Cleaning and Repainting Wood Siding

Cleaning and Repainting Wood Siding

Wood siding is the original siding option, of course, and it's not just popular because it's 'old school' but also because it's attractive, organic, and durable. On the plus side, wood siding is also a renewable resource.

Of course, it has its drawbacks. For one, all that beauty comes at a price, not just in dollars (wood siding is typically more expensive) but also in sweat wood siding is more vulnerable to factors such as weather and insects, and thus requires a lot of maintenance (periodic repainting or restaining).

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Cleaning and Repainting Wood Siding - Continued

Repainting wood siding is a task most every homeowner dreads. It's a big project. It's time consuming, and the cost of paint and/or stain can add up quickly. If you hire someone to do it, the cost is even greater, and if you do it yourself, your arms and rotator cuffs will torture you for weeks.

Still, many a homeowner has decided that, on balance, the DIY approach is the best one: You might lose a weekend or two, but you'll save some money and maybe even gain some muscle mass.

Of course, let's not forget that for most homeowners, the decision to paint or stain their siding comes only when they can't put it off any longer usually because of something such as badly peeling paint. This only makes the task that much more involved, because peeling or chipping paint means that the siding will also have to be primed before it will take a top coat. It's much better to be proactive, and start the project before it becomes necessary it'll lessen the workload and the cost.


Once the decision to handle it yourself has been made, however, the only thing to do is roll up your sleeves and get to work. First step: Clean the surface. Using a high quality scraper, remove as much of the old, blistered and peeling paint as possible. If the paint situation is really bad, use a power washer to blast away as much of the loose, flaky paint as is possible. The power washer will be more efficient across those large surface areas, but you'll still have to use the scraper power washing won't remove all the loose paint.

If you do use a power washer, use caution if you set the pressure too high, you can damage the wood. Also, don't let children play with this tool the high-pressured streams can easily damage their eyes, and can even force water underneath the skin's surface.

The next step depends on what type of primer is being used: For an oil-based primer, the wood must be allowed to dry completely. For a latex primer (or finish), the wood doesn't have to be totally dry (latex paints are water-based, so a little extra moisture won't hurt).


Once all the loose, blistered, flaky, cracked, or peeling paint has been removed and the wood is dry (see above), it's time to prime the now-bare wood in order to seal it. Spot priming is acceptable, but if more than 50% of the siding surface area now reveals the wood beneath, the best course of action is to prime the whole thing. This will provide an even surface and allow the paint to bond better.

Only one coat of primer is usually necessary, but it should be a dedicated primer. Wood is a porous material and a primer will help seal it. Often contractors and DIYers will use a finish paint as a primer on interior walls, but due to the porosity and the constant exposure to the elements, it's critical to the success of your paint job that a genuine primer not a finish paint be applied to your wood siding. Depending on the shape and condition of the wood siding, the primer should be applied by either brush or roller in order to ensure maximum saturation.

Top coat

Once the primer is on and dried and the wood is sealed, it's time for the finish coat. Here the tool to use is just a matter of preference brush, roller, and sprayer are all equally acceptable, though each has its own advantages.

A brush yields a heavier coat and allows for the trim work to be done while the painting progresses. A roller is faster than a brush and still produces a nice, heavy coat, but a roller can be difficult to use if the surface is irregular. Also, if you use a roller, you typically have to go back over some areas with a brush later. On the other hand, a roller leaves a smoother surface without obvious brush strokes, like a sprayer, and yet isn't a problem to operate in the wind.

Lastly, a sprayer offers a smooth, light, even finish, but that thinness usually means more than one coat is necessary in order to achieve the level of protection wood siding requires (or even to equal a single coat using a brush or roller). Using a sprayer also involves more prep work, as you'll have to mask more areas to prevent paint spray from drifting onto windows, exterior lights, and other surfaces. You'll also have to pay attention to the wind, and you should probably wear a mask to keep from inhaling aerosolized paint and fumes. A sprayer is very convenient and efficient it can cover a lot more surface, quicker but it also introduces a lot of other factors into the equation.

Due to its porous nature, wood siding needs a certain level of protection, so a minimum of two full coats (more if using a sprayer) is required. A third coat is often recommended, but you should be the judge. Just keep in mind that the better the paint job is, the longer it will last (and the longer it'll be before you have to do this again).

Tip: Try to schedule your painting project for a warm but not hot day. Warm, dry weather is best as it will let the paint dry and cure optimally, producing the best results. Once the paint is applied, don't try to wash the siding until it has had at least a week to dry.

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