Before starting any prep work be sure to read our health page including lead section, this type of work could cause lead exposure


Take time to make an assessment of your project. Note the condition of the all the surfaces to be painted. In general you will find areas that have pealing or weathered paint, discolored or faded areas, dirty and mildewed surfaces. To check to see if the surfaces is chalky, wipe a colored rag across the surface to see if it picks up the color.

Windows can be a job themselves. Older style windows may have loose or missing glazing compound (putty) to deal with before they can be painted.

As you go through the prep process it is possible you may find areas that need minor if not major repair. Common problem areas are where window casings meet the window sill, the bottom of door casings and where wood is low to the ground. These are areas where moisture has a high potential collect and cause wood to decay. If you should encounter any rot problems, it is important that repaired as soon as possible to prevent further spreading.

Before starting the work, consider any near by power lines in the area you will be working. Call the utility company to have them place protective covers over the lines. This is a free service in many communities.

Having tools and materials on hand ahead of time will save you a few interruptive trips to the hardware store while you seemed to be making some real progress. Although we all need a break from this kind of labor from time to time.

Make a list of common items such as ;
Tools: Extension ladders, step ladder, scrappers, putty knife, paint brushes, caulk gun, dust brush, buckets, pot hooks, drop cloths, hammer, screwdriver, pliers, wash brush, sponge, stir sticks, water hose & nozzle, pieces of boards to shim under ladders, rope, "wet paint" signs.

Materials: Sandpaper, caulk, scrapper blades, wood filler, rags, masking tape, primer, finish paint, paint thinner,  window glazing, window points, nails.

Personal Items: Dust mask, hat, work gloves, rubber, gloves, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, first-aid kit in case of cuts, scratches, ect.

Quality: We believe it is important to do a good & thorough job, however to be very fussy on an exterior is probably not practical is most cases, as this could add days, weeks or even months of  prep work labor if one is an extreme perfectionist

Beginning the work

Rotating your work: As you work you will probably want to work on a shady side of the house. This way you may end up with two or more sides scraped before you do any priming. You may choose to complete all of the scraping first , but if a side is scraped and the surface is dry it may be a good idea to prime the side before the next rain. This way you may end up with some sides primed before other sides are scraped. Any way that is best for you is ok, but try not to work in direct sunlight and get the priming done while the surface is dry.

Setting up: Any Shutters & paint-able storm windows can be removed and done on a work bench. You may chose to remove  the window screens before you began to prevent them from being spattered. It is very difficult to remove paint from screens. You will probably have some steps, decks, sidewalks or other items to cover before you begin to spread any paint {Caution do not set ladders (except for open step ladders) on drop cloths}

 Also See Ladder Safety

Washing: Washing exterior surfaces prior to painting is highly recommended by many paint companies today, however; depending on the condition often surfaces can be successfully painted without washing. You will at least have to use a dust brush in some areas. It may be best if you at least wash some of the building before it is painted. If it is very dirty chalky or mildewed it should be probably washed.

If you decide to wash, we usually recommend washing the exterior surface before it is scraped. After washing, any wood surfaces should be allowed several days drying time before it is primed  See Washing
Also See Exterior Repaint 1

 Scrapping is one of the hardest jobs included in a repaint project. We recommend using1 & 2 inch scrappers although other sizes are available. Most paint scrappers have changeable blades because it does not take to get them dull, although we have learned to sharpen our scrappers with a file to cut down on buying replacement blades. However we still recommend buying new blades each time between major painting projects.

Very seldom is all or a high percentage of the old paint removed from the exterior of a building before it is painted. To do so would take a great deal of work or cost thousands of dollars.

The objective here is to scrape off any loose paint. All pealing areas will have loose paint around the edges. You should try to remove all of this loose paint until the remaining paint feels tightly bonded. If the remaining paint is difficult to remove, and you see no loose edges then you have probably scraped the area enough. A chisel-edge putty knife will often help to remove loose paint.

Start scrapping at the top of the building cover all areas that may possibly need some scrapping. Carry a piece of 60 or 80 grit sandpaper with you, and use it to take down some of the hard edges of the paint and any frayed wood. It will usually be to difficult and time consuming to featheredge all paint edges so do not get carried away with the sanding. Any heavily rusted nail heads can be quickly  sanded over at the same time to remove loose rust.

Small holes can be filled with filled with the appropriate patching material such as wood doe, exterior spackling or putty 

Priming: The next step is to get all of the bare wood primed. The wood should dry, this is most important if oil base primer is to be used. Usually spot priming is sufficient. If you will be repainting using a colored finish paint, similar to the existing color, it may benefit you to have some primer tinted to an approximate color that you will be using, (especially on darker colors). Paint stores should be able to do this for little or no extra charge. Prime patch material and rusted nail heads also. (See Exterior Paint for information on exterior primers)
Also See Exterior Repaint 2


If you will be painting window sash, you may choose to paint the sash before the rest of the side. This way you may avoid putting the ladder back up on freshly painted surfaces, otherwise you may wait until the siding is finished.