Saturday, March 28, 2009

How to Know When It's Time to Paint

Many homeowners are unaware of the actual condition of the exterior of their home. First time home buyers in particular may not know anything about exterior painting. But there are several very easy ways to tell whether or not it is time to paint your house.

The most obvious sign is peeling paint. If your window sills or siding are actually peeling you waited to long and need to call a painting contractor today. Many homes have one side that gets the most exposure to sun, wind and/or rain and snow. This will be the side where the paint begins to show signs of wear first. Your peeling window sills undoubtedly get a lot of sun. Peeling paint allows water to seep into the wood or siding beneath and can cau se the wood to rot. If left unpainted you will have to pay for repairs as well. Preferably, you want to paint before the last coat of paint starts to peel.

If the paint on shows no signs of peeling or checking (spidery cracks that ha p pen before peeling), it may still be time for a fresh coat of exterior paint. Look closely at the siding paint. Does it look chalky? Is their a whitish cast to the paint and when you rub your fingers across it they pick up a bit of residue? This tells you the paint is beginning to break down and it's time to repaint.

Another thing to look for is wood rot. Are there soft places in your corners boards? This will be found typically wherever they are exposed to a lot of moisture, such as at the bottom near the base of a downspout. Press against the wood and see if there is any give to it. If so, the wood should be replaced as soon as possible and two coats of paint applied to seal the wood. If left unprotected the area needing repair will just enlarge. Window trim and sills are another place where wood rot often occurs as well as door sills.

When you purchase a house, ask the seller when they last painted, what type of paint they used and how many coats were applied. Depending on the quality of paint they used, and how many coats were applied, the house will need repainting anywhere from five to ten years or less. New houses are often sprayed with a low grade paint and many need painting within three years.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Home Repairs: Do It Yourself or Hire a Contractor

In these difficult economic times, many of us are asking ourselves more often, "can we afford this?" When it comes to home repairs, there are some things we just can't put off. When it involves water, plumbing, or electric, it usually can't wait. These are most often the repairs that require a professional as well unless you are fortunate enough to have some knowledge in these areas. When you are trying to make a decision as to whether or not to "hire a contractor there are a number of things to consider.

1. Are You Physically Able to Do the Repair?

Can you climb up on the roof to look at the leak and fix it? Are you in good enough physical condition to spend an afternoon on your hands and knees repairing the floorboard in your bathroom? Many home repairs are not pysically difficult and can be handled by a reasonably fit person. Some require more strength and agility. In order to "avoid injury, it is important to make a realistic decision regarding your ability to handle the repair in question.

2. Do You Know How to Do the Repair and/or You Willing to Learn?

There are dozens of home repair manuals available in the books stores and home improvement stores as well as numerous on-line sites with carefully written instructions. If you want to learn, you can find the information. Stores like "Home Depot and Lowe's offer classes and their employees are usually willing to answer questions and offer suggestions. Learning how to do your own home repairs may take you time, but if you are willing and able, it will save you money.

3. Do You Have the Equipment and Tools?

Once you have decided whether or not you are physically able to handle the home repair you have in mind and are willing to do the necessary research and learn how to do the repair, the next question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you have the equipment and tools you need. Do you own a 24 foot "extension ladder to reach the roof? If you are trying to save money by doing your own home repairs, buying expensive tools and equipment that you will only use once may not be worth it. If, however, you will use the tools again in the future, or the equipment required is minimal, then it is an easy decision. Sometimes you can rent the necessary equipment and still save by doing the repair yourself.

Doing your own home repairs can not only "save you money, it can be very satisfying. If you like to do hands on projects and have confidence in your ability to learn, you may find yourself taking on all sorts of projects. There is always something to do around the house the keep it in tip top shape. Keeping your home in good repair will not only make your life more comfortable, it will increase the value of the house should you decide to sell.

If, on the other hand, you just don't feel up to the challenge, by all means, "hire a contractor. If you do not have the physical ability, skill, or tools for a project, chances are you will be glad you did. Just be sure to get three estimates and three references when you are looking for a contractor. Not only compare prices, but chose someone you know you can trust to do a good job.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Buyer's Guide to Paint Finishes

Choosing a paint finish is an important consideration when selecting paint for a painting project. Regardless of whether you are sprucing up the interior or painting the exterior of your house it will have an impact on the final results. With a little bit of information, you can make an informed decision that will make you happier with the way your walls, siding or trim look, last and clean when the job is done. Here are a few things to consider.

