Properly Paint Exterior Trim

By James Dulley

February 15, 2018 4 min read

Dear James: It has been just two years since I last painted the exterior trim and the paint is peeling off. I have to repaint it, but I want to do it right this time. Please give me some advice on how to do it. — Danny F.

Dear Danny: Nothing looks worse than peeling paint. Something obviously went awry the last time you painted because even inexpensive paint on sale should not start to peel within just two years. Since exterior trim is usually painted with a brush which lays on a heavy coat, you should expect a life of five years minimum.

Two possible causes were bad paint or poor surface preparation with the latter being the most likely cause. Some old latex paint may not adhering well. Also, if the paint was stored where it may have gone through many freeze/thaw cycles, its adhesion could have been diminished.

The next time you paint, start with fresh paint from the paint store. This will eliminate one of the possible causes of the peeling. Since painting exterior trim is a major project that you don't want to do more often than necessary, spend a little extra for the best quality exterior paint.

It helps to understand that paint adheres to wood trim chemically and mechanically. The chemical attraction between the paint and wood is similar to how glue sticks two objects together. The mechanical bond results from the paint getting into fine scratches and pores in the wood surface.

With new paint and proper surface preparation, it should hold up much better this time. You will first have to scrape off all the old peeling paint. Be pretty aggressive with the scraper to remove any loose flakes of paint. You can repair any nicks in the wood with filler.

A pressure washer is sometimes used to literally blow off the loose flakes of paint. This is effective, but it may also drive water up behind the trim and into the wall. This may take several days to dry out. If you choose this method, have it done by a professional. The high-pressure water spray can be dangerous when you are waving the wand around up in the air.

Once all the loose paint is removed, you should scrub the surface to remove dirt and any oil film. The exhaust from cars and trucks (diesels) can build up on the exterior of your house. Special wood cleaners are the best, but a strong solution of dishwashing liquid is also effective and costs less.

After the trim has thoroughly dried for several days, inspect the surface of the trim. If there is a solid painted surface with no exposed wood, you do not have to prime it first, although it might still be a good idea.

The best type of primer to use depends upon the type of top coat paint you plan to use. Paint which uses 100 percent acrylic is the best, but also more expensive. The paint salesperson or the instructions on the can will indicate the proper type of primer.

Select a time to paint when rain is not forecast for several days. Also paint in the evening when the trim is in the shade so it dries slower making smooth application easier.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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