From testing your color palette before committing to it to vetting the right professional for the job, here's how to guarantee success.

By Jennifer Berno Decleene
April 27, 2020
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log exterior home with garden
Credit: Bianca Izurieta / Getty Images

You want repaint your home's exterior, but you're not sure where to start. That's understandable. After all, preparing for a paint project as big as this one (talk about maximum square footage!) requires time and a thorough approach. To help you craft the ultimate game plan, we tapped two experts. Ahead, they walk us through the three things you absolutely need to do before you schedule your paint job.

Test your color palette.

To try out your color palette, do a real-world road test. "Those little samples are deceptive—it's important to see options on a bigger scale," says New York City color consultant Eve Ashcraft, who created Martha's paint lines for Fine Paints of Europe and Sherwin-Williams for Kmart. Start with three to five possibilities, she says. Prime and paint large wooden boards, at least two feet by two feet, as well as long ones similar in scale to your trim. (For the most accurate assessment, apply two or more coats.) Pair them up, lean them against your house, and study them in varying degrees of shade and at different times of day before making a final pick.

Order enough paint.

Fun fact: A gallon of paint covers about 400 square feet. To estimate how much paint you'll need, or check a quote, multiply the perimeter of your house in feet by the height in feet, then deduct all the windows (they average 15 square feet each) and doors (21 square feet), and divide by 400. Then multiply the result times three—two coats are better than one, but three's a charm. That amount glosses over almost all of the microscopic pinholes that let in moisture, says Benjamin Moore field development manager Mike Mundwiller, which is the primary reason paint bubbles up or chips off.

Vet your painter.

When interviewing candidates, advises Mundwiller, confirm that they factored the correct amount of paint into their quote, in the brand and color you want and the best formula for your house's materials and condition. Then inquire about prep work. Painting is only a small part of the job: Before anyone picks up a brush, wood may need to be scraped and sanded, and mortar between bricks filled back in (repointed). Every spot where the body and trim meet has to be sealed with caulk, and the whole shebang primed. If your home was built pre-1978, your pro may also need to protect against lead-paint dust.

Finally, ask how long it'll take. That depends on your home's size, of course, but it's not unusual to prep for a week or more. And rain delays happen: Painters monitor the weather and work in spurts to ensure a layer or section has time to dry while it's still sunny.

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