By REBECCA SLOAN
Is your home peeling? Are your shutters and window boxes begging for a bolder shade of blue?
Perhaps it's time your home took the plunge into a fresh coat of paint. After all, nothing can spruce up a house like a splash of new color.
Whether you plan to give your home a total revamping or just want to banish some unsightly flaked and faded surfaces, a new coat of paint is to the home what a face-lift is to an aging movie star.
But before you run out to the hardware store and grab six gallons of sunkissed cinnamon, take a deep breath and educate yourself on the art of exterior painting.
Remember, painting a house is no small undertaking, and the key to winning results depends entirely upon proper preparation, a job in itself.
To assure paint adheres properly, all surfaces should be washed thoroughly before painting with a mixture of trisodium phosphate and bleach, experts say. This mixture will remove dirt and kill mildew. It can be bought at paint and hardware stores.
Use a scrub brush to remove stubborn stains and rinse thoroughly with water once all traces of dirt and mildew are removed.
During the process, wear rubber gloves and goggles, and rinse your arms and legs often with water to prevent bleach burn.
Let all surfaces dry thoroughly before proceeding.
While things are drying out, now is the time to take care of any other problems.
Fill holes with exterior wood filler and repair crumbling masonry, rotting wood and loose siding.
If you spot peeling paint, get to the root of the cause. Simply removing the peeling paint may not be a long-term solution. Moisture may be coming from within the home, and if this is the case, the paint will just peel off again after a new coat is applied.
Peeling paint under the overhang of a roof or in other areas that don't receive exposure to the weather should be thoroughly scraped away. Paint typically peels in these areas because of salt deposits that would normally be washed away by rain. Repaint the areas with paint formulated especially for overhangs.
Now is also the time to take care of any insect invasions. Knock down beehives and wasp nests before painting. You don't want to be standing on the top rung of a ladder taking a swing at an angry yellow jacket with your paintbrush.
Speaking of ladders, make sure your ladder is safe. Don't risk borrowing a rickety old ladder from Joe down the street. It's simply not worth it.
Once all surfaces are dry and prepped, mask off trim and door frames, but don't apply masking tape to windows, as it is very difficult to remove. Just leave the windows bare and after the painting is complete, use a razor blade to scrape off mistakes and spatters of paint.
Next, place drop cloths over shrubs, plants, patios, decks, railings, light fixtures and whatever else needs protecting.
Armed with your brushes and rollers, it's finally time to get started.
First, apply primer to any bare wood, and don't paint in direct sunlight.
In the morning, paint the south and west sides of the home and in the afternoon, paint the east and north sides.
Also never paint in the rain, and wait two or three days after any recent rain to paint.
Know the weather forecast and keep an eye on the sky. If a storm threatens, by all means get down from that ladder and go inside.
By the way, aluminum ladders attract lighting, but fiberglass ladders are nonconductive.
Another weather tip: Never paint in temperatures less than 45 degrees unless you have paint specially formulated for lower temperatures. (There are some paints on the market that will adhere in temperatures as low as 30 degrees.)
Also avoid painting in extremely hot, humid weather because paint won't dry very well if there is too much moisture in the air.
And don't wait until the days are too short to properly finish the job.
Daylight helps in the drying process, and it takes about eight hours for one coat of paint to thoroughly dry.
When you first open the can of paint, stir it from the bottom and work your way up. Heavier, pigment-laden material settles at the bottom, and a can of paint not properly stirred will yield uneven color and texture.
Paint from top to bottom, moving left to right. To avoid smudging fresh paint with the ladder, do the top of the house first, then window frames, and then the lower section of the house.
To paint bricks or masonry, use a roller with a thick nap and lots of paint.
Paint sprayers work best for shutters, intricate moldings and siding.
To paint vinyl siding, use the same color or a lighter color and always use a 100-percent acrylic latex primer and topcoat.
To paint aluminum siding, use oil/alkyd primer and a 100-percent acrylic latex topcoat.
Use a satin sheen for gables and siding and a gloss or semigloss for windows, doors and trim.
Nylon and polyester bristles work best with latex paints and natural bristles work best with oil-based paints.
To make the job faster, match the width of your brush with the width of your home's siding.
According to the DoItYourself.com, a Web site devoted to educating homeowners on how to best complete improvement projects, it will take a beginner about 16 to 20 hours to put one coat of paint on a typical ranch-style house.
A person with intermediate painting experience can do the job in about 14 to 16 hours, and an expert can complete the task in about 12 to 14 hours.
While you're painting, try to keep things neat.
Don't let globs of paint collect around the rim of the paint can as you dip and retrieve your brush. To help keep the rim of the can clean, punch a few holes in it to allow paint to drain back where it came from. If paint is allowed to build up around the rim of the can, it will be harder to put the lid back on and even harder to remove it the next time you want to use the paint.
When the painting work is done, there's another phase of work waiting: cleanup.
Use warm water and dish soap to remove latex paint from brushes and rollers.
To remove oil-based paint from brushes and rollers, first soak them in paint thinner and then finish the process with dish soap and water.
If you've made a mess on yourself, use mechanic's hand cleaner to gently and effectively remove paint from your skin.
If this all sounds like too much hassle and too much work, perhaps you'd be better off leaving the painting to the professionals.
Al Pennachio, of Pennachio Painting in Warren, said the cost of having a house painted varies greatly from job to job.
& quot;It just depends on how big the house is, when it was painted last and whether there will be a lot of detail work involved, & quot; he said.
For example, Pennachio said his company might charge anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500 to paint a two-story, 2,500-square-foot home with wooden siding and shutters. It could cost about $800 to $1,000 to have a small, one-story home with wooden siding painted.
Pennachio said his company just finished painting a two-story, wooden-sided home for $3,800.
& quot;It cost the owner more because the home had not been painted for a long time, and the entire thing needed scraped and primed first, & quot; he said.
If you opt to have a professional paint your home, ask for a free estimate and find out if supplies are included and how long the job will take.