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How Often to Paint or Stain Your Exterior


Whether you’re a new homeowner or a seasoned one, you probably have questions around how often to paint or stain the exterior of your home. Here’s some helpful answers.


The frequency with which to have your exterior painted is dependent upon what sort of product it was coated with previously. If your home has composite siding, then it will have been painted (not stained.) If your exterior has shingles or cedar lap siding, then it was most likely stained. It is common to have a mix of the two: painted siding with shingled gables. If your house has stucco, it may not have been painted previously, but it certainly can be if it is fading or you’d like to change the color (see “Painting Stucco” for more info.)


The usual time gap between repainting and re-staining depends on what products have been used on your home previously as well as the climate and weather conditions. See the quick guide below for our recommendations.


Quick Guide to Painting Frequency

  • PAINT: 8-12 YEARS.

  • SOLID STAIN: EVERY 5-8 YEARS.

  • SEMI-TRANSPARENT STAIN: 3-5 YEARS

Note: At Arclight Painting we always recommend using the highest quality paint for your home. Because of this, you can expect our paint jobs to last towards the higher end of the ranges listed above (or even longer in some cases.)


Why Do I Need to Re-paint/Re-stain My Home?

Ultimately, paint and stain on the exterior of a house serve two purposes: Protection and aesthetics. But like nearly everything else in the world, paint and stain have expiration dates. They are only capable of lasting a certain amount of time before paint or stain should be re-applied. As paint and stain protect your home from rain, snow, and exposure to sun, it is these elements that wear the products down over time, and cause the colors to fade.


Here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s very important that we re-coat our homes due to the excessive amount of moisture. The extra rain causes a variety of mold and mildew to grow in unwanted places, such as on our chimney stacks and under eaves. Proper preparation includes pressure washing off of mold, mildew, and other forms of dirt and moss. Quality paint and stains, once applied, also have anti-mold attributes. Not only is your coating a protective layer between the raw wood of your house and the elements, but it’s actively protecting your home from potentially invasive elements.


Even though we don’t often see the sun as an issue here in Washington, harmful ultraviolet rays still wear down the coatings on your house, especially in the summer time. When it comes to paint, UV rays can cause your paint to fade, especially on the South facing side of your home. Overexposure to sunlight and dramatic fluctuation in temperature causes the wood of your house to expand and contract, which results in cracked paint. Not only is cracked paint unsightly, but it allows water to seep into those cracks which will cause further damage to your siding if not taken care of immediately.


An essential part of our painting preparation process at Arclight Painting is to hand scrape and then sand down areas where paint has cracked. Those areas are then primed with a heavy, bonding primer, making what was previously dry and cracked like new.


As for stain, UV light can be very damaging to unprotected shingles and cedar siding. Stain preserves the natural appearance of the wood, but it protects less against the elements, and wears off over time, requiring it to be re-done more often. Constant exposure to the sun causes wood to warp, crack, gray, or otherwise to prematurely degrade. Renewal of the stain within the time frames listed above helps prevent this from happening by maintaining a protective layer. At Arclight Painting we always use the highest quality stains that have additional UV Protection.


Why Do Stains Not Last As Long?

Stains are designed to sink into the wood, sealing it up to provide added protection against the elements while also beautifully displaying the natural grains of the wood. Solid stains are very similar to paint in that they provide a uniform color, but they also soak into the wood (rather than sit on the surface) so that you can still see the wood grains. Semi-transparent stains have less solids (paint particles) and soak further into the wood, providing a more natural wood look. All forms of stain, however, are more susceptible to the elements than paint, which lasts longest because it forms a very thick outer protective layer. Quality stains however are still durable enough to protect your exterior for years while bringing out the natural beauty of the wood. The trade off is that they need to be re-applied more often.


Timing Matters

Not only is it important that you re-paint or re-stain before the coating expires, but the time of year during which your re-coat is something to consider as well. When you paint your house depends less on the seasons and more on the moisture and temperature levels. The surfaces that are being painted need to be clean and dry at the time of painting, and they need sufficient time after application to dry. When you are considering re-coating the exterior of your home, there is a very important series of questions to ask:

  • Is the surface that I intend to paint wet?

  • Will the surface be rained on in the next 8-10 hours?

  • Is the temperature below the recommended temperature for that type of paint?

  • Is the forecast predicting that the temperature will drop below the recommended temperature for the product chosen?

We see it all the time in the Pacific Northwest on poorly timed exterior paint projects – rain on newly applied paint causes streak marks to appear. Heavy moisture in the air can also cause paint to take too long to dry, which will cause runs or discoloration. If the climate is too wet or cold, the drying time can more than double. In extreme cases, the coating can remain completely wet and just sit on top of your wood until the temperature rises, or it is washed off with rain.


Temperature also plays a huge part in the timing of your painting or staining project. The ideal temperature to re-coat is 70 degrees, but anywhere from 50-90 degrees is generally safe. Typically, it’s a poor decision to paint an exterior in temperatures exceeding 90 degrees or in direct sunlight. This causes the paint to dry too quickly, which can cause cracking, lap marks and bubbling. Temperatures below 40 degrees can also cause sagging and running of fresh paint. [Note: 34 degrees is the absolute lowest that any paint product could dry properly.]Like paint, this depends on the specific product, so always check the label before applying any product to your house.


Ready to Get Started?

Here in the Pacific Northwest we’re headed toward the ends of spring, which is the beginning of perfect weather to paint and stain exteriors. Despite our reputation for rain, our beautiful weather often lasts until late September. Here at Arclight Painting, business is picking up, and our schedule is filling up fast. So, is it time to show your home some love and get it fully protected from the elements? Schedule a free estimate today!

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