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How to Choose Exterior Paint

It’s no secret that remodelers are looking for ways to save time and money for both themselves and their clientele; that’s why many exterior product manufacturers are providing materials that come pre-colored or pre-painted.

March 03, 2000
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It’s no secret that remodelers are looking for ways to save time and money for both themselves and their clientele; that’s why many exterior product manufacturers are providing materials that come pre-colored or pre-painted. These products also help provide a degree of individuality to an exterior design, but to truly customize an exterior remodel, exterior paints are a necessity. As John Korber, owner of Thoro Cleaning and Painting Inc. in Cleveland notes, convenience and cost are secondary. "The bottom line is how nice it looks when finished," he says.

Oil vs. Acrylic

Oil exterior paints and acrylic/latex exterior paints each have unique advantages and disadvantages. Here are some qualities to keep in mind when choosing paints for your next exterior remodel.

  • Flows into a smooth finish
  • Water-based and needs no thinner
  • Dries more slowly for more workability and fewer brushmarks
  • Fade and chalk resistant
  • Hard film is durable against foot traffic and minor damage
  • Flexible film
    allows paint to expand and
    contract in varying weather
  • The durability of an exterior paint can also ensure that a paint job will keep looking good years after an exterior remodel. Although some paints advertise 10- to 15-year longevities, that number varies depending on the area painted, and the weather conditions the paint is subjected to, according to Matt Rechin, national marketing manager for Flood. Acrylic-based paints are more resistant to sunlight and fading, and have a flexibility that allows the paint to bend as the building material underneath expands and contracts. Oil-based paints, however, are harder and stand up to foot traffic better than acrylics can. Oil paints also dry more slowly than acrylics and spread more smoothly, allowing paint contractors a greater degree of workability.

    Paint’s gloss also affects a job’s longevity. The higher the gloss, the more durable paint will be. "Mid-sheen paints, like satin gloss, are very good for aluminum and vinyl siding," says Kathy Henry, associate product manager for Glidden. "It’s a good all-purpose gloss. There’s not a lot of shine, but enough for the paint to be washable. On trim, it’s best to use a semi- or high-gloss paint for the look. It has a nice shiny look, and for areas like the trim around a door that will get touched and banged, it’s harder and more durable"
    Gene Merrill, director of new product development for Duron, notes that he’s seen many contractors moving from oil-based paints to acrylic-based paints based on acrylic’s fade-resistant properties. "Alkid products tend to fade and downgloss in as little as six to 12 months, and water-based acrylic products don’t lose any significant gloss in three to five years," he says.

    Although white is still the dominant color for exterior work, more homeowners are adding custom-chosen colors to differentiate their exteriors. Bright trims and details against neutral siding make a house stand out against its neighbors.

    Current exterior remodels often involve replacing or repainting exterior products that are worn or dated. Aluminum siding installed in the ’50s or ’60s may still be structurally sound, but often the color will fade or chalk over. According to Brian Cupari, marketing manager for Sherwin-William’s stores division, homeowners often find that repainting is a convenient and cost-effective way to update a home, instead of residing. "There continue to be a lot of surfaces to paint," he says.

    Special-needs paints are also available, allowing remodelers to save time or even continue their work out-of-season. Self-priming paints save on both time and material needed to finish a paint job, as do single-coat paints that go on as thick as two coats. Cold-weather paints that can be applied at temperatures as low as 35 degrees extend the painting season into October, November, and early spring.

    Make sure to research your materials carefully, however. Knowing what to expect from a product makes the biggest difference in a job well done. "You don’t want to buy the cheapest paint," says Korber. "You’ll be getting what you pay for. You’re better off paying the top dollar and getting the best product."

    Duron: Siding-in-a-Can restores the old, worn look of weathered aluminum siding. This waterborne acrylic exterior coating is formulated to resist cracking, fading, chalking and blistering, and contains a mildew-resistant component. When used on T-111 siding, paint can bridge small cracks and will stretch and shrink in hot and cold weather conditions. Coating system includes specialty primers for different types of exterior siding. Warranty: Product replacement. Availability: Retail.

    In the Details

    When helping clients choose colors for an exterior repaint, keep the following tips in mind:
  • Look at colors used on other homes in the neighborhood and the colors of the natural landscape for color cues...harmony with surrounding elements adds value to a home.
  • Keep the fixed colors of a home’s roof, masonry and metal trim in mind, and use those pre-existing colors to your advantage.
  • Don’t forget to choose additional colors to bring out details such as mailboxes, fences and
  • Test paint colors on sample planks, and make sure to look at them in the home’s natural light.
  • Use lighter shades and white trim to create the illusion of a larger home, or conversely, use deep, warm tones to make a house seem
  • Flood: Expand your exterior color scheme to include decking as well as siding with Solid Color Deck and Siding stain. Coating includes both primer and color in one product that adheres to new wood and problem surfaces without peeling. Coating is fortified with a stir-in bonding primer, allowing the stain to stick to chalky, dusty and porous surfaces. Available in three tint bases and seven pre-mixed colors in addition to custom tints, stain can coordinate with other exterior coloring products. Stain is abrasion, chalk and mildew resistant. Warranty: Three years on decks and five years on
    siding. Availability: Retail.

    Glidden: Cold Weather exterior latex paint can be used in temperatures as low as 35 degrees. Specially formulated to expand and contract with temperature changes, coating dries to a finish that resists peeling, cracking, blistering and erosion. Paint is 100-percent acrylic, and provides exceptional hide while it resists yellowing and fading. Finishes include flat, satin and semi-gloss, and cold weather primer is also available. Warranty: Assured satisfaction limited policy. Availability: Retail.

    Sherwin-Williams: Specially designed for repainting, Duration exterior coating offers paint longevity in a single coat. Formulated to go on thicker than conventional paints, Duration can cover most existing colors in a single coat, and increased flexibility prevents peeling and blistering. In addition to mildew resistance, coating also offers protection against flash-rusting, and flat and satin finishes can be used on most exterior materials. The product carries a one-coat warranty when used for repaint work. Warranty: One-coat limited. Availability: Retail.

    Decking Out the Exterior

    Natural wood used in decks, siding and other exterior features may need special attention that can’t be met with standard exterior paints. Using exterior semi-transparent and solid-color stains can make these elements more durable to weather and pull them into a home’s exterior color scheme at the same time.

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