Painting cedar-shingle siding

Q.  I need a lot of painting tips: I’m preparing to paint the exterior of my 95 year old cedar-shingle house and am not sure if the best way to go is with latex paint or stain for the best adherence and durability, and if the entire surface should be washed first before scraping.

Since its been twenty five years since the last paint job, but still good on north and east sides, should the entire house be primed or just where bare spots?

Also, to eliminate air migration, should I caulk the vertical spaces between the shingles and window trim or let it stay clear for drying?
Is there any additive that could be added to an exterior latex paint that would increase its gloss quality? Thanks.

A.  If the north and east sides are still good, and you know whether paint or stain was used, you should use the same coating to make sure everything matches.

It is best to powerwash the entire siding to remove all pollutants; this would also remove any poorly adhering coating. Some scraping may be needed.

If you decide on staining, there is no need to prime any of the surfaces. But if you choose to paint, you should apply an alkyd primer to the bare areas before applying a latex final coat.  Apply a new coat to the cleaned shingles over the good north and east sides so everything will match.

Choose a high gloss exterior latex to achieve the shiny look you want.

Do not caulk the spaces between the shingles; let the shingles breathe and expand and contract with the seasons.

Deck is coated with mold, and stain is peeling

Q.    My pressure-treated deck and outdoor stairwells are coated with mold. They are located in an eastern exposure facing open fields. They had been stained about eight years ago and are now peeling too. How should this problem be solved?

A.    Were your deck and stairs coated with a solid color stain containing linseed oil? At this point, I suggest you have all the remaining stain removed. Try pressure-washing to make the job easier, but if this is not completely successful, you may have to use a paint-and-stain remover.

A paint store can advise you as to the best to use for these surfaces — probably a liquid remover, as they are less expensive than the gel or semi-solid types. Once the wood is clean, coat it with a product specially made for pressure-treated wood, such as the Wolman line that penetrates the wood and will not peel.

Re-staining a house

Q.    I read your blog and would like some advice on staining my house. I am staining the outside of my house and I don’t know what kind of stain was used. I don’t know if it was oil-base or latex but it is all peeling off. I would like to use latex stain. I am pressure-washing and scraping all the loose stain.

A.    If the stain is peeling, it must be a solid-color stain or paint. Semi-transparent stains penetrate and do not peel. Since you are only removing the peeling coating, you won’t be able to use a semi-transparent stain as it won’t match the existing still on. You can use latex stains over oil-base stains as long as the oil-base stain or paint is not chalking. Run your hand on it to find out; if you get a residue, it’s oil. Power-washing should get rid of any chalking.

If you are removing all of the existing coating, you’re free to choose what you want. Since you have not told me what kind of siding you have, it’s difficult to suggest what is the right stain to use.

Refinishing or replacing basement hatch door

Q.    I have been an avid reader for many years. Now I need your sage wisdom regarding my heavy-gauge steel Bilco basement door, size O, which was installed in 1972. While it is still working well and water-tight, I have had problems with the paint peeling and flaking off with resultant rusting.

It has been sanded and repainted from time to time over the years but I am concerned that the rust has compromised its integrity.

I would like to know if a non-rusting replacement is made, or if you know of any other recourse I may have to solve this problem.

A.    Unless the rust is so advanced that you can poke a hole through the metal, all loose particles can be removed with a steel brush. Once there is only a small residue, wash it off with paint thinner and apply a rust-inhibiting paint such as Derusto or Rust-Oleum. Another choice is Hammerite paint, which you can buy through Amazon. It is a very long-lasting and tenacious paint, excellent for metals.

Bilco does make a high density polyethylene maintenance-free replacement door.

Paint peeling from concrete patio

Q.    A couple of years ago we painted our patio (old concrete) with oil paint.  It’s peeling off and looks terrible. Can you give us an idea how to scrape it off completely so we can repaint it? Also, what kind of paint do you think may be best?

A.    You should use a liquid paint remover. You can find one in any paint and hardware store. It is best not to paint concrete for the very reason yours is peeling. It is best to use a concrete stain.

Painting exterior brick

Q.    I would like to know your thoughts on painting exterior brick. I am in the process of evaluating different options of replacing the cedar siding on my 2-story split-level house. The house has a 3-foot or so high brick fascia topped with a limestone plate all around its perimeter.

This brick is a light shade of yellow, and will greatly affect (and limit) the choice of siding color. If you approve of brick painting, do you have any tips or gotchas to avoid ? Any ideas on how to keep the paint off of the mortar? Thanks!

A.    It is possible to paint certain types of bricks but the project is fraught with potential problems. If the bricks have a sandy-type feel to them, they cannot be successfully painted — the sand acts as a bond-breaker and the paint won’t stay on. If the bricks are smooth, they may be successfully painted, but if there is any moisture penetration either through the mortar joints, any joint with other materials, or from rising damp from the ground, the paint is likely to fail and you can end up with a mess. Paint adhesion also depends on how thoroughly clean the bricks are and the hardness of the brick surface. Yellow bricks may already have a coating on, making paint adhesion more successful.

Rather than paint, though, it is preferable to use a cementitious coating such as those made by Thoro. Check them out in a masonry supply house. The key to success is absolute cleanliness of the surfaces to be coated. The mortar joints must also be coated to eliminate any chance of water penetration.

Painting might damage vinyl window frame

Q.    I own a small condominium and, per regulations and rules, it is my responsibility to replace, at my expense, from a vendor selected by the board of directors, windows and one sliding glass door. The door has been installed but is the wrong exterior color, and I have been told that the exterior frame needs to be painted. This would also include the screen door frame. Can one paint these frames without compromising the integrity of the seal (lifetime warranty), and prevent continued maintenance? What would you recommend as the best course of action?

A.    Vinyl can sometimes be painted but it is risky. It is best for you to contact the manufacturer of the door and ask for their advice. Often, painting a white vinyl frame a darker color can cause the vinyl to become distorted.

Renewing stain on wood siding

Q.    My home is currently sided with 1″x 6″ cedar planks. It was built in 1988 with the smooth side exposed. About every three years, I gently power-washed and scrubbed the siding, I then recoated it with a mildew inhibitor and a sealer.

Generally, I used Olympus which was not an oil-base product and I was very happy with the end results. However, it has become very difficult to get therefore I used Behr, an oil-based product which resulted in a general mess. My siding has always had a problem with mildew and now due to the use of an oil-based product it is now streaky with an uneven in appearance.

I would like your recommendations in how to clean up the cedar and return it to its natural appearance and what product to use to reduce the mildew.

A.    You will have to remove all vestiges of the coating on the siding by whatever means is appropriate (pressure-washing, sanding, chemical paint and stain removers). My bias, after years of studying various products and trying some, is for Amteco TWP. It does a superb job, especially with cedar. It has a mildewcide; offers UV protection; protects against decay and insect damage and is water-repellent. Buy it in Glidden Professional stores or on-line at