10 Tips for Successful Exterior Painting: A Guide to Achieving a Professional-Looking Finish

You’ve decided this is the year you’re finally going to repaint your house. Excellent idea—a fresh coat of paint is an easy and affordable way to boost your home’s curb appeal and give it a whole new look.

But exterior house painting is not as simple as dipping a brush in a can of paint and slathering it on the walls. Professional painters have techniques and secrets they’ve mastered over years of experience.

Follow their lead and you’ll achieve results that look like you hired the pros.

In this article, we’ll share 10 must-know tips for flawless exterior painting so you can feel confident tackling this DIY project and end up with a professional-quality finish.

Your neighbors will never believe you did it yourself! Get ready to transform your home’s exterior with these secrets the experts use.

Choose the Right Paint Sheen for Your Home’s Exterior

Choosing the right sheen is key to achieving a professional finish. For most homes, a satin or eggshell paint works well. These provide a subtle sheen that hides imperfections while still being washable.

Flat paint can look dull and stain easily. Glossy paint shows too much shine and magnifies flaws. Satin or eggshell are just right, giving you the best of both worlds.

Think about your home’s exterior and architecture. A historic home often looks best in a satin sheen, while a modern facade can handle an eggshell. Consider a darker, richer shade for a craftsman bungalow, but opt for a lighter neutral for a minimalist space.

Invest in High-Quality Paint and the Proper Tools

To get professional-looking results, you need the right tools for the job. Invest in high-quality paint and essential supplies.

Use a primer for the best adhesion and coverage. For most exterior surfaces, an acrylic latex primer works well. Get a quality bristle brush for corners and edges, a roller for large, flat areas. Extension poles let you reach high places without a ladder.

For the topcoat, choose a premium acrylic latex paint, which provides maximum durability and color retention. Satin or eggshell finishes are ideal for exteriors. Get samples to compare in your lighting conditions.

Clean and Inspect the Surface Thoroughly

To get professional-looking results, thoroughly clean and inspect the surface before painting.

Clean the entire surface of dirt, grime, and debris. Scrub off any loose or peeling paint. Fill any cracks, holes or imperfections with caulk, putty or spackle and let dry completely. Lightly sand rough areas and wipe away dust with a tack cloth.

Check for any moisture damage or water stains and repair as needed. Water damage left unaddressed can cause new paint to peel prematurely. Test for lead-based paint if your home was built before 1978. Take proper safety precautions if lead paint is present.

Apply a Primer for the Best Results

To get professional-looking results, apply a primer before the topcoat. A primer seals the surface and provides a uniform base for your paint to adhere to.

For exterior surfaces, use a primer specifically designed for outside use. These primers contain binders that stand up to weather and UV exposure. For bare or porous surfaces like wood or stucco, a primer is essential. It seals the surface and prevents the topcoat from being absorbed unevenly.

For previously painted surfaces in good condition, a primer may be optional but is still a good idea. It will provide better coverage in fewer coats. And if you’re changing from a dark color to a lighter shade, a primer can prevent the old color from bleeding through.

Use Painter’s Tape and Control Your Brush for Crisp Lines

To achieve crisp lines and a professional look, painter’s tape is a must-have. Carefully apply tape along edges, corners and trim before painting. Press firmly so the tape adheres well. Then paint up to the edge of the tape, removing it once the paint is still wet. This helps avoid bleeding and creates sharp boundaries.

Repair any damage

Before painting, inspect the exterior of your home for any damage or repairs needed. Fixing issues now will ensure a smooth, professional-looking finish.

Check for cracks or holes in siding, trim, and window and door frames. Seal or patch them to prevent air and moisture from seeping in. Replace any loose or rotting wood.

Inspect outdoor electrical outlets, wires, and lighting fixtures. Repair or replace anything damaged to avoid safety hazards before painting.

Look for areas where water may have pooled or leaked, causing damage or peeling paint. Address the source of the moisture problem before repainting to prevent the issue from recurring.

Consider the colour

When choosing an exterior paint color, think about the overall look you want to achieve. The color palette you select can dramatically impact the perceived size, shape and style of your home.

Choose colors that complement your home’s architectural details and style. For example, earthy reds or tans work well for brick homes, while blues and grays pair nicely with stone and stucco. For a craftsman bungalow, consider forest greens, burgundies or navy.

Also, consider the trim and accent colors to create a cohesive look.

Think about how the color will appear in different lighting. The shade can look very different in bright sunlight versus shade or artificial light. View color samples in a variety of lighting conditions to ensure the perfect match for your home’s facade.

Allow for the right drying time

The final step to achieving a professional finish is allowing adequate drying time between coats. Painting the exterior of your home is a big job, so patience is key.

Rushing the drying process can ruin all your hard work. Each coat of paint needs time to fully dry before the next coat is applied.

Follow the manufacturer’s recommended drying time for the specific paint and conditions. As a general rule of thumb, plan for at least 2 to 3 hours of drying time between coats.

Hot, dry and windy days will speed up drying, while cool, humid and still days will slow it down. Check if the paint is dry by gently pressing your finger into it.

If it leaves an indentation, it’s not ready. You can also try the “swipe test” – gently swipe your finger across the surface. If it feels tacky or comes off on your finger, keep waiting.

Maintain the paint job

To keep your exterior paint job looking fresh for years to come, ongoing maintenance is key.

Clean Regularly

Wash the exterior surfaces at least once a year to remove built-up grime and pollutants. Use a hose or pressure washer and a mild detergent, then rinse well with water. Pay extra attention to areas under eaves, porches, and railings where dirt and cobwebs tend to collect.

Spot-clean any stains as soon as you notice them. The longer a stain sets in, the harder it will be to remove. Scrub lightly with an abrasive sponge or scrubber and then rinse with water.

For tough stains, you may need a commercial exterior stain remover according to the directions on the product.

Inspect the paint job every few months for any cracks or chips and repair them promptly. Touch up small flaws with matching touch up paint from your original can.

For larger areas of damage, you may need to do spot priming and repainting to maintain even color and protection.

Use Proper Techniques

To achieve a professional-looking finish when painting exteriors, technique is key.

Use a brush for trim and edges

For trim, doors, windows and edges, use a high-quality angled brush. Load it with paint and dab off excess before painting. Apply two coats, waiting 2-4 hours between applications. Brush strokes should follow the wood grain and curve of the trim.

For the main house exterior, use a roller to apply an even coat. Rollers come in different nap lengths (the fuzziness); choose one meant for rough or textured surfaces.

Load the roller with paint and roll in one direction using vertical or horizontal strokes based on the siding. Apply using overlapping strokes and re-load the roller with paint as needed.

Avoid drips and uneven coverage by applying paint in sections, rather than trying to coat the entire wall at once. Work from top to bottom, doing trim, then windows and doors, siding, and finally the foundation. On lap siding, paint the bottom edges of the higher boards before the tops of the lower ones.


You now have all the pro tips and tricks to tackle your exterior painting project like a pro. Armed with the right tools, techniques, and know-how, you’ll be producing picture-perfect results in no time.

So grab your brushes and rollers, pick your perfect paint color, and get ready to transform your home’s exterior.

With some patience and the help of these insider secrets, you’ll have neighbors stopping by just to compliment your new professionally-painted facade.

Before you know it, you’ll be offering to help friends and family with their exterior makeovers too. You got this! Now go make that exterior shine.

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Advanced Painters

Advanced Painters are professional painters and decorators in the Home Counties. From exterior painting and rendering, to uPVC window spray painting and interior decorating, we produce high quality finishes that will transform the appearance of your property.

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