Painting and decorating exterior woodwork

Painting and decorating exterior woodwork


You can choose either a non-drip gloss or a runny gloss for the exterior woodwork. The non-drip jelly paints combine the properties Of undercoat and finishing coat so a separate undercoat is not required. But this single coat won’t be as long-lasting as the undercoatplus- runny-gloss system and you’ll have to apply two or three coats to build up a thick enough paint film to give adequate outside protection. Inside, however, one coat of nondrip paint would be quite sufficient.

The sequence of painting all jointed woodwork – windows, doors and frames – is determined by the method of construction. In nearly all cases the rails (horizontal bars) are tenoned into mortises cut into the stiles (uprights). Therefore, you should paint the rails and cross bars first, then deal with the stiles. By painting in this way, any overlaps of paint from the rails and bars are covered up and leave a neater finish. An even edge on the glass is best achieved freehand, but if you doubt the steadiness of your touch, use a paint guard or masking tape.

Bring the paint onto the glass for up to 3mm to protect the edge of the putty. If you are using masking tape, remove it shortly after painting round each pane; the paint may be peeled off if it is left to harden completely before the tape is removed. When a visitor calls at your house, he’ll stand face to face with your front door and have nothing to do but examine it while he awaits your answer.

front door porch

So it’s here you should put in your best work. Remove all the door furniture such as knobs, knockers, locks, keyhole covers and letterbox. Prepare the woodwork carefully and wipe it down with a tackrag (a soft cloth impregnated with a sticky varnish) to collect any remaining dust. Tackrags are obtainable from any good paint shop. Use a perfectly clean brush, preferably one that has been used before so that no loose bristles will come adrift. Wedge the door ajar and cover the floor with a dust cloth or old newspapers. Use paint which doesn’t need straining, and pour about 50mm (2in) into a small container or pain] kettle.

All coats of paint should follow the grain of the wood. Don’t attempt to cross-hatch – that is, apply a primer in one direction, undercoat at right angles and finishing coat in the direction of the primer. If you do, you’ll get a crisscross effect when the paint dries which produces a poor finish.

Painting and decorating exterior walls

Painting and decorating exterior walls

There is a wide range of paints available for exterior walls, and full information is usually available from suppliers. As for tools, a 100mm (4in) brush is the easiest size to handle; anything larger would put too much strain on the wrist. An alternative is a long-pile roller which has the advantage of being much quicker to use – about three times quicker than a brush.

An extra long-pile roller is needed for roughcast or pebbledash; choose one with a pile 32mm (11Ain) deep, or use a banister brush instead. Use a cheap disposable brush or roller for cement paints as they are almost impossible to clean afterwards. A large plastic bucket or paint kettle is essential when working up a ladder. Stir the paint thoroughly first, then pour some into the bucket until it’s about one third full. If you’re using a roller, use a special roller tray with a large paint reservoir, or else stand a short plank in the bucket (see step-by-step photographs, page 27) to allow you to load the roller evenly. Hook the bucket or tray onto a rung of the ladder with an S-hook to leave both hands free. Lay a dust sheet below to catch any drips and you’re ready to start.


Start at the top of the wall and paint a strip across the house. Work from right to left if you’re right-handed, and left to right if you’re left-handed. Be sure to secure the ladder to prevent it slipping and allow a three-rung overlap at the top. Use a brush to cut in under the eaves or fascia boards and to paint round obstacles, then fill in the larger areas with a brush or roller.

Paint an area only as large as you can comfortably manage and don’t lean out too far, your hips should remain between the ladder’s stiles at all times. If you have an awkward area which is too far away to reach, push a broom handle into the hollow handle of the roller, or buy a special extension handle. Protect pipes by wrapping them in newspaper, and mask any other items you don’t want to paint. Leave an uneven edge at the bottom of each patch so the join won’t be too noticeable, then move the ladder to the left (or right) and paint another strip alongside the first. The principle is always to keep working to the longest wet edge so the joins won’t show. When you’ve done the top series of strips, lower the ladder and paint another series across the middle. Lower the ladder again or work from the ground to do another series along the bottom. Working across the house like this means you have to alter the ladder height the least number of times.

Exterior painting and decorating

Exterior painting and decorating

The best way to paint the walls, pipes, windows and doors to give a professional look to your home.

