Home & Garden

Exterior painting: Fixing common problems


September provides an ideal time for exterior house painting to enhance your home’s curb appeal. Many factors can affect whether a painting project succeeds or fails. To avoid leaks, dry rot, and mold, take the opportunity while working on an outdoor painting project to prepare your home for the upcoming rainy season and to correct small problems before they develop into major headaches.

Exterior painting can be a major project, but if you have a small porch or entry area that could use some sprucing up, this can be a project you undertake yourself. Here are solutions to a few common situations you may encounter when preparing to paint exterior surfaces.


This problem is caused by using uncoated steel nails where excessive moisture exists under the paint. The uncoated steel nails obviously cannot be removed, but you can correct the moisture problem by trying to locate the source. Check for leakage from the eaves, evaporation from nearby plumbing pipes, or sweating caused by heat from a bathroom or kitchen.

If you can locate the source, try to eliminate the problem. Then remove any stained paint around nail heads by sanding the area or using a wire brush. Sand clear down to the nail head, and then sand the nail head itself to remove built-up rust.

Use a nail punch to countersink all nail heads approximately one-eighth inch below the wood surface. Apply one even layer of undercoat, such as a stain-blocking primer, over the countersunk nail and the area around it. After the area is primed, fill the countersunk hole with a good grade of caulking compound. Allow the compound to dry, then apply one coat of quality exterior house paint. After adequate drying time, apply a second coat.


Paint sometimes peels in areas of a building that are protected from weather. Such peeling is usually caused by a build-up of salt deposits, which are normally washed away by rain in exposed areas. The following treatment should correct the peeling problem.

First, remove the peeling paint by sanding the surface thoroughly. Then prepare a cleaning solution that leaves no film, such as trisodium phosphate and water. Wash the sanded surface with this solution, rinse with clear water and allow to dry. After the surface has dried completely, apply two coats of a good grade of undercoating paint such as a primer sealer. When it has thoroughly dried, apply a coat of exterior paint. Under some conditions, two finish coats may be required.


Gutters and downspouts normally peel because they were not properly treated and primed when originally painted. Galvanized metal usually has a thin, invisible film that causes many paint problems. Remove the loose paint with a wire brush, scraper, or other stiff tool. Use a power brush or power sander for big projects. Be sure that all loose paint is removed; otherwise the problem will recur after another painting. Don’t take shortcuts — correct the problem now by doing the job properly.

If you are using latex-based paint, clean the sanded area with a good grade of solvent. Apply a heavy coat of the solvent and allow it to evaporate (special solvents are available for treating galvanized metal). Apply the latex paint directly to the bare galvanized area. For large areas, finish the job with a second topcoat.

If you’ll be using an oil-based paint, prime the sanded areas with a good metal primer or a stain-blocking primer. Use at least one coat of finish, two coats for extreme cases.


You’ll want to make sure you have the appropriate ladder for any painting job, so keep in mind these guidelines when choosing a ladder.

Type of activity involved: The type of activity dictates which type of ladder you’ll need. Use a stepladder for interior painting, drywalling, spackling, and wallpapering. Stepladders include stepstools and platform ladders generally for home or light commercial use. Stepladders are self-supporting and may include a pail hook or shelf. Extension ladders are best for painting exteriors, cleaning gutters, replacing shutters and siding, and any area requiring height.

Demands of the application: Make sure the ladder is suitable for the physical demands of the application. The rated load capacity must exceed the maximum aggregate weight of the user along with his or her clothing and tools. Duty ratings are also color coded. Look for the proper duty ratings to match the highest level of use.

Height the ladder must reach: For a climber to work from a safe position, the ladder’s top should extend about three feet above the working surface when in use. Stepladders should be high enough for the user not to have to stand above the second step from the top. On extension ladders, stand no more than four rungs from the top.

Basic material: The most common ladder materials are wood, aluminum, and fiberglass. Wood ladders are nonconductive when clean and dry. Wood also provides a natural firm grip for feet and hands; however, wood tends to be heavy, and is vulnerable to moisture/rot.

Send to a Friend Print
Julia Strzesieski is the marketing coordinator at Cole Hardware and can be reached at [email protected].