Monday, July 23, 2012

Step 18 - Exterior Caulking and Painting

The Fire House - Just before be painted.
A great time to dig into the exterior is while the plumbing, electrical, and heating/air conditioning crews are busy with rough-in on the interior.  Clearly, the painting of the exterior is closely tied to Step 16 - The Exterior Façade.  However, if the home has been buttoned up with maintenance-free materials, the exterior caulking/painting may be minimal.  As I've written previously, all of my properties have been different inside and out so the scope of exterior painting and caulking has never been the same either.  For example,  The Fire House got painted from top to bottom; the exterior walls (with their weeping joints removed), the soffitt, the fascia, the front porch posts, and porch ceiling...all of those areas were brightened up with paint.  The Bungalow was fiber-cement sided and comparable in terms of painting on the outside, but on this one the soffitt was vented vinyl.  The Hurricane House was brick, but with maint.-free metal fascia and vinyl soffitt.  The front door and matching wooden shutters were painted on the outside of this home, as well as the trim around the windows, but that was it. 

Paint makes a big impact.
Caulking serves more than one purpose, but it's main job is to seal up small gaps.  It helps keep water and small critters from finding a way inside the house.  However, caulk can also make an average carpenter look good and great carpentry work look perfect.  I never really understood the impact of caulking until I worked on a prison where everything had to pass what we called 'the razor blade test' - if an inmate could slip a razor blade into any gap or crevice, we had to have it caulked with 'security caulk.'  On this big project we hired a caulking subcontractor.  The company sent us a three man crew that did nothing but caulk eight hours a day for weeks.  It was a lot of tedious (and sticky) work, but it was necessary and it made a big difference in how secure things were when we were finished.  In addition to that it helped make everything look clean and tight visually.  This project really drove home for me how caulking can give a painting job the finished look that oftentimes makes a professional's paint work look so much better and more complete than an amateur's.  So, don't forget about caulking before you paint.

A decade ago, I didn't really enjoy painting.  However, I can't say that now and periodically I like getting lost for a few days in a large painting task.  There are two things I've learned that make painting more enjoyable for me.  First, you have to keep your brushes clean.  Secondly, you have to take the time to prep properly (which includes caulking before-hand and allowing adequate drying time).  These two things make a huge difference and understanding the importance of them makes painting more fun and productive.

It took this painter three years to finish the siding and exterior trim on The Bungalow, but she wrapped things up just in time to start kindergarten.  Use big paint brushes for large areas & smaller brushes for trim.  Don't break out the watercolor brushes unless you're painting intricate details on a Victorian or ... teaching a toddler how to paint. 


  1. I love your site - It's incredibly useful. I'm actually getting ready to put in some replacement windows here in my exterior caulking
    . Now that the weather is cooled down a bit I am actually motivated to do work around the house again. Thanks for the information handyman.

  2. I really love reading articles that has lots of knowledge to impart. I admire those writers who share the best of their knowledge in writing such articles.

    exterior painting soquel

  3. Nice home. It would be more elegant and lively if exterior wood shutters are installed. I have a plan of installing one for my house.