If you have completed all the cleaning, repairs and preparation on the outside of your house, and if the weather has been dry for the past couple of days and looks settled for a while, you are now ready to start painting. Tackle the painting in more or less the same order as the preparation, starting at the top and working downwards.

Gutters, fascias and barge boards

If you have plastic gutters and want to paint them, simply apply a thin coat of gloss paint to the outside surface. This is the only case outside where paint is used purely for decoration rather than protection. Iron gutters can be painted on the inside with a bituminous paint as this will provide a waterproof coating and protect the iron. Paint the outside of gutters and downpipes with the usual gloss paint system. You’ll need a small paint pad or crevice brush to get into the narrow gaps at the back of gutters and pipes. Protect the fascia with a piece of board held behind the guttering. Don’t miss out these awkward bits as this is where the rust will start up again.

Fascias and barge boards are so exposed that it’s best to give them an extra coat of gloss. You’ll need your crevice brush or paint pad again to paint behind the gutters.

Preparation for painting and decorating Galvanised iron

Preparation for painting and decorating Galvanised iron

You’re likely to find galvanised iron used as corrugated iron roofing, gutters and downpipes. The zinc coating on galvanised iron is to some extent ‘sacrificial’, so that if a small patch becomes damaged, the surrounding zinc will, in time, spread over to cover the damage.

But this weakens the coating and an application of paint will prolong its life. If the galvanising is new and bright, simply clean it with a rag dipped in white spirit or turps to remove any grease, and apply a calcium plumbate primer. If it’s old and greylooking, first remove any existing paint by rubbing lightly with a wire brush, trying not to scratch the surface. Then clean with white spirit or turps and apply zinc chromate primer.

Preparation for painting and decorating Metal and plastic windows

Preparation for painting and decorating Metal and plastic windows

Metal doors and windows should be treated in the same way as metal pipes and gutters. So sand them down and make sure all rust is removed before priming. Aluminium frames can be left unpainted, but if you do want to paint them you must first remove any surface oxidation which shows as a fine white deposit.
Use a scraper or wire brush, but go very gently and try not to scratch the surface. Prime with a zinc chromate primer. Plastic window frames should not be painted.

Preparation for painting and decorating new doors and windows

Preparation for painting and decorating new doors and windows

New wooden windows and doors may already have a coat of pink primer applied at the factory, but it’s best not to rely on this for complete protection. Knots, for instance, will rarely have been properly treated, and the primer film will have been damaged here and there in transit.

So sand down the whole surface, treat any knots with knotting compound and apply another coat of wood primer overall. It may be advisable to paint doors while they’re lying flat; certainly it’s vital to paint the top and bottom edges before you hang them in place. It’s very important to paint the bottom as rain and snow can easily penetrate unpainted wood causing it to swell and rot. Paint also protects the wood against attack from woodworm.

Woodwork painting and decorating preparation

Woodwork painting and decorating preparation

Knots, putty and holes

Check the woodwork for any live knots which are oozing out resin. If you find any, strip off the paint over them and then play a blowtorch or electric hot air stripper over them to burn out the resin. Sand lightly and treat with knotting, then prime when dry. You should also check the putty fillet round each pane of glass, and if any has disintegrated, rake it out with an old knife. Then sand’and prime the wood and bed in new putty using a putty knife.

Use linseed oil putty on wood and metal glazing or all purpose putty on metal-framed windows. Smooth the putty with a damp cloth and leave it for about a week before painting. Rake out any cracks in the wood and cut back wood which is starting to rot. If a large amount of wood is rotten – usually along the bottom edge of a sash window – a larger repair is needed. This could involve replacing a section or all of the window.

Prime the bare wood, working the primer well into cracks and end grain as this is where the weather gets in. Small cracks can be filled with putty, but larger ones should be filled with exterior grade hard stopping or filler. Sand level when dry and spot-prime. Gaps between the window frame and wall should be filled with a flexible, waterproof, mastic compound applied with a special gun. Finally, sand down the whole of the woodwork to make it ready for repainting.

Exterior painting and decorating preparation

Preparing the outside of your house before painting it is a job that has to be done. If you provide a sound surface the paint will last much longer.

If your house is in good order and has been decorated regularly, then the paintwork may need no more than a quick wash down and a light sanding before it’s ready for repainting. But if your house is in a rather worse state than this, take some time now to make a really good job of the preparation and you’ll have a much easier time in the future. The preparation may seem rather time consuming, but don’t be tempted to miss out any of the steps.

