Exterior Painting Tips and Common Mistakes

Outside home paint finishes must provide long-lasting protection for as long as possible. Generally, anyone who has previously hired or needs exterior painters understands the importance of durable exterior house painting.

Hiring qualified exterior painters is also critical to achieving lasting results. We have an article on what questions to ask exterior painters for those who have never hired painting services. 

So, while we have stated the obvious, the truth is once you have diligently gone through the process and have hired an exterior painter, there are still misapplications and mistakes that could happen. 

Improper exterior painting applications are a leading cause of exterior paint failures. We will list and reveal the most common inaccurate applications so that you can ensure receiving a quality paint job that will last.


Not Priming Raw Wood

With so many competing paint labels, it’s no surprise that some people, including painters, get preliminary priming concepts wrong. To promote a proper bond, exterior raw wood must always be primed with the appropriate exterior grade primer. 

Merely painting over raw wood without priming will cause paint to blister and peel prematurely. However, several so-called “professional painters” often get this simple concept wrong.

One of our favorite exterior primers is Zinsser. If your exterior water-based paint claims paint & primer in one, you may want to read the fine print that discloses what “self-priming” really means.

Applying Incompatible Deck Stains

With a plethora of deck stains ranging from penetrating oils, water-based, to emulsified hybrids, when it’s time to re-stain, the mistake of applying an incompatible deck stain can easily be made – unless you’re using the same product. 

When in doubt, it’s safer to use an oil-based stain. Oil stains can cover and are compatible with most water-based products – but it’s not the same the other way around. However, merely applying an oil stain does not guarantee that every stain compatibility issue will be resolved. For example, using an oil-based deck stain can cause adverse effects on wood substrates containing acrylic polymers on the surface.

Incorrectly treating or restoring a deck causes premature wear and even rot. If you don’t know the exact deck stain previously used, testing the area or having a professional who can provide proper recoating recommendations is critical. 

Hardwoods such as IPE require an entirely different plan of action.

Wrong Paint/ Coatings Applied to Horizontal Surfaces

Applying solids to horizontal surfaces subject to standing water and foot traffic requires special treatment and preparation. For example, using conventional house paint for brick steps will wear quickly.

Fortified industrial, marine, and commercial coatings are specifically designed to provide a durable surface for high foot traffic and problematic areas. 

The reference to marine or commercial may be unfamiliar, seem out of reach, or sound intimidating. But don’t let the idea alone sway you. Here is a short list of products that may help if your exterior painter or supplier isn’t familiar with industrial or commercial coatings.

Fortify your horizontal surfaces to prevent frequent maintenance, including porch enamels, concrete solvent-based stains, pool enamels, and more.

Applying Exterior Paint Too Thin

Years ago, when exterior oil-based paint dominated exterior paint applications, coats were commonly applied in very thin layers. Today’s water-based acrylic paints are different in nearly every way. 


Unless the home is in good shape or you’re using the same colors, exterior acrylic paint is best applied in multiple thick coats. Exterior painters should not make the mistake of thinning the paint or dry brush surfaces. 

Trying to limit or influence exterior paint usage utterly defeats the purpose of the service and should be avoided by exterior painters and never provoked by homeowners. As a consumer, you want as much quality paint materials on your home as possible. 

Generously, thick coats of paint will bridge hairline cracks that persist apart from expansion joints where caulk is typically applied. Thicker coats are also more resistant to degradation – offering you a longer-lasting paint job that can better withstand seasonal conditions. 

Not Applying Two Coats When Needed

“Two is better than one” is an easy concept to grasp. However, to cut costs, exterior painters and homeowners are often guilty of wanting to apply a single coat of paint when two coats are necessary. 

Yes, additional coats will add to the cost, but it’s also true that the surfaces will be twice as durable and appear more uniform. If the paint on your home is chalky, blistering, or peeling, and for color changes, two coats are necessary for proper coverage. When it is evident that two coats are needed, don’t make the mistake of skipping the process of applying the necessary second coat.


Painting exterior siding on a home is a great example. Wood or fiber cement siding sprayed twice in a satin finish will provide an even finish and, most notably, be more resistant to mold and mildew growth. 

Quality paint will ultimately lower future maintenance costs, paying for itself in the long run.

Applying Water-based Exterior Paint Over Oil

Even people who are not experienced painters understand that painting water-based paint over oil causes issues. Granted, few homes or exterior surfaces contain oil-based paint. So, the good news is only select areas are prone to misapplication. 

While there are few areas, the places typically containing oil are valuable. A wrought iron handrail is a perfect example of where dedicated metal paint and primer usage is critical. Other metal surfaces, such as hardware and gutters, are also essential for painters to understand proper applications. 

Aluminum gutters can only be painted with a premium water-based exterior paint after slight paint surface oxidation. Otherwise, oil-based paint must be applied to new gutters to promote a strong bond. 


For every exterior surface of your home, there is a level of detail knowledge and understanding that a qualified exterior painting company must have. 

The contractor that’s the cheapest, most likable, or best groomed doesn’t always translate to results. Your hard-earned money should be given to professionals who understand quality and are true trade craftsmen.

Refer to more of our articles for more information, or contact us anytime. If you have found this article inciteful, don’t forget to share and check out our social media channels.

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