Planning and Estimating

This story shows you how to maintain both exterior and interior painted surfaces.

Planning and Estimating

A fresh coat of paint is the least expensive method available to renew and protect the exterior of your home. It might also be the largest exterior renovation job you'll do. It can be a gratifying endeavor if you approach it with forethought.

Deciding on Saturday morning that you're going to paint the house that weekend, then picking up some paint before lunch is not a good way to approach the project. You'll be better off with some careful planning. Having a good plan will place the job within the reach of your skills, time, and budget.

Scheme with colors first
Your first objective, of course, is to choose the exterior color scheme, and your choices should result from a consideration of several factors -- the architectural style of your home, the design of other houses in the neighborhood, the possible necessity of conforming to historic-preservation ordinances or neighborhood covenants, and, of course, your personal taste.

Inventory materials and conditions
With color choices made, it's time to look at the materials used on your house and any conditions that need remedial attention before the paint goes on.

Walk around the house with a notepad or take photos of each side of the house, along with close-ups of significant details. Print 8x10 photos and use a permanent marker to make notes on them. Measure each side of the house and note the measurements on the photos. Then inventory the materials that are on the exterior. You may be surprised at the number of different surfaces on your home. Note them on the photos -- you'll need this information because different materials may require different kinds of paint. Almost any surface can be painted, including aluminum or vinyl siding.

Then go back and look critically at potential problem areas and make notes on the photos. If surfaces are peeling, you'll need to scrape, sand, and prime. Chalking paint will require power washing. Areas with rot will need replacement. And you'll have to do away with mold and mildew.

Look closely around windows and doors, where the framing meets the siding. You will probably have to recaulk gaps where different surfaces meet. And don't forget the gutters and downspouts. They're notorious for showing signs of deterioration.

Make a list and a plan
The notes you make will form the basis for a materials list and an organizational plan.

First list quantities of preparation materials, such as caulk, sandpaper, cleaning agents, and replacement siding you'll need. Then calculate the quantity of paint you'll need, as well as brushes, rollers, and other tools. If the job calls for rental equipment, such as ladders, scaffolds, ladder jacks, or spray equipment, put them on the list too.

Break up the tasks -- caulking, replacing siding, scraping, sanding, and priming -- into manageable time periods and write them on a calendar.

Buy your supplies and materials a couple of days before you intend to start any phase of the work, and list the tasks in the right order -- remove mold and mildew, clean dirt and chalking, replace or repair siding, repair and prime loose paint, cut in the new paint around the edges of a wall and fill in, paint doors, windows, and trim. Then add "watch the weather report" to your list.

Watching the weather
Nothing can foul up your plans faster than the weather. Here's what to watch for in the weather report when painting exteriors:

-- Don't paint when air and surface temps are below 50°F or will drop below that within 24 hours -- 60° to 80°F is better.
-- Don't paint if the air temperature is less than 5°F higher than the dew point or if the humidity is greater than 90 percent and the temperature is predicted to drop. These conditions lead to condensation -- moisture formation on the surface. Don't start painting if there's moisture on the house.
-- Don't paint when the forecast calls for rain in the next 24 hours.
-- Don't paint in direct sunlight. It causes the paint to blister.

How much paint will you need?

1. Multiply the length of a wall by the height of a wall to find total wall area.

2. Multiply the width of a window or door by the height of a window or door to find the area of one window or door.

3. Add the areas of all windows and doors to find the total window and door area.

4. Subtract the total window and door area from the total wall area to find the wall area to be painted.

5. For triangular areas, multiply the height by the length and divide by 2 to find the area.

6. Add the area of triangle to the wall area calculated in step 4 to find the total area to be painted. Add areas of all walls together.

To estimate the number of gallons you need, divide the total area by the coverage of a gallon (see "Coverages"). Multiply by 2 if you plan to apply two coats. Buy about 10 percent extra paint to allow for spillage and future touch-ups.

Nothing is more irritating than getting close to the end of a paint job and running out of paint. Besides having to stop, clean your painting tools, and make a run to the paint store, you also risk getting a slightly different color than the one you've already applied. And if you stop the job in the middle of a wall, you'll get lap marks where the new paint begins and the old paint has dried.

To avoid this annoyance -- as well as the costly problem of having too much paint left over after the job -- estimate carefully. All it takes is some simple math for figuring the areas of various sections of your house and adjusting your computations for those parts (such as windows and doors) that either won't get painted, or will be treated as trim and painted a different color.

How much time will it take?

Download the chart, below, to see time estimates for a number of painting projects.

How Much Time Will It Take?


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