Properly applied, paint will protect your house for several years, but it won’t stick to an unsound surface. The most convenient order of working is to start at the top of the house and work down, and to do all the preparation before you start to paint so that dust and grit won’t fall on wet paint. When working at a height, make sure the ladder or platform is firm and secure.

Gutters and downpipes

Gutters manage to trap a surprising quantity of dirt and old leaves, so clear this out first. It’s a good idea to check that the gutter is at a regular slope towards the nearest downpipe. You can easily check this by pouring a bucket of water into one end and seeing if it all drains away. If puddles form, you’ll need to unscrew some of the gutter brackets and adjust the level of the gutter until the water flows away freely. Check all the joints for leaks and if you do find any, seal them with a mastic compound applied with a gun. Plastic gutters need little maintenance, and they don’t need painting. But if you want to change their colour, simply clean them thoroughly and wipe them over with a rag dipped in white spirit or turps to remove any grease spots before starting to paint. There’s no need for a primer or undercoat, but the painters & decorators may need two top coats for even coverge. Metal gutters and pipes need more attention as all rust has to be removed. Scrape off flaking paint first, then use a wire brush and emery paper to remove the rust. A wire brush attachment on an electric drill would make the cleaning easier (but wear a mask and goggles while using one). You can buy an anti-rust chemical from paint shops which is useful for badly rusted metalwork. It works by turning iron oxide (rust) into phosphate of iron which is inert and can be painted over. In any case, prime all bare metal immediately with either a red lead primer or a zinc chromate metal primer. Metal primers contain a rust-inhibitor which protects the metal against further corrosion, so don’t miss them out. If the gutters and pipes are in good condition with no sign of rust, simply wash them down and sand the surface lightly to key it ready for repainting.


Fascias and barge boards

Fascias and barge boards run along the top of a wall just below the roof. Fascias support the guttering below pitched roofs and edge flat ones, while barge boards are fitted beneath the roof tiles on gable ends. Because they are so high up, don’t worry too much about their appearance; the main consideration is protection as they are in such an exposed position. Clean out well behind the gutters as damp leaves or even bird’s nests can be lodged there. Then, using a wide scraper, remove all loose flaking paint, sand down the whole board surface and prime the bare patches. Fill holes and cracks with an exterior-grade filler or waterproof stopping and smooth it level while still damp using a filler knife. You can prime the filler when it’s dry.


The main surface materials and finishes used on the outside of your house are brick, stone, wood and render. Walls of brick and stone, especially when weathered, have a beauty all of their own and don’t really need painting. But the surface can become cracked and dirty and a coat of paint will cover up repairs that don’t match the original surface, and protect the wall from further damage. Examine the pointing and, if it has deteriorated, rake out the damaged parts and re-point with fresh mortar.

Use a mixture of about 1 part cement to 4 parts of fine sand, or buy a bag of readymixed mortar. Use a small trowel and try to match the original pointing in the surrounding brickwork. Don’t worry about hairline cracks as these will easily be covered by the paint. The white crystalline deposit which sometimes appears on brickwork is known as efflorescence. It is caused by watersoluble salts in the brick being brought to the surface, and should be brushed off with a dry brush. Don’t try to wash it off as this will only make it worse. The main types of render are plain, roughcast and pebbledash. Plain render can be applied to give a smooth finish or a textured Tyrolean’ finish, for example. Roughcast consists of pebbles mixed with mortar before application, and with pebbledash the pebbles are thrown on while the mortar is still wet.

Pebbledash deteriorates more quickly than the other types of render as, over the years, differences in rates of expansion between each pebble and the surrounding mortar may result in small surface cracks causing the pebbles to become loose and fall out. Paint will bind in the pebbles and protect small cracks.

When repairing any of these surfaces, try and achieve the same finish as the original, or as near as you can, so that when it’s repainted the repair won’t be too noticeable. Stop up cracks with mortar, using a mix of 1 part cement to 5 parts sand. Chip away very wide cracks until you reach a firm edge, then undercut this to provide a good key for the new mortar. Dampen the surface, then stop up with a trowel. Use a float if the surface is plain, or texture the surface to match the surrounding area. Where the rendering is pebbledash, throw on pebbles with a small trowel while the mortar is still wet, then press them into the mortar lightly with a flat piece of wood.

