House painting 101: The complete guide to painting your home's exterior.


Cleaning and painting your home’s exterior is a smart way to boost its curb appeal and help protect it from damage. But before you dive right into the project, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of exterior painting. 

There are also several steps to take even before the first coat is applied to the siding. Keep reading to learn when you should repaint your home’s exterior, how much it costs, the best paint to use and more.

What is exterior painting?

An exterior paint job will cover the outside, not the inside, of your home. For example, it won’t affect your interior doors or windows. Homeowners tend to get the following exterior surfaces painted:

  • Siding
  • Fascia
  • Exterior doors
  • Garage doors
  • Trim
  • And more

If your home has a porch or deck, you can also take this time to repaint those structures as well. 

Benefits of painting your home’s exterior. 

Homeowners may choose to paint their home’s exterior for various reasons, including:

  • Improve curb appeal. Washing and repainting your home will give you a clean, crisp look that will make your house stand out on your block (especially if your neighbors’ homes are looking a little dull).
  • Increase home value. You may be able to increase your home’s value and recoup some of the cost of painting your home when it’s time to sell. 
  • Attract buyers. Speaking of selling your home, choosing attractive exterior paint colors can make it easier to sell your home.
  • Protect your home from outside elements. You can prevent damage to your exterior materials (like wood) by repainting your home. Paint can help guard your home against the sun, wind, snow and rain.
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Signs you need to paint your home’s exterior.

There are some tell-tale signs that your home is in need of new paint.

Sign #1: Peeling, fading, cracking, bubbling or chipping paint.

If you can see peeling, cracking or chipping on the siding, patios or trim, reach out to a painting contractor. You may be tempted to scrape away loose pieces, but even a good paint scraper won’t give you a smooth painting job. 

Also, if you notice that a previously vibrant paint job has lost its luster, you may want to get a high-quality contractor to help preserve the exterior color.

Sign #2: Hardened or cracked caulking.

You have to pay attention to more than just the paint, however. If you see hardened or cracked caulking at the edge or section of trim, inspect other areas. Damaged caulking could compromise your home’s defense against moisture and water damage. You might need to replace the caulking and add a fresh coat of paint.

Sign #3: It’s been 5-10 years since your last paint job.

Sometimes, a few touch-ups every year will suffice. However, if it’s been a while since the house has been painted (around 5 to 10 years) it may be time for a fresh coat. If you live in an extremely cold, windy or hot climate that’s rough on your home, you may need to repaint your home more frequently.

The best time to paint your home.

Timing your paint job is crucial. Use these tips to get the best results:

  • It’s best to paint when it’s at least 50 degrees outside. And make sure the temperatures won’t dip “below 32° F at night for several days after,” according to Consumer Reports.
  • Be cautious when color matching. If you’re trying to paint your home the same color you have now, you’ll need adequate lighting to ensure you can see if the new coat matches the original.
  • Don’t paint when it’s too windy outside. While it’s OK for it to be a little windy, drop cloths and plastic sheeting can easily get blown around, and debris can blow into your fresh paint and get stuck.
  • Aim for spring or early fall. Try finding a painter in the spring or fall months when it’s warm enough (but not too hot). 
  • Paint well ahead of a critical event or date. It may take 30 days for the paint to fully cure so give yourself plenty of time before any events you might host. 

How much does it cost to paint a house?

On average, exterior painters charge $45 per hour, but can range from $25-$75 per hour. The amount you pay will depend on where you live, who you hire and the size of the area that needs to be painted. For example, here are some cost breakdowns: 

Square Footage

Average Cost

0-500 sq. ft.


500-1,000 sq. ft.


1,000-1,500 sq. ft.


1,500-2,000 sq. ft.


The cost may go up or down depending on the type of paint, the equipment the painter needs and the prep work that must be handled first. In many cases, home painters have to scrape away loose paint or use a pressure washer before applying the first coat. 

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Choosing the best exterior paint, color and finish.

The best paints for your home’s exterior are water-based paints (latex with acrylic) and oil-based paints. Each type of paint has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Paint Type



Water-based (latex, acrylic)

Resists cracking because it’s flexible; dries quickly; retains color; easy to clean; resists mold and mildew; and doesn’t yellow over time.

Sometimes doesn’t cover as well as oil-based paint; and not great for metal.


Goes on smoothly; covers thoroughly in one coat; durable; and contains a gloss.

Yellows and cracks as it ages; dries more slowly; higher VOC levels; clean up is more difficult; and a stronger odor.

Professionals tend to agree that latex or water-based paints are often your best option. However, you may want to consider using the same type of paint that’s currently on your home’s exterior. When in doubt, consult a professional painter for advice.

Exterior house paint color tips.

The color you choose will largely depend on your personal tastes. Many homeowners take advantage of the color swatches that major paint brands provide. Generally, people prefer to use a lighter color on the trim of the home to help highlight the architectural details, windows, and doors. 

Some also choose to use a bolder color when painting the door to make the house stand out from the rest in the area. If you’re having a hard time deciding, ask your painter for their opinion.

How to prepare your home for painters.

