Painting Masonry and Other Surfaces

This story covers painting masonry and other surfaces including stucco and modern substrates.


An inventory of the different materials used on the exterior of homes could fill a book, and although painting each material proceeds generally with the same techniques, there are a few differences specific to each.

One viable option, of course, is to leave masonry surfaces unpainted, but if so, now is the time for careful inspection of exterior masonry. Tuckpointing, caulking, and repairs are essential whether you paint them or not.

If you plan to paint a newly installed masonry surface, wait six weeks before painting it. This will ensure that the concrete has sufficient time to cure properly and in many cases will allow enough time for any efflorescence to appear. Efflorescence can appear later, but whenever it does, you'll need to remove it.

Concrete block: Step 1

Prepare concrete block by removing efflorescence and alkali deposits and fixing cracks. Then seal the surface with a masonry sealer, applied with a medium-napped roller cover. Let the sealer cure according to the manufacturer's directions.

Concrete block: Step 2

Using a foam roller, paint the block with latex masonry paint or exterior acrylic latex paint in flat, satin, or semigloss finish, depending on appearance desired. Keep the coating even by rolling in one direction only.

Board and batten siding: Side 1

Prepare the surface, then prime with a tinted latex primer (to improve hiding of the undercoat). Starting at one end of the wall, paint all three sides of two battens, cutting in the edges of the board at the same time.

Board and batten siding: Side 2

Using the widest roller that will fit between the battens, paint the board with a roller. Continue across the surface of the wall. Paint the frieze (the horizontal board running across the top of the boards) and the kickboards too. Brush away any excess paint along the edges of the battens.

Painting smooth stucco

Smooth stucco is relatively easy to paint because the recesses are not deep. Seal unpainted stucco before painting. Cut in the edges and around obstacles with a wide brush first, then use a long-nap roller to apply a high-quality exterior 100 percent acrylic latex house paint.

Painting rough stucco: Step 1

Because the recesses in rough stucco are deep, the aggregate in the surface will prevent paint from reaching much of the interior if you use a roller or brush. Spray the stucco in sections, keeping the spray head at an angle (about 30 to 45 degrees) and changing the angle at random intervals.

Painting rough stucco: Step 2

Move to the other side of the section you have just painted and repaint the section, holding the spray head at the opposite angle. Before you move on to the next section, check for complete coverage. You may have to take a couple of passes from the top and bottom for complete coverage.

Painting modern substrates

Many newer exterior products, ranging from siding material to railings, columns, windows, stairs, and decks, are made to stand up to the elements. Most of these products may be successfully painted to:

-- Alter the color
-- Change selected colors to complement trim and other elements
-- Refresh the appearance or change the degree of gloss or sheen
-- Enhance the protection of the material

Preparation steps are generally the same as for other surfaces -- treating mildew, cleaning dirt and dust, removing white, powdery oxide with a nonmetallic scouring pad, and lightly sanding glossy areas with 220-grit sandpaper (but do not expose any metal substrates). Painting, likewise, is best accomplished with exterior acrylic latex paint. Apply a flat sheen on dented surfaces.

Some of the most common materials and problems include:

-- Factory-finished aluminum materials usually have a powder coating and a glossy finish. After years of weathering, released pigment may chalk the surface. For uniformity prime the area, including the factory finish.
-- Vinyl and PVC materials, including polymer/wood mixtures, can release pigment chalk after years of weathering. Avoid painting rigid vinyl, especially vinyl siding, with a dark color, because the color may absorb the sun's heat and warp the panels irreversibly. As a rule, you should not paint vinyl siding any darker than its original color. Do not attempt to paint any material if the manufacturer recommends against it.
-- Polyester, fiberglass, and synthetic (polymeric) stone materials, generally molded or cast with mineral fillers such as limestone, talc, or clay may also chalk after years of weathering. For best adhesion and uniformity, apply a quality latex stain-blocking primer recommended for this material. Don't apply oil-base or shellac-base primer. For exterior furniture, use a quality exterior latex satin or semigloss product.
-- Fiber cement siding, a high-density material made from cement and fiber and formed into siding and soffits, is supplied factory primed, to be painted prior to or after construction. It sometimes comes with a factory-applied color finish coat. Seal all cracks and openings with a quality acrylic or siliconized acrylic sealant. Do not seal side or bottom edges unless directed by manufacturer. Remove loose paint by careful power washing with plain water. Apply a quality exterior latex stain-blocking or masonry primer recommended for this material. Apply exterior acrylic latex paint recommended for masonry surfaces.

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