Hire a Pro Advice: Paint Exterior Siding

Get help finding a painting contractor to paint exterior house siding and advice about what should be in a contract with a painting contractor. Learn how to choose paint colors for exterior siding.

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Even if you are considering painting your exterior siding yourself, it's generally a good idea to get a couple of estimates from reputable painting contractors. If nothing else, you will find out what they recommend, in terms of preparation, type of paint and number of coats. You'll also get a pretty good idea of the number of man hours the painter's crew will require. From that you can judge how much time you will need to spend and compare that against the money saved.

A friend or neighbor can be a good source for referral of a painter. "Painting Contractors" are listed in the Yellow Pages and many paint dealers recommend paint contractors who are their regular customers. Use the Internet to find a local painter with a search engine like Bing, Google or Yahoo. Type "house painter in (your city)" in a search box or search for a contractor referral service. Make sure the contractor has a certificate of insurance and workers' compensation insurance, if he has employees.

Generally, the contractor will come to your house for an assessment of its conditions, before quoting a price in a written proposal or contract.

Here are the basic points that should be included in a written contract with a painting contractor to paint exterior siding:

  • Specific siding, windows, and any other surfaces to be painted
  • Total cost
  • Payment schedule
  • Start and completion dates
  • Paint and primer brands with grade, colors, gloss and base; how they'll be applied; and the number of coats
  • Type of caulk to be used and the extent of caulking to be done
  • Specific preparation and repair work (i.e. wall cracks, broken glass panes) to be completed
  • How the site will be protected from spills, splatters and over spray and who is responsible for removing them
  • Who is responsible for cleaning up

If the price seems reasonable and you are unsure about the painter's reputation, ask for several references and make follow-up calls to determine if the homeowners are happy with the contractor's work. These should be referrals for similar work. For exterior work, ask for a reference from a client whose house was painted 3 years ago to see the lasting quality of the workmanship.To inspect a paint job, look for signs of inadequate preparation, such as peeling and flaking paint or cracked window glazing, paint splatter and poor workmanship, including paint splatters on a surrounding driveway or shrubbery.

Consider the entire exterior of your home when choosing colors, especially unchanging elements such as bricks, clad windows or roofing. Generally there are three house elements that are painted: the body (siding), the windows and trim and accents, such as shutters and entry doors. Different colors accentuate features such as intricate trim work or beautiful architectural lines. Painting everything the same or similar colors conversely de-emphasizes less attractive architectural lines, plain trim or features such as gutters and downspouts. Monochromatic schemes are used to unify a house with many different textures. Light colors generally make a small house look larger; dark colors make a large house look smaller. When using multiple colors, the safest approach is to choose from pre-selected color schemes chosen by color experts. You'll find brochures from paint manufacturers that do a nice job of showing how different colors work together in a color schemes. And their websites often offer interactive tools to see what different color schemes look like on a variety of house styles.