One of the things a home inspector looks for when inspecting the outside of the home is the condition of the painted surfaces. While paint failure is a pretty easy thing to catch, there are are conditions that can be concealed by freshly painted surfaces and there is no way to really tell how “adequately” the house is painted.
Proper painting of the exterior should consist of at least two finish coats over a well primed surface. There are all kinds of short cuts that can be taken to make your house look well painted with the actual job being somewhat less than adequate. The inadequate painting job might not show up for several years—long after the painter is forgotten or no longer in business.
I worked as a painter for a while and did much of the painting on my own projects. The development of paint sprayers–especially airless type paint sprayers–was a huge improvement in being able to get a home painted quickly and theoretically adequately. But as is the case with so many tools–they can also be used to assist the user in taking shortcuts.
I want to continue this discussion with a simple question. You have just had your home painted and you are standing out at the curb writing a check to the painter and admiring his handiwork. How do you know how “well” it is painted?
If you go by looks alone you may be judging a book by its cover.
All paint has coverage specifications printed on the can. A really good quality exterior siding paint like Benjamin Moore will cover between 500 and 550 sq ft per gallon. Coverage will vary to some degree depending on surface porosity/roughness etc. But generally speaking if the exterior of your home is 2000 sq ft (wall surface area), you should have at least 8 empty cans when the job is done. Significantly less empty cans might mean only one coat was installed–or that at least the recommended coverage was not installed.
The problem arises when the installer sees the paint sprayer as being the “means of painting the house” as opposed to merely the “way to get the paint onto the house.” In other words the paint should be applied with the sprayer and then brushed out (or rolled out sometimes) to actually “adequately” complete the job of painting.
(While there are those that will argue that a house “can” be adequately painted with a spray approach alone, I will still argue that using a sprayer alone is VERY difficult and will almost always result in inadequate coverage. Just because many Professional painters paint this way does not make it the “best practice” in my opinion. Regardless of approach getting the desired results in the end is what should be the goal.)
In a recent new construction home I saw a great example of this short cut to proper painting. From the ground the paint job looked fine. But as I climbed the ladder to get to the roof I could see that this home was merely spray painted–not brushed out.
Any of you that have used a can of spray paint have noticed that the angle of the spray will only cover the areas in the path of the spray. Ridges and protrusions will remain unpainted in the areas hidden from the path of the spray. The whitish areas in these photos are the exposed primer–and not visible at all from the ground.
In this case it was the roughness of the wood siding surface itself that was out of the path of the spray.
Certainly this is proof of only one coat of paint and inadequate at that.
So how many empty cans of paint can we expect with this job? Not enough.
When you have your home painted always note how many gallons are specified in the contract, make sure that amount is enough to do your house twice, and make sure there are that many empty cans when the job is done. Also some painters like to “tint” the primer a color more like the finish color. This is OK but should never be used as a way to avoid that second coat of paint.
Then you can stand back at the curb–or the Brooklyn Bride–and admire how nice it looks.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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