This exterior season seems to be one where we have encountered more improperly prepped jobs than usual. Unfortunately, there a lot of contractors out there who are more concerned about money rather than the quality of their work. An improperly prepped job may look beautiful but more often than not, the product will fail within a fraction of the expected life of the job and well after the homeowner has written the final check. It is important to educate yourself on the proper procedures for prepping any paint job and making sure that your contractor walks you through each step.
Pressure Wash Everything
This is perhaps the most important step in prepping any project. When I encounter a job with a lot of peeling paint I always ask the customer “how did you or the last contractor prep the job?” When their response leaves out a proper pressure washing, this is usually the root cause of their issues. If the substrate is not clean of dirt and debris then neither the primer nor the paint will adhere properly. It is also important to use an industrial strength pressure washer, it you have to plug it in to use it then it will definitely not be strong enough to prep a surface. A minimal of 2400 psi is sufficient.
Remove All Loose Paint
After you pressure wash a substrate there are likely some areas where the pressure washer could not remove all of the peeling paint. It is imperative to scrape all of the loose paint off so that your primer has a flat clean surface to bind to. Without this step, the primer will be sitting on top of an area already suffering from poor adhesion and fail well short of the expected life.
This is not the time to skimp on cost per gallon. The primer we use retails for $65 a gallon and there is a reason. Make sure you are using the proper primer and do not trust a paint and primer in one when it comes to exteriors. All of your bare wood should be primed with an exterior oil based wood primer to ensure that the exposed wood is protected from the elements.
Top Coat (Always 2!)
Some people will try and save money on paint and only apply 1 coat or use cheaper paint but remember, you get what you pay for. Think about it like this, if you spend an extra $15 or $20 on a gallon of paint and it gets you an extra five years before you need to paint it again, wouldn’t it be worth it? The material cost will always be less than the labor so make sure you know what paint your contractor is using and make sure it is written in the contract. I have had plenty of homeowners tell me that the contractor said he would use a higher grade paint/stain and then apply something way cheaper to pocket the difference.
The biggest lesson here is do your homework. If you ask a potential contractor what their prep procedures are and they are vague or misleading it is best to move on.