Advice for Painting Wood Shingle Siding (from a hack)

Here’s a few tips if any of you ever find yourself repainting (or even considering repainting) old wood shake siding:IMG_2062

Disclaimer: These are tips from my own recent experience – I am not a painter or an expert. Just a hack. But a hack who recently painted a wood shake sided house.

1. If you suffer from arachnophobia or any kind of bug-phobia- this project isn’t for you. Countless tiny spiders live under the shingle siding and dash out while you’re painting. Lady bugs, box elder bugs, more spiders, unidentified bugs… they all come dashing out when you’re painting. So if you have some kind of severe bug phobia, hire a professional.

2. Along those same lines, if you startle easily (especially if you have a second story), you probably want to hire a professional. When those spiders, earwigs, ladybugs, box elder bugs, etc come dashing out at you, or a spider drops at you from a web above you- if you startle easily, you’ve probably just fallen off the roof. Save yourself a trip to the ER and hire someone else to be startled by all the bugs and their creepy ways.IMG_2007

3. Scrape all of the peeling paint. Anything you read anywhere says that prep is the key to a good paint job. And they weren’t lying. I am repainting now because clearly the last time this home was painted, they did not scrape the peeling paint underneath. Whole layers of paint on a shingle are peeling right off. The scraping is a pain— but it is worth it to not have to repeat this process nearly as soon. Believe me and anyone else on the interwebs or the paint stores and scrape the peeling paint.

4. Wear gloves while scraping. My first few days of scraping, I wore gloves and it was fabulous. Saved my hands from blisters and more importantly, saved me from tons of tiny wood shingle slivers and paint slivers (which I got on subsequent scraping jaunts when I forgot to wear the gloves). The gloves will not save your hand from cramping into a permanent C after hours upon hours of scraping though.

IMG_20335. Take on the job in pieces. My first day of scraping, I scraped paint for probably 7 hours. Then a friend arrived and offered to help for a while. Perfect! I put down the scraper and we painted side by side. My arm appreciated the break from the scraping and I appreciated the company. I’ve seen people recommend taking one side at a time- and I did that on the next couple sections of the house which was nice. I’d go up, replace rotten shingles, scrape, sweep away the scrapings, put a tarp down, and then paint. It made it feel like measured success, which, at some point in the project, becomes very important.IMG_2003

6. Use drop cloths below where you are painting. Painting wood shake siding is a drip fest. All the grooves and texture and cracks make drips inevitable. Not to mention you have to load the brush fairly well to even get paint in all the crevices of the shingles. On the roof, I recommend the canvas drop clothes over the plastic ones because they are less slippery.

IMG_20437. Get a crack brush. Actually get half a dozen of them. You’re going to need them because if there’s anything wood shake siding has, it is crack. Lots and lots of crack. I bought a couple of these little cheapo brushes that fit nicely in the crack and I could just toss them once they were ruined.

7. Speaking of paint brushes, I bought a pack of brushes with a 4″, 3″, 2″, and 1.5″ brush in it. The smaller of the brushes were good for places I wanted to edge more carefully. The larger two were better at the siding parts– although for some reason I did much better with the 3″ brush. The 4″ brush tired my hand out a lot faster and was just big enough to not make it faster. Although maybe you burly handed folks would find it better.

8. I also bought one of those little canvas tool aprons from Home Depot for $0.77 about halfway into the project- it was awesome. You put your phone, brushes, hammer, nails, etc in it while you go.IMG_2041

9. Go back over a section after 15 minutes and brush all the drips. There will be drips because there are so many places to drip from. I’ve found 15 minutes is typically enough time that anything drippy will have dripped and you can smooth it with your brush easily.

10. Do not paint until dark. Paint until quarter till dark. Why? You might ask. Well, see #9. I learned the hard way when I painted until dark. The next morning I went out and found all my 15 minute drips that I couldn’t see to smooth out. Totally lame.

IMG_205310. Consider that you will get a lot of paint drips on whatever shoes you wear for this project. On the other hand, sometimes it is worth it to wear shoes with good support when doing a project this intense and that involves so many hours on your feet. I sacrificed my “nice” sneakers on this project (rather than wearing my old, worn out, support-less paint sneakers) and haven’t regretted it one bit. Although they do have a lot of paint drips on them now.

11. Try to enjoy it. You are going to spend a heck of a long time out there painting. Go interesting places in your mind. Dream about your winter, indoor projects. Think of all the people you should call but don’t have time to call because you’re on the roof painting again, and by dark, it will be too late because they’ll be putting their munchkins in bed… Think of who you want to be, what you want to accomplish. Enjoy the beautiful fall air. Take in the view of the neighbors over the hedge who have a pool you didn’t know about because of that dense hedge bIMG_2020etween you. Listen to pigeon man cooing at his pigeon and pretend it doesn’t smell like poultry wafting your way on the evening breeze. Play the “word association” game with all your friends. Come up with a word for yourself (I decided mine is tenacious). I think you get the point. I realized right at the beginning that I was choosing to do this project (having spent my spending $$ on fencing, appliances, etc) rather than hire it out. By doing this, I am making other projects (like fencing the yard for those dogs) possible and it’s worth it to me to spend the time and energy doing it myself. Starting out with the right mindset is incredibly helpful while doing a project of this intensity and duration.

12. It wouldn’t hurt, in planning for this project, to stock up on favors owed to you by tall friends. You may find there’s a spot of two it is impossible to get with your own short frame- in which case, favors from tall people come in handy. If you don’t have any tall friends, may I recommend finding a few of them before considering this project?

13. You may find yourself telling people you’re free “after dark” which sounds creepier than you are (or is it?). You simply have plans to paint every night possible until almost dark and will need a few minutes to clean up before going to any sort of social event. Hey, what time can you make it Thursday? “Dark thirty.”

14. If you have a space far up that you can’t reach without dangerous, precarious ladder perching- have a friend over to hold the ladder. (It turns out, even your tall friends won’t be tall enough, and besides, people are busy). Anyway, back to the ladder holding on the roof, it might not hurt to threaten them with something scary, just in case you are an expendable friend. For example, I told my cat loving friend (who has two cats) that if I died, she got my cat-eating dogs. Strangely enough, she did a great job holding the ladder. And the most unreachable parts I did by taping the paint brush to a paint roller extension rod. It wasn’t easy or pretty (while it happened) but it got the job done. IMG_2026

15. Have a glass of wine and/or take a hot bath after a long day of painting. It will ease the aches (the bath) and make you feel better about your life in general (the bath and the wine).

Resource Tally:

  • 15-18 (ish) hours of scraping, shingle replacing, nailing loose shingles, caulking
  • 30 (ish) hours of painting (mostly me, a couple hours with friends)
  • Another 24 hours by some hired help (a college guy I know looking for work)
  • Countless hours of muscular agony from the above tasks
  • Essential vitamin D from painting in the sunshine
  • Paint scraper and extra carbide blade $20
  • 11 gallons of paint (I used Behr Ultra exterior) $380
  • 4 tubes of caulk $12
  • Nails (already had)
  • Bundle of shingle siding $20
  • Several paint brushes (some of which will live to paint again, some which were ruined from all the texture on the shingle siding) $25
  • Tarps (plastic and canvas) (already had)
  • A freshly painted exterior in a gorgeous color you love: Priceless

Who is ready to start on the trim?

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