Painting the Exterior of Your Home…Do It Yourself, or Hire a Professional?

Exterior painting is the most cost efficient home remodeling project. You can change the look of your home for a few hundred if you do it yourself… or a little more money if you hire a professional to do the work for you. Below are the steps you need to take if you are planning on taking the challenge of painting your home by yourself.

The first step in a quality exterior painting job, or in any painting project for that matter, is start with a clean surface. This means that you will need to power wash. You probably will need to rent a power washer – something you can do at any major hardware or tool rental store. You will need a ladder to powerwash, depending on the height of your home you will need either an extension or step ladder. (or both)…you can rent a powerwasher for about $100 a day. You can rent ladders for about $40 a week.

Once you have all of this equipment you should power wash every surface that you plan to paint, making sure to use proper technique so as not to leave wand marks due to the extreme water pressure. It is good to use a watered down mixture of bleach and sodium tri-phosphate to kill and prevent mildew and mold and to wash away chalking. Often people ask, what is chalking? This is that chalk like substance that sticks to your hand when you touch the unwashed parts of your home, that is most often present on homes that have not been painted in awhile. A photo of chalking on a hand is below. Chalking is always the color of the paint job and is the paint properties breaking down from sunlight.

Pictured here is a paint job breaking down because the chalking and mold/mildew on the surface of the home was not removed prior to painting. This needs washed off or you will have peeling paint in the future.

To repeat: One of the most important steps in painting is to clean the working surface; otherwise, paint cannot stick to the dirty surface and will peel within a year. You can hire a professional painter or power washing contractor to wash a home usually for under $200.

Always be safe on ladders and roofs, it is very easy for someone to slip and fall. When power washing there is no need to get right up close to the surface, usually eight feet away, or so, is fine. Finally, it is very important to allow the surface to completely dry off, allow at least a day for the washed area to try, longer if there is rain or high humidity.

Surface Preparation

Once you have allowed the paint surface to dry you can begin preparing the work surface to receive paint. First you need to caulk. It is important to use only siliconized latex caulk. It must have latex in it and say “paintable” on tube. Buy color caulk to match your paint color if you plan on only doing one coat of paint, but white colored caulk should be fine if you are planning on two coats of paint and is usually cheaper per tube than colored caulk. Make sure to caulk all gaps in the wood and joints. Do not caulk wood to stucco.

The next step in prepping your painting surface is to scrape, removing all of the loose and failing paint, down to the bare wood if possible. You should then tape and lay down tarps in the area where you are standing to paint first, and then put a coat of primer on all of the surfaces you plan to paint. Primer color should be chosen according to what color you are painting (it is not always recommended to use white for darker colors). Make sure to cover everything but landscape bushes and plants. Putting tarps on bushes and plants can actually kill them due to the tarps’ weight and the heat trapped around the plants, under the tarps.

Set Up

Set up is the next part of the job, though may already have done this before you even started your prep work. Once you have your paint color picked out you will need to measure how many square feet of surface, you will be painting. Once you have figured out how many square feet there are to paint, divide that number by three hundred; that is around how many gallons of paint you will need for the first coat.

It is best to stick with a national paint store brand. One tip is to try not to go to the paint store on the weekends; they are always packed on the weekend with other do-it-yourselfers. If you go in the evening or in the day, during the week, they will likely have more time for a one-on-one consultation. It is usually best to ask for the store manager, he will have more experience and be able lead you the right direction, as far as what kind of paint and primer you should get, as well as help you with color, if you need it.

Tools You Will Need To Paint Your Home

  • Scraper
  • Case of caulk (you can return unused tubes)
  • Caulking gun
  • Masking tape
  • Cheap tarps
  • Your paint
  • An extra empty 5 gallon bucket with lid (usually $5 or free if you ask nicely)
  • A bucket grid
  • A 9 inch roller frame
  • A roller nap
  • A brush (2.5 inch sash is best for beginners)
  • A bucket hook (for hooking your paint pal to the ladder)

