With the shortage of inventory and a fresh coat of paint you can maximize your profits by putting your best foot forward. Here are some tips for exterior painting.
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Exterior Paints and Stains: A Guide to the Options
By: Joseph D'Agnese
To choose the best exterior paint or stain for your job, match the coating to your house, your climate, and the look you want.
One key to how long an exterior finish lasts is how well
the surface is prepared. But equally important is the choice of the
paint or stain itself. Using high-quality materials, matching them to
your house and climate, and conducting regular maintenance will extend
the time between recoatings.
Expect to pay $35 to $45 per gallon
for conventional premium paint or stain. "Green," or zero-VOC, products
run $45 to $55 per gallon. A gallon covers 350 to 400 square feet, so
figure on about 8 gallons to cover an average two-story, 30-by-40-foot
house. Most paint jobs require a primer and two topcoats.
Acrylic latex paints
Acrylic latex is the favored choice, both of pros and
do-it-yourselfers. These water-based paints come in an endless range of
colors and three popular finishes. Flat paint, commonly used indoors,
offers the least protection against the elements. Satin, with its
slightly higher sheen, is a good choice for wood siding. Semi-gloss or
gloss offers the most protection and works well on high-use areas like
window and door trim.
Pros: Latex paints are easy to work with and clean
up with water. The paint film remains flexible even after drying, so it
breathes and moves slightly to accommodate changes in temperature, or
even house settling, without cracking. In addition to wood, latex can
also cover siding made of vinyl, aluminum, fiber cement, stucco, brick,
Cons: Unless you're using "green" products, expect to smell paint fumes from the moment you open the can until the paint dries completely. These odors, produced by volatile organic compounds, are toxic in high quantities and contribute to air pollution.
In general, latex paint doesn't bond well to previous coats of oil
paint unless you prepare the surface very well. That means stripping
nearly all the old paint off the wood first, a time-consuming and
expensive job. It's often smarter to stick with oil if you've got oil,
and latex if you've got latex.
Costs: $35 to $45 a gallon for premium latex paint; $45 to $55 a gallon for premium low- or zero-VOC paints.
Oil paint, long prized for its durability, used to be the gold
standard for exteriors and some high-traffic house trim such as
handrails, doors, and floors. But these days it plays second fiddle to
Pros: Oil paints dry hard and get harder with time.
That makes them perfect for high-traffic uses: porch floors, steps,
metal handrails, even your front door.
Cons: Over time, oil paint can become brittle and
crack, producing an "alligator" look. (Some people actually like the
effect.) Oil paint can never be applied on top of old latex paint; the
two won't bond properly.
Toxic solvents are required to clean brushes and other equipment that
come in contact with oil paint. The average can of oil paint has more
VOCs than a can of conventional latex paint. Low-VOC oil paint is
available, but even these products contain more VOCs than low-VOC latex
Costs: $35 to $45 a gallon for premium oil-based paint; $45 to $55 a gallon for premium low-VOC paints.
Stain is the choice when you want to let some of the natural features
of the wood shine through but still shield your investment from the
elements. Cedar, redwood, and other beautiful varieties cry out for
stain. As a rule, stain isn't as protective as paint; sunlight and
weather can still penetrate the stain, causing the wood to age and
Like paints, stains come in latex and oil-based
versions. You don't want to cover an oil with a latex stain, or vice
versa, unless the old coat of stain has aged and weathered to the point
where the new coat can adhere.
Stains come in three finishes:
- Clear stains are extremely translucent. You'll see
more of the wood, but you'll need to reapply as often as every two to
three years. Clear stains can still vary greatly in appearance, so you
will want to experiment on a scrap piece of shingle to choose your
favorite product. Over time, the wood under clear stain will continue to
discolor, forcing you to eventually move to the next category.
- Semi-transparent stains are bulkier and offer more
protection than clear stains, because they contain a hint of pigment.
Color choices are not nearly as numerous as those for latex paint, but
there's still a broad range of options. Reapply in five to seven years.
- Opaque stains behave more like paint; they offer
maximum protection and hide much of the wood's look. But they still
allow the texture to show through. These come in many colors, but choose
carefully--if you want to change colors next time around, you'll need
to sand the surface completely. Opaques last 10 years or more.
Pros: Stains don't require extensive surface prep
the way paint does. Just wash, dry, scrape any raised or cracked stain,
and re-stain with a brush. You don't need a primer and may be able to
squeak by with one coat.
Cons: Depending on type of stain, requires frequent reapplication.
Costs: $35 to $45 a gallon.
It's worth springing for the good stuff
To make sure you're purchasing a quality product, buy at a reputable
paint store and ask sales clerks for recommendations. When buying latex
paints, choose ones that are 100% acrylic polymers or resins, labeled on
the front or in the ingredients list. Low-quality paint feels thin,
runs down surfaces, and spatters off rollers. High-quality paint feels
thicker, levels well when applied, and hides the old paint layer or
primer in one to two coats, tops.
When it comes to stain, brand
name and reputation are the best indicators of quality. Ask for
recommendations, accept the higher price, and don't try to cut corners.