the paint can to determine the amount of paint needed.

Don't forget to calculate window and door trim, overhangs, gutters and downspouts. By the way, we figure 10 percent less coverage than the manufacturer suggests. They don't include waste or spillage in their calculations.

With the amount of paint calculated, it's time to check your inventory of supplies and equipment. It might have been quite awhile since you last painted and you might not remember exactly what you have to work with. Gather everything and make a written inventory. Knowing what you have will make it easier to make a shopping list...caulking, spackle, sandpaper, primer, etc. Be careful, when it comes to using old paint. If it doesn't look fresh, it probably isn't and shouldn't be used. Whatever you do, don't use paint that has mildewed.

As you are doing your initial preparation, be sure that you have the time and energy to paint your entire home. You might end up spending most of your summer weekends completing the job. The good side...you can save thousands of dollars.

Be sure to buy from a knowledgeable paint person. This is one job that you don't want to do a second time simply because the clerk sold you paint that ended up peeling two years later.

Now to the hardest part of the job...the surface preparation. Dad taught us that this was 80 percent of the work. He was right. Removing loose paint, putting, patching, setting nails, caulking and cleaning will take the most time. Here are several steps that will help you remember what to do:

1. Scrape (sand if existing paint is glossy) 2. Wash 3. Rinse 4. Repair 5. Prime.

Priming is not as important when a good coat of paint already exists. However, there is a test that you can make to be sure. It's called the wet test. First, sprinkle some water onto the area in question. If it soaks in, the area should be primed. If the water beads up, priming isn't required. Regardless, it can't hurt to prime. Priming can only enhance the finished product.

Never try to stretch the paint. A coat that is too thin will not be durable. Also, be sure to paint from the top down. Drips from above can cause three times the work. And, always keep a wet edge. Letting one area dry and then painting next to it can result in streaks.

Painting should be done at a temperature between 60 F and 90 F and should never be done if rain is expected. Low and high temperatures can affect curing (drying) and weaken the finished product.

Don't wait till later to clean up. Plan ahead and allow time for cleanup at the end of each day. Drips and spills, dirty tools, brushes and rollers are easier to clean when the paint is wet.



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