Mould and stains

If there’s any sign of mould or algae on the wall, treat this next. Mix up a solution of 1 part household bleach to 4 parts water and paint this on the affected area. Be generous with the solution and cover the area well. Leave 2 The paint must first be stripped off to expose the knot. Use any method of stripping, and scrape the paint off with a shavehook or scraper. growth, then wash off thoroughly and brush down with a stiff brush. Rusty gutters, pipes and metal fittings can all cause stains if rusty water drips down the wall. So cure any leaks first and clean and prime all metal to ensure there’s no trace of rust. Mould and algae thrive on damp walls; even if you can’t actually see any growth on a damp patch, there may be some spores lurking there, so you should make absolutely sure that you sterilise all stains with the bleach solution just to make sure.

Dusty or chalky walls

All walls, whether dusty or not, should be brushed down thoroughly to remove any loose material. But if, after brushing, the wall is still dusty or chalky, if a cement-based paint was used previously to decorate it, or if the wall is porous, you’ll have to brush on a stabilising solution. This will bind together loose particles to allow the paint to stick, and from being sucked in too much.
The stabiliser also helps to waterproof the wall and you can paint it on as an extra iayer of protection whether it’s really necessary or not. Most stabilisers are colourless, but offwhite stabiliser/primers are available and this would be a good choice if you were planning to paint your house in a light colour, as it could save one coat of the finishing colour.

These off-white stabilisers, however, are not recommended for use on surfaces painted with a cement-based paint. Stabilisers must be painted on a dry wall and should be left to dry for 24 hours before painting on the top coat. Don’t paint if ram is expected. Clean your brush in white spirit or turps as soon as you stop work. Timber cladding If the cladding or weatherboarding is bare and you want to leave the natural wood surface showing, it should be treated with a water-repellent wood preservative to give protection against damp penetration and decay. The preservative is available clear or pigmented with various colours. If the wood has been varnished, scrape off the old varnish and sand down well, following the grain of the wood.

Fill cracks and holes with plastic wood or a tinted stopper to match the colour of the wood. If you wish to paint the surface you’ll have to wait a year or so for the water-repellent agents in the preservative to disperse before priming with an aluminium wood primer.


If the paintwork on the windows is in good condition all you need do is give them a wash and a light sanding. If the paint is cracked and flaking, a little more preparation is needed. To check if the paint surface needs stripping, lay on a piece of sticky tape and see if it lifts off any paint. Occasional chipped or blistered portions can be scraped off and cut back to a firm edge.
As long as the edge is feathered smooth with glasspaper, it shouldn’t show too much. If previous coatings are too thick for this treatment, build up the surface with outdoor grade hard stopping until it is just proud of the surrounding paint, then sand level when it’s dry. Don’t allow the stopping to extend too far over the edge of the damage or it’ll be difficult to sand it smooth.

There comes a time, however, when the condition of the old coating has become so bad that complete stripping is advisable.
door paint strip

A blow-torch or an electric hot air stripper are the quickest tools to use. Start at the bottom softening the paint, and follow up immediately with a scraper. Hold the scraper at an angle so the hot paint doesn’t fall on your hand, and don’t hold it above the flame or it may become too hot to hold. Try not to concentrate the flame too long on one
though this rarely matters on exterior woodwork which will be over-painted again. Always be extremely careful when using a blowtorch, and keep a bucket of water or sand nearby in case something does catch fire. A chemical paint stripper is the best method to use near glass in case the glass cracks under the heat of a blow-torch.

Applying textured finishes to walls and ceilings

Textured finishes which you can paint on walls or ceilings are an inexpensive way of covering up poor surfaces. They also give you the chance to exercise your ingenuity in creating relief patterns on them.

Textured wall and ceiling finishes can provide a relatively quick form of decoration. You don’t, for example, need to apply more than one coat. And, unlike relief wallcoverings (another type of product commonly used to obtain a textured wall or ceiling surface), you don’t have to go through the process of,pasting, soaking, cutting, hanging and trimming; you simply spread the finishes on the surface with a paint brush or roller.

