How to Paint using an Airless Sprayer
By Larry Walton
How to prepare for and spray a new paint job on an old house by using an airless sprayer.
Anytime I’ve got much painting to do, I consider using an airless sprayer. Once the prep is done, applying paint with an airless sprayer is quick and easy. It has the advantage of consistent coverage on a variety of textures and of getting into all the cracks and crevices that are hard to reach with other paint-smearing tools.
Like all paint jobs, spraying is more about preparing to paint than anything else. Once you get it into your head that the prep work is part of the painting process, you’ll be more likely to relax and go with it. Don’t be too anxious to get into the paint can, especially if you are spraying because it takes a little more prep to spray compared to other methods.
Prepping a house for exterior paint usually involves finding the house amongst the plant life, cleaning the siding, removing loose paint, repairing damaged wood, caulking gaps, priming bare wood and masking and/or covering everything you don’t want painted.
The first thing we had to do was find the house! Apparently yard work wasn’t a top priority for the renters of this house, so the blackberry bushes on the back side of the house had run amok. Painting often calls for some shrub trimming. We sometimes use long lengths of rope to pull shrubs back away from the house, anchoring the rope on a stake in the lawn or tying off to a tree or fence post. This produces the added entertainment of some trip hazards on the job site. Video cameras ready?
Once you’ve found the house, it’s time to wash it. Washing does several things. First it removes surface dust and spider webs that can keep paint from sticking to the surface. Washing, with the help of such products as T.S.P. or a quality mildew-cleaning agent can kill surface mold and mildew, which is not only ugly but keeps paint from adhering.
Finally, washing accentuates any paint flaking problems. Why would you want to do that? Because we want our new paint to stick only to existing paint that is firmly gripping the house.
We used a TSP solution with a stiff bristle brush mounted on an extension handle to get the wash job done on this house.
After scrubbing the siding with a TSP solution, we sprayed it down with a hose. If the weather is over 70 degrees, you can generally paint the following day after washing, or in a couple of days if it’s not that warm.
Next, we used a putty knife to scrape all the areas that had loose paint. The house we were painting had smooth siding and had been repainted several times since its construction. On smooth siding, you can smooth out the areas that have missing paint with a sander, which can feather the hard edges where the paint-to-paintless transition is a noticeable step. This makes these patches nearly invisible after painting, which is pretty cool.
Make any needed repairs to the siding or trim. This can often be done with a quality wood putty or auto body filler, which is my favorite. This is the time to do any caulking that needs to be done, which on an older home can involve a serious amount of caulk.
Once you have the surface clean, sanded, caulked and ready to go, it’s time to get busy masking the other surfaces—you know, those you don’t want to paint. This includes cars, windows, doors, trucks, utility boxes, automobiles, porches, decks foundations, vehicles, railings, sidewalks and driveways. Unless you want it the color of the house, cover it!
If you don’t own an airless sprayer, you can rent one at your local tool rental facility or at a paint store. Pay careful attention to the instructions that the rental employee gives you. Ask questions if you’re not sure of the sequence and settings to be used as well as to the method required to clean the machine. You will be responsible to return the sprayer as described or pay extra.
Usually the sprayer has some water or other liquid in the hose, so be prepared to exhaust the extra material into a bucket. Keep spraying until you see your paint coming out of the spray nozzle. Now you’re ready to do the fun part of the job.
Remember all the covering up you did around the house? Yeah, that applies to you and your helpers as well. Cover up with a painting hood, long sleeves, gloves … if it’s exposed it will likely get painted.
Start the spray job in an inconspicuous area of the house if possible. Make sure the spray gun is sweeping across the project in a constant motion BEFORE pulling the trigger. Keep moving after the trigger is released. Failure to keep moving will result in a paint overload, which means a house-paint waterfall—unsightly and difficult to repair. Keep moving.
It’s easy enough to make another pass if you start out too lightly.
As you apply the paint, be sure to point at the project from different angles to get all of the surfaces. If a surface or an edge can’t see the paint sprayer, it won’t get painted. Team work is a good idea on a spray job. The non-sprayer can move drops and ladders ahead of the gun. They can also help you spot areas you missed so you can hit it with some paint before moving on to the next portion of the house.
SIDE NOTE 1
Beware of Textured Siding
Caution: Do not sand or fill missing paint areas on textured siding. Smooth spots on textured siding will be more noticeable than a chipped paint edge. Any repairs done on textured siding must replicate the texture, which often means replacing some siding.
SIDE NOTE 2
Problems with Peeling Paint
Sometimes chasing the peeling paint is an endless job. Just when you think the loose paint is gone, the edges curl again. On a project like this, you can use a product such as XIM Peel Bond which will help bridge the scraped areas to the paint surface and seal the peeled edges securely. In other words, instead of removing all flaking paint, the approach is re-bond the paint to the house.
SIDE NOTE 3
Wait for the weather. You can do most of the paint prep in inclement weather, but you can’t spray in high wind, while it’s raining or when the temperatures are below recommended levels. According to Sherwin-Williