Painting the exterior of your home is one of the most important types of home maintenance.  And while many homeowners choose to hire a painting contractor, this is one project you may be able to tackle yourself, especially if you have the time and you're the least bit handy.

By doing your own painting, you can keep the cost to a minimum and you'll also enjoy a great sense of accomplishment when your beautiful new exterior paint job is completed.

According to the Paint Quality Institute, there are four keys to successful exterior painting.  Follow these expert tips and you'll get a great-looking exterior paint job that will last for years.

Exterior Home Painting TipsCareful Surface Preparation
Inexperienced painters can't wait to begin applying the paint, but professionals know it's what you do beforehand that spells success or failure with exterior home painting.

Before starting to paint, make sure the surface is clean and free of dirt and chalk.  Scrub with soap and water, then rinse. Next, remove any loose, flaking, or peeling paint by scraping, wire-brushing, and sanding.  Or, speed the whole process by renting a pressure washer to prepare the surface for painting.

On wood siding, sand areas with glossy paint so the new paint will adhere better.  If you see any bare wood, be sure to spot-prime that area. You can skip this step if you are using an advanced, top-quality paint, since these coatings act as both primer and paint.

Finally, brush off any dust or paint chips that remain.  Your home exterior is now ready to paint.

Buy Quality Paint:
Even though the highest quality exterior paint costs a little more, you can't afford to cut corners here:  Your paint is the protective coating that keeps the elements at bay.  Fortunately, even the best exterior paints are still rather inexpensive.  Plus, since most of the work in painting is labor, you exterior paint job will last far longer when you use the best possible paint.

For the best performance, the Paint Quality Institute suggests you purchase quality 100% acrylic latex exterior paint.  These paints have superior adhesion, so they'll "grab" tightly onto a properly prepared surface.  They also are very flexible, which permits them to expand and contract with the surface below in extreme cold or heat.  Down the road, these qualities help prevent many common exterior paint failures like peeling and flaking.

There are other benefits to the highest quality 100% acrylic latex paints:  they typically hide better than ordinary paint, which is especially important when painting over a dark color.  They are easier to apply by brush and they typically contain special additives to help keep mildew in check.

Despite their higher cost per gallon, top quality 100% acrylic latex paints actually save you money and time.  How?  Because the best of these paints function as both primer and paint, so you won't have to buy and apply two types of coatings to your home exterior.  Plus, top quality home exterior paints typically last 10 years or more compared to three or four years for ordinary home exterior paint; so they are actually much cheaper when you consider their cost-per-year-of-service.

Use Quality Brushes and Tools:
The best quality tools and accessories not only help you apply a thicker, more uniform coat of paint to your home exterior, but they'll also make your work easier.

Choose well-balanced brushes with tightly packed bristles that feel springy when you run an open hand across them.  Assuming that you are applying latex exterior paint, you should work with brushes and rollers made of synthetic materials such as polyester.

Of course, you can also rent spray-painting equipment.  If you do, be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions carefully.

Exterior Home Painting TipsPaint in the Right Weather Conditions:
Exterior painting is not a foul-weather sport.  In fact, braving it may actually compromise the quality and long-term performance of your exterior paint job.

As a result, try to paint your home exterior in moderate weather - when temperatures are no higher than about 85 degrees, with little wind.  These conditions will permit your paint to form a durable, protective film that will last for years.

When painting on warmer days and in hotter areas, avoid painting in direct sunlight, since surface temperatures can be 10 to 20 degrees higher than the air temperature.  Work your way around the house, painting areas that are in the shade.

Weather-wise, latex exterior paints offer a bonus:  They can be applied just 30 minutes after it rains as long as the surface isn't visibly wet.

There's more to exterior home painting than meets the eye, but the project is well within the skill set of most do-it-yourselfers.  By following these exterior painting tips, you can save a bundle by doing the job yourself.

For more information about exterior home painting, visit the Paint Quality Institute's website at www.paintquality.com.