The finish, or level of gloss of paint, has an impact on its appearance, its durability and its washability, particularly when using latex paint. Oil based paints are still available but latex paint has improved so dramatically it has become the paint of choice in most situations. The finish options are the same for oil and latex.


FLAT paint has no sheen and reflects very little light. It is an excellent choice for ceilings and any area where there are surface imperfections. If there are bumps and dents in the walls or siding that cannot be repaired, using a flat paint will make them less obvious. Keep in mind that you will not want to use flat paint on an interior wall that will receive a lot of wear and tear. It is not as durable nor stain resistant.

SATIN Finish, also called EGGSHELL, looks just like its name implies. It has a soft luster finish similar to an eggshell. A satin finish is harder, more durable and stain resistant than a flat finish. It is easier to clean and is an excellent choice for interior walls. It adds warmth to the look of a room and is a good choice for living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms hallways and stairwells. It is also a good option for siding that does not have imperfections.

SEMI GLOSS paint has a higher level of sheen and luster than eggshell paints. The finish is harder, more durable and stain resistant. Semi gloss paint is most often used in high traffic areas such as bathrooms and laundry rooms and on interior and exterior wood trim and cabinets. It shows imperfections more readily than eggshell but not as much as gloss.

GLOSS paint is the hardest and most durable finish option. It has a high sheen and is very resistant to stain and easy to keep clean. The downside of using gloss is it does make defects in the surface much more noticeable. Gloss paints are a good choice for wood trim, doors, handrails, cabinets and furniture, floors, handrails, and stairs. It is sometimes used for walls in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms.


There are three basic things to consider when selecting the type of finish for a painting project. First, how much wear and tear will the surface you are painting receive? Secondly, what kind of look would you like to create in your decorating scheme? Do you want the warmth and richness of a satin finish or are you comfortable with the shine of a semi-gloss or gloss paint and want a more durable surface? Third, are there unsightly imperfections in the wall surface you would like to downplay? Do you have ridges or bumps that will stand out if you use a higher gloss paint?

As a general rule, flat or satin finishes are used on exterior siding and semi-gloss or gloss finishes are used on exterior trim. Siding that has peeled and been repainted and is not longer smooth will look better when a flat finish is used. If, however, the siding is in good shape, an eggshell finish gives a warm, rich look to siding and is more durable and resistant to the affects of the weather. The same rule applies to choosing between semi-gloss and gloss for exterior trim, the lower the sheen, the less obvious the imperfections.

When choosing a paint finish it comes down to finding a balance between appearance and function and which is more important in a given situation.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tips for Getting an Affordable Exterior Paint Job

There are several very important steps to take to ensure you receive the most for your money when having the exterior of your house painted.


Promise yourself to hold off making any decisions, signing any contracts or spending any money until you have received at least three and preferably five estimates from reputable painting contractors. To gather five names, start first by asking friends, acquaintances and neighbors who have recently had their homes painted. If you see someone having their house painted and the people doing it look neat and reliable don't hesitate to stop and ask the homeowner about their experiences and get a business card from the contractor.


There are some very important questions to ask each contractor when they come to give you an estimate.

Does my house really need to be painted? If so, why?
Is there any wood, trim, or siding that is rotted and needs replaced?
How many coats of paint do you think it needs?
What paint do you think is best and how will it be applied? Will it be sprayed or applied by brush? If so, which is best and why?
Will you pressure wash first?
Will you remove the shutters and/or downspouts and screens prior to painting?
Will you open the windows from both top and bottom prior to painting the trim?
Will you scrape loose paint and caulk thoroughly?
Do I need mildew treatment in the paint?
How long will it take?
How many people will be here working on the house?
Will you provide me with a written contract and include everything that is covered by the price?
Do you have liability insurance?
Do you have a business license?
How long have you been in business?
Can you provide me with a list of three recent references and their addresses so I can look at their homes?
Do you offer a guarantee and if so what does it cover?

Use this list of questions as a master and ask each contractor the same questions. In the process you will learn a great deal about the condition of your home and the contractor and how he/she works. In the end, it is not always the cheapest price that will secure the best, longest lasting paint job. Quality products and workmanship can provide a paint job that will last as many as ten years whereas poor workmanship and cheap products can require a re-paint within several years.


In the end, this information will help you make your decision. Consider your budget, consider how long you plan to own your house and find a contractor you feel comfortable working with. If this is the first time you have had your house painted, you may have sticker shock at first, but securing multiple estimates will give you a good idea of the going rate in your neighborhood and you can adjust your thinking accordingly. Keeping your house well protected will save you money in the long run by avoiding the extra expense of extensive prep work and wood repairs when paint has begun to peal.


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