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Prime Time to Paint

There are several factors to consider before getting started

By Julie Hotchkiss · October 7th, 2009 · News
Fall brings moderate temperatures and dry weather, near-perfect conditions for sprucing up the exterior of your home with a fresh coat of paint.

It’s easy to find advice for do-it-yourself painting. Check the Internet, especially paint company sites such as www.sherwin-williams. com, or visit the paint store. Some even offer online tools that let you see how a house will look when painted in various colors.

The Cincinnati Color Company store in Queensgate offers “free peanuts and free advice” to customers who are ready to tackle a painting job. Employees can advise you on how to prepare different surfaces and what paints and tools are best for different jobs, and they’ll show you the wide variety of colors available — but you have to pick the right shade yourself.

“Color forecasts are made by the industry every year,” says Doug Deifel of Cincinnati Color, “but we don’t pay a lot of attention to them. We see the whole business, and people pick colors across the spectrum in any year.”

At Sherwin-Williams, a global team of color experts analyzes factors that may influence popular colors in the coming year. They predict that less bold colors will become popular in the near future, with bright hues giving way to “dustier” shades and gray as an important neutral.

The experts also point to the green movement’s influence on product selection, including color — light shades reflect sunlight and keep a home cooler; dark shades absorb and retain daytime heat. Even the economy influences color choices, with an uncertain outlook responsible for less intense colors, producing a conservative cast to color choices as well as consumer attitudes.

The economy hasn’t had too much effect on the industry in general, however. Deifel says that his business is slower this year, “but homeowners are still doing maintenance.” The slowdown is on the commercial side of the business, with almost no new construction and less activity in commercial property accounts.

Tom Schneider of Schenider & Company Painting agrees; he does mostly residential work and his business has remained steady after a few weeks of inactivity last winter, when there was nothing but bad economic news.

“That slowed things down across the board, but since then it has picked up.”

Schneider’s business is built on client satisfaction. He also owns a hair salon in Cheviot, and the remodeling and painting he did there led customers to ask if he would work on their own homes. During the past five years, he has focused on customer relations, and he finds it satisfying to help a client choose just the right colors for a house.

When asked what colors homeowners are selecting this year, Schneider responds, “What colors aren’t popular? People have their own ideas. I think that exterior colors should blend in with the environment. If the colors used to paint a house really stand out, people are going to notice — and they will either love it or hate it, no in between.”

Schneider hires subcontractors for bigger jobs but does most of the painting himself, often working with a general contractor, Steve Klum of TKS Properties. They have both seen more work generated by people who are buying older properties to fix up and live in themselves. “Not as many people want to move into the big new house anymore. They are buying older homes that they can make look good with some help from their local contractors.”

Of course, some of these rehabbers are doing the work themselves. Painting is a skill that improves with practice, but even novices can do a good job with the right tools, good quality paint and a little research. There are only a few basic scenarios, according to Deifel at Cincinnati Color. “There’s wood, aluminum siding and vinyl. Take a look at the current condition of the house and go from there.”

The first step often is to pressure wash the surface (rent a gas-powered pressure washer at a local tool rental company), then use hand tools such as scrapers to get the rest of the loose old coating off to prep the surface.

“For best results,” Deifer says, “prime first and then put on the finish coat.” Most exterior house paints in use today are 100 percent acrylic water-based products.

There are some self-priming products on the market now, developed from primer technology. These are tinted resins that create an all-in-one seal and finish coat. Deifer still recommends two coats, using the same product for both. Self-priming paint is somewhat more expensive than using a traditional primer and finish coat.

If you are planning to paint metal siding, it is especially important to have a clean, smooth surface so the primer and paint adhere properly. Don’t paint if it is above or below the recommended temperature, and let the primer dry for the amount of time indicated on the can — usually at least a week — because it can remain soft for quite a while. If you paint over primer too soon, the final coat will not adhere as well.

Surface preparation is definitely the key to a good and lasting paint job, though it is also sometimes the worst part of the job. Cyrus Flanders, a student with a summer job working for a painting contractor, says the preparation work is never much fun. “Scraping and sanding to make the wood smooth is hard work,” he says. Siding often doesn’t require as much preparation as wood, though in all cases the surface needs to be smooth and clean.

Flanders also found that having good tools makes the job easier. He recommends using high-quality paint, rollers and brushes, and he likes brushes with the bristles cut at a slant, that make edging easier.

Other equipment for do-it-yourself painters includes masking film or tape to help keep those edges neat, drop cloths, rags and roller pans. When choosing paint, you will find flat, satin and semi-gloss finishes, and your choice depends on your preference, though satin and semi-gloss paints usually provide a harder finish that holds up better and lasts longer.

When you decide to paint the exterior of your home yourself, keep in mind some words of wisdom from painting contractor Schneider: “It’s like therapy to paint.” Take the time to do it right, and enjoy the process.

Now, you still have to select the colors that are right for your house. Blend in with your environment, follow the trends, or let the color of your house reflect your personality — the choice is yours. �



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