Exterior Painting Tips!

Pro Painter recently surveyed some of its readers across the country to ask them which particular “glitches” they were running into on their exterior work this summer, and how they were solving them.

1. Bee and wasp attacks

Being swarmed by bees (or wasps or hornets) on the ground isn’t that much fun. But if you’re high up on a ladder, it can have tragic consequences. Maurice Benchetrit, of Immaculate Painting and Decorating, Toronto, carries a can of bee-killing spray on his belt whenever he’s working up under the eaves of buildings. He does a lot of painting at Trinity College, University of Toronto, where the Victorian-style dormer windows attract bees, well… like honey.

“Every year, I encounter four to five hives,” Benchetrit says, “and always make sure I bring a bee-killing spray, because if you’re really high up, you have nowhere to go if you’re attacked,” he says. He uses a pressurized spray that allows him to direct a “nice, long stream” to pinpoint a nest from 10 to 12 feet away. Particularly nasty are wasps, especially in August, when they “act crazy,” says Benchetrit. When he blasts the bothersome bugs with his lethal stream, “they drop like flies” — or in this case, euthanized wasps.

2. Putty that gets too sticky

To counteract today’s putties, which are much more oily than previous mastic products, it’s best to add sheetrock compound into the mix, to give a drier consistency. “The putty will be easier to work with,” says Benchetrit. In addition, “the (drier) putty delivers a good, clean line and looks like new.” Typically, he uses “a tiny bit” of the powdered sheetrock compound, sprinkling it onto “a big glob” of putty that he’s placed into an empty can. It’s key, he says, to hand-knead the putty thoroughly with the powdered compound, to create the right consistency. “I go by feel,” he adds. He uses sheetrock 45 or 90; a lower numbered grade, such as sheetrock 20, would cause the putty to dry too fast, he cautions. Proper consistency is especially important when working in the hot sun, which can render putty extremely soft. Always prime bare wood before applying putty, he adds.

3. Powdery film residue

Before starting a project, rub your hand over the exterior surface. If, after doing that, there’s a powdery film left behind on your hand, that’s residue, which must be washed off the building; otherwise, paint will bulge, crack or peel, says Troy Power, of Troy Power Painting, in Halifax. “You can’t paint over residue, so you have to wash it off,” says Power. He finds the most effective way to remove residue is to use a pressure-wash system. To that end, Power employs a high-pressure machine calibrated at 3,000 psi. Residue, he says, isn’t environmental, and results from “the breakdown of all the old products on the building – the existing layer(s) of paint. It doesn’t come from the weather.” What’s more, it’s a problem that Power encounters frequently. “I run into it 50 per cent of the time,” he says.

4. Wind-blown paint splatters

There’s nothing that annoys your customer more than getting unwanted paint splatters onto their automobiles, exterior light fixtures, garden furniture, even their trees and plants. Darren Smith of Upscale Painting & Sign in Cornwall, ON, uses lightweight canvas drop cloths to cover these and other vulnerable items around the perimeter of all his exterior paint jobs. Lightweight fabric like this doesn’t damage foliage and allows plants to breathe. Never use plastic covers on foliage: they can damage or even kill your valuable customer’s plants pretty quickly on a hot day, although plastic-sheet drop cloths are ideal to protect lights, windows and doors. Canvas drop cloths also make your jobsite look professional. Smith has seen painters using bedsheets as drop cloths outside, but they don’t exactly leave an impression of professional painter credibility.

5. Window and door sticking

It’s technically called “blocking” and we’ve all seen it. It’s when doors and windows stick shut and are difficult to open after we’ve painted them with latex paint, even after the paint has cured. Blocking can occur on wood garage doors, windows and weatherstripping-free painted doors.“When I come across (blocking), I use a palm sander or a piece of  sandpaper on a wood block to break down the surface,” says Dino Kalaitzakis, of Minerva Painting, Winnipeg. “Then, as we paint the (sanded) doors, we open and close them twice, once at the end of the shift and then the next day, to prevent them from sticking shut.” Some pros use clear Briwax to unstick stubborn doors and windows. Kalaitzakis says he’s never used Briwax, but agrees that it could be an effective fix for the problem. “You don’t want to get a complaint from the customer that they can’t open a door or window,” he says.

6. Problems from high-pressure washing

Although high-pressure washing has its advocates, low-pressure washing is a more sensible route, since high-pressure cleaning can drive water into wood and damage windows (and even siding). Stu Constable, of Painting and Decorating Inc., Charlottetown, has seen high-pressure washing damage homes. “I’ve seen pressurewashed shingles come off, and on older homes, nails come loose. To be truthful, I don’t believe in pressure washing. You wait all spring and summer for the moisture to come out of the wood” and then saturate the home in pressure driven water. “Then you have to wait two to three weeks, with good, dry weather, for the moisture to come out of the wood again,” he says. Constable practices what he preaches and favors, essentially, no-pressure washing, with a brush, soap and a garden hose. “It’s labor-intensive, but won’t damage anything,” he says, “so it might be cheaper in the long run.” pp

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