Other Tips

  • When purchasing your paint, buy the amount you determined from your square footage, minus about three gallons. You will always need to go back to the paint store, so don’t overbuy. Once you purchase tinted paint it is non-returnable and good paint costs about $30 per gallon for do-it-yourself pricing
  • Always start at the top left and work your way to the right. Painting in direct sunlight makes things more difficult when you are doing the work by yourself because it dries more quickly and, of course, is hot and bright
  • Usually you will want to start on the front of the home. That is the toughest side of the home to paint because it is the most decorative
  • If you are painting a home with siding, make sure to paint each siding slat all of the way across, then start back at the left on the next slat, like writing a line of text. This is a lot of work, but it allows for minor differences in paint color from can to can (which, though it is not supposed to happen, does). In the end, though it makes the job more difficult, it will give you a more even looking color because the divisions in the slats will hid any minor color differences
  • Try not to overlap a wet edge of paint over a dry edge, this is called flashing, and it leaves overlap marks once everything is dry. This will happen especially with only one coat applications. This is the most common error made by do-it-yourselfers. Remember, two coats are always best! Not only do two coats look a lot better, but the paint will last twice as long
  • Your dry time will vary, taking in to account weather and humidity. Usually two to four hours after applying the paint, it will be dry to the touch and your second coat can be applied. On hot, dry days, the drying time is even shorter
  • Professionals figure materials will usually be about 20% – 30% of the cost of a paint job….this is just an fyi for you when pricing materials and labor


A professional can spray a perfect finish, which fills cracks and holes; it also has a nice even coat. You cannot. It is much tougher than what it seems to get a nice even coat of paint with an industrial sprayer. To rent a sprayer, it cost about $80 per day. It will speed up your painting by at least four times. If you choose to spray, you’ll need to watch out for overspray, you do not want to accidentally spray your roof, cars or neighbors. It can be a very costly mistake. We do not recommend buying the cheaper Wagner series of paint sprayers at your local hardware. It is best to rent the professional model.

Spraying is best for painting big areas on your house like aluminum siding, wood siding, stucco, and so on. It is not for trim areas like your eaves and fascia, doors, frames, or garage doors. Only a professional can do this. Stick with a roller and brush for your trim areas…it will save you time, reduce headaches and you have less risk of overspray damage.

So How Much Can I Save by Painting Myself?

You will save about 65% of a professionals painting quote if you do it yourself. However studies have shown it will take a DIY 6x the amount as a professional. They have the tools, equipment, and experience.

Ask yourself these two questions as you weigh the pros and cons:

  • Do you want your evenings and weekends to be spent painting you home?
  • Is it worth the savings to you?


People fall of roofs and ladders every day. Is your home higher than two stories? Don’t paint that section, it’s not worth it. Falling more than 16 feet can be lethal. Hire professionals to paint the higher sections of your home. However, people are often surprised by how much they DO NOT SAVE when they choose to paint the lower section themselves. You should be able to get a quote for entire house painting and just second story painting, in order to budget for this.

Tying down a ladder is easy and necessary. See the photo below…not good.

Most falls occur when ladders are on a road or a slicker surface like a driveway, patio, or concrete walkway. Make sure you tie down your ladder, that way it cannot kick out from underneath you, and you can paint in relative safety.

The Final Product

Often homeowners are happy with their final product. Others are not and they end up hiring a professional to finish the project. Usually, if you are looking to sell your home in the near future, a do-it-yourself paint job will be critiqued by a potential buyer or realtor. But there is satisfaction and savings in painting your home by yourself, when done properly. Hopefully, this information helped you in your decision.

Hiring A Pro

Sharper Impressions Painting can set you up with a professional, in home, color consultation, for free. We use the best products, we have warranties, and we have insurance, so that your home is protected if something goes wrong.

We have Worker’s Compensation coverage for all of our painters, so if we fall, we get well and get back to work. If you fall, could you be out of work for a while, without compensation?

We know how to power wash a home properly, so it is clean, and your paint sticks for many years. The quality of work we provide is reflected in our excellent preparation, attention to detail, and leaves you with a beautiful finished product.

We can smooth edges where we sand and prime so that cratering, and seeing different levels of paint is reduced, once your two coats are applied. Our caulking lines are smooth, and fill cracks and gaps properly. Once the paint goes on, any cracks or gaps that may have existed, now look seamless. The “popping out” of caulking is a common problem with tough gaps and cracks, but we warrantee our work, so that is not something you’ll have to worry about. Often a good, professional, preparation and painting will have double the life of a do-it-yourself paint job, that doesn’t follow the proper, painstaking, preparation process and correct painting techniques.


So, if you like being outside, you are not afraid of heights, you can be safe, you have a lot of free time on your hands, you like to save money and will be satisfied with your final product, then you are a do-it-yourselfer

If getting injured is not an option, you like things perfect, you like your free time, you are afraid of heights, you want to know that your paint will last, you like having a warranty, and want the best paints for the surface of your home, then hire a professional.

Call or visit Sharper Impressions Painting today. We would love to give you a free, quick, ten minute quote for the painting of your home. Then you can decide for yourself…”Should I hire the pro’s or do it myself”.

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