Ask the Builder: Be bold when painting your house – and other tips

QQ I have to paint my house this summer. I need your advice on a number of things. First is the color choice. My husband and I are involved in a daily cage fight for paint. I want to be brave. He wants a simple vanilla color. We have no intention of moving when that is important. Which color would you recommend us? What are some of the best practices when painting the exterior of a home? Thank you for leading the fight in our mock octagon! I am interested in who you think will win the fight. – Marilyn S., Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin

ON. Too often I am asked to interfere in do-it-yourself disputes. You should see the messages I get through my Ask Tim page at Oh my! You indicated a very important fact that made my decision about which color to choose an easy one: you said you had no intention of moving.

I’ll deviate from the subject for a moment. About four years ago I discovered the true path to inner happiness. I made a couple of points about observations I made hiking and amateur radio outdoors with my best friend here in New Hampshire. He would ignore me when I brought up topics that didn’t interest or upset him. I always wondered why he was the happiest person I had ever met. Now i know why. He was actively marginalizing every negativity in his life. If you do that, happiness will flow to you like a giant waterfall all day.

If you paint your house bold colors then just do it! It is your home Take position. Be fearless like the owners in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico for heaven’s sake. Become a trendsetter in your neighborhood. Before deciding on the final color, run a test panel on a large enough part of the house so you can really see what the paint will look like. Paint at least 100 or 200 square feet of surface, not tiny spots. Look at the color at different times of the day for a week.

Step back on the street or some distance away to see them, not just three feet away. Get a real feel for the bold color. Let’s discuss the color to use. Years ago I attended an editorial conference that brought a new urethane resin paint to market. Urethane is sticky. You will know this if you’ve ever used it on hardwood floors. It grabs and doesn’t let go. Did you know that paint is just colored glue? Yes, that’s all in its most basic form.

You want to paint the outside of your home the stickiest paint you can buy. About 20 years ago I painted the last house I built with this paint. I just drove past it a few months ago and it looks exactly like the day I applied the paint. The color was still rich and I couldn’t see any place where it had peeled off or blistered.

Let’s imagine you have to go out to dinner and have worked outside in the garden in the hot sun all day. You’re filthy filthy, you’re sweaty and just plain gross. There’s no way you can ever just walk in and change clothes to go out. You’d shower and get clean first before dressing your fresh duds for dinner.

You need to do the same with the outside of your home. But be careful. Don’t fall into the pressure wash trap. Too many people assume that pressure washers are the best way to clean the outside of a house. In my opinion, they lag far behind that mark and it’s easy to explain why.

Is your car really dirty? Good. Go to a local car wash where you can use a pressure wash stick to apply soap and then rinse your car. Use the pressure washer on your car as you could on your house. Keep in mind that if you bring it too close to the surface of your house, you can damage the wand. So keep the tip about 10 inches or more away from the car paint.

Pull your car out of the wash bay, park somewhere nearby, and let the car air dry. Then, take your finger over the dirtiest part of the car and wipe it with a clean damp paper towel. I guarantee the paper towel will remove more dirt from your car. Case closed. Wash your house like you used to wash your car. Use a soapy solution and large brush that RV owners use to wash their rigs.

Apply the new paint in the shade, not in direct sunlight. Read the label on the paint can and follow all instructions that came with the letter. Do these things and you will be a happy homeowner. And the match goes to Marilyn (the crowd cheers)!

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