One of the advantages of using a ‘texture’ on walls is that it will tend to mask the effect of any general unevenness in the surface. Similarly, ready-mixed textures are often marketed specifically as a solution to the problem of improving the appearance of old ceilings. They are very suitable for this and can save a lot of tedious repair work. However, there is no need to think of textures just as a cover-up. You may simply prefer a textured surface to a flat, smooth one. If you use patterning tools, the range of textured effects you can achieve is practically endless, depending only on your skill and imagination.

Choosing textured finishes

One of the factors which will influence your choice of finish is, obviously, how much you are prepared to pay. The traditional compound which you buy in powder form to mix with water is the cheapest type, but, like ordinary plaster, is rather porous and needs to be painted over. Even so, the cost of coverage, including over-painting, is very reasonable. Ready-mixed types are rather more expensive but you don’t normally need to paint over them, and some brands offer a reasonable range of colours. The traditional powder type, thickly painted on a wall or ceiling, has a slow setting time, which makes it ideal for creating a decorative impression with a patterning tool. Readymixed products can also be given a textured finish in the same way as the powdery type, but doing so will tend to vary the thickness of the finish so that overpainting might be necessary. (If you just paint them on without carrying out any follow-up patterning treatment, you will be left with a random textured effect.)

Some of the textured products suitable for exterior use can also be patterned with tools; check the manufacturer’s instructions for guidance here.

Tools and equipment

Apart from the texture finish itself, and paint if you’re going to overpaint, you will need a brush or roller to apply the finish. The most suitable type of brush is a 200mm (8in) distemper brush. The type of roller you use will affect the pattern created and special rollers are available to create certain effects (see step-by-step photographs). Sometimes you paint the material on first with an ordinary roller (or a brush) and then work it over with a patterning roller; follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the type of roller you will need. If you are dealing with a ceiling you will need some form of access equipment; two stepladders with a plank resting between them will usually suffice. Textured finishes, especially when applied with a roller tend to spray and spatter about, so it’s best to have goggles and a mask to protect your eyes and mouth when you are looking up; also, don’t forget to protect your hair. In addition, whether you’re painting walls or ceiling, you’ll need a dust sheet or some other form of protective covering for the floor.

You may also require a plumb bob and line and any equipment required for filling cracks or joints such as a caulking tool, jointing tape knife, filling knife, filler and so on. Where you intend to texture the surface after painting on the finish you will also need your patterning tool(s).

These can be proletary or home-made; you can even use equipment which was chiefly designed for other purposes which you may decide will create the pattern you want. Apart from patterning rollers, the proprietary tools available include combs (some of which can give special effects within the combed patterns such as ‘rose’ and ‘flower’), stipple brushes and pads and special ‘swirl’ brushes. You can also buy a tool called a ‘lacer’ to dull any sharp ridges; however a plastic straight edge or the blade of a filling knife is a suitable alternative.

Preparing the surface

Textured finishes can be applied to bare or painted surfaces but the surface must be sound and, in some cases, treated. You should not, for example, think of textured finishes as a means of covering up walls which really need replastering or a ceiling which should be replaced. All porous surfaces should first be treated with a stabilising primer recommended by the manufacturer of the finish so that the setting of the texture material is not spoilt by suction.

Surfaces requiring such treatment include brick, render, concrete, plaster and some types of wallboards. Texture finishes can be used to hide very fine hairline cracks and are usually marketed for their flexible ability to cope with normal movement so cracks don’t reopen. However, none of them can cover cracks or joints of more than 1.5mm (1/i6in) with any guarantee that these will remain covered up. You will have to caulk the cracks or joints with texture compound (perhaps thickened with a little ordinary filler). Ideally, joints between boards of any kind should also have a layer of jointing tape over them between layers of whatever types of filler you are using . Make sure you feather noticeable ridge when the texture covers it.

Painted surfaces should be clean, sound and sanded lightly to provide a key for the finish. Distemper and low-quality emulsion paint may not hold the texture; test by pressing adhesive tape on a small area first and remove any painted surface that has a tendency to delaminate when the tape is peeled off. If the surface has been painted in a dark colour it’s best to paint over it in a light colour first before you apply the texture. You will have to remove wallpaper or light tiles such as polystyrene tiles. You can, however, safely apply a textured finish over ceramic tiles provided they are clean, the gaps are filled and they are primed with a coat of PVA adhesive, diluted according to the manufacturer’s instructions.