Consider completing a few tasks before your exterior painters arrive, especially if you want to save time and money. Here are some steps you may be able to do on your own:

  1. Decide which areas need to be painted. This is your chance to get everything done in one shot, so it would be best to address every area that could use some fresh paint.
  2. Use a pressure or power washer to clean your home. You need to wash your exterior walls because this will remove the kind of dirt, dust and debris that could affect the paint job. If you don’t want to do this task yourself, your painter will likely do it. Or, you can find pressure washing pros in your area.
  3. Locate any rough spots and use a putty knife to scrape them down. You may also need to use a stiff-bristle brush. The better you can prep the exterior, the smoother the paint job will be. If the surface is too rough, you may have to pay extra to have it smoothed out.
  4. Identify which areas need more or less paint. If you’re touching up the existing color, you may not need as much paint in certain spots.

Keep in mind: if you’re inexperienced, it may be smarter and safer to leave prep work to a professional painter. 

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How to hire a professional exterior painter.

Finding the right exterior painter isn’t hard — if you do your research. Here are the steps every homeowner should take:

Research online. Identify a few house painters near you, examine their portfolios, check out their credentials and get a feel for their experience.

Compare pros’ ratings. Ratings are a good indication of how skilled and reliable a painter is. If you see a lot of low ratings that make you nervous, you can respectfully ask why they received a low rating. It will help clear the air and eliminate doubts.

Read the customer reviews carefully. Check for statements about the quality of the paint job, timeliness and customer service. If the paint job came out good, but it took too long, that could be a red flag. If the painters were rude, inconsiderate or dismissive, that’s another red flag. A few things to look for include detailed descriptions of what the painter did well, how they went the extra mile and how they dealt with an obstacle.

Get price quotes. Before you hire a painter, make sure you’re paying a fair price. Get cost estimates from at least three painters to start. If you’re not happy with those prices, ask for a few more. 

Ask questions. The painters you contact will likely ask you plenty of questions about your project. But also take that time to ask them questions like: 

  • What’s included in the cost estimate?
  • What happens if you realize the job is going to cost more than the estimate? 
  • Do you foresee any difficult challenges while painting my home? If so, how will you deal with them? 
  • Have you painted a home that’s similar to mine?
  • Is there anything I need to do to make the job site safer or more convenient for you? 
  • Can you provide a few references that I can contact?
  • Are you going to do this yourself, or will you subcontract the work out to someone else?
  • How long do you expect this project to take?

Although finding the right painter requires a bit of research, you’ll find the best pro by taking the time to vet them thoroughly.

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What to expect during the house painting process.

First, many painters will give you a free quote. While checking out the house, they may discuss the prep work involved as well as color choices and types of paint. 

Next, your painter may have to do some cleaning and prep work. This may involve pressure washing and spreading drop cloths to catch chips of paint as they fall. There may be significant sanding and scraping. For smaller jobs, the prep and painting can sometimes happen on the same day. Often, the painters will require an entire day to get the house ready.

After your home is prepped, it has to be taped. Tape gets applied to protect surfaces that don’t need paint.

When the taping is finished, it’s time to start painting.The time it takes to paint your home depends on its size. You can expect it to take at least three days, but ask your painter if they expect it to take longer.

How to maintain your home’s exterior paint.

Once your house has been repainted, you’ll want to stay on top of maintenance to ensure the paint lasts as long as possible. This includes: 

  • Wash your home’s exterior. Get rid of dirt, pollutants, mildew and grime by using a mildew cleaning solution, sponges and soft-bristled scrub brushes. You can also use a pressure washer.
  • Touch-up the paint. Every year or two, grab a paint can and do small touch-ups.
  • Address damage quickly. If you notice cracking or peeling, deal with it right away. If you repair damaged areas quickly, you can help prevent the problem from spreading.
  • Inspect your home’s exterior regularly. As the weather and seasons change, inspect your home’s exterior paint and caulking. Check for chips, cracks, gaps and other issues that are unsightly and can lead to water damage.
  • Stay on top of landscaping. Properly maintain your lawn, flowers, bushes and trees — especially if they’re located close to your home. 

Find exterior painters near you.

A good exterior paint job can add both beauty and value to your home. If you’re ready to hire an exterior painter now, start searching for one on Thumbtack.


How many days does it take for exterior paint to dry?

Exterior paint is dry to the touch within a few hours. It may take as long as 30 days to cure, however.

Can you paint the exterior of a house with a roller?

Yes, a roller, if it’s the right size, can do a good job of covering the exterior of your home. You can also use a paintbrush.

Is it better to spray or roll exterior paint?

Both options have their pros and cons. It often takes a bit longer to set up and prepare your home for spray painting. But, the process of spray painting your home can be faster — but only if you know what you’re doing. 

If you’re a beginner DIY-er, you may make a few mistakes with a spray painter, such as not covering the area evenly and creating a mess. Using a roller is sometimes easiest (and usually more affordable).

How long should an exterior paint job last?

An exterior paint job should last between five and 10 years.

How often do you need to paint the exterior of your house?

You may need to repaint the exterior of your house every five to 10 years. But if your home has endured harsh climates, you’ll likely need to repaint your home more frequently.

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