Painting Weathered Wood: Expert Advice

| 8/12/2011 9:04:35 AM

When painting a home with a wood exterior, it's not unusual to find areas that are worn and weathered.  In extreme cases, the entire house may be weather-beaten. 

Sometimes, a home is this way because it's been years since the last paint job.  But even new construction - a recent addition, for example - can be "weathered" after only a few weeks if unpainted wood is left exposed to the elements. 

"If the wood exterior you're about to paint meets one of these descriptions, you'll need to do some extra surface preparation," says Debbie Zimmer, spokesperson for the Paint Quality Institute.   "That's the only way to end up with a high quality, long-lasting paint job on weathered wood." 

Assuming that the wood has been painted before, start your surface preparation by scraping away all of the loose or peeling paint.  (But if your home was built before 1978 and you suspect the presence of lead-based paint, first call 1-800-424-LEAD to learn how to avoid potential health hazards.)  Then, carefully inspect the exterior of your home for damaged or rotted wood. 

Dry rot (dry, crumbly sections of wood) and wet rot (soggy, soft spots) are both caused by microorganisms that thrive in damp conditions.  Rot can destroy the wood so completely that a finger can be pushed right through it.

To test for rot, poke suspicious-looking boards with a screwdriver; if it goes in easily, the wood has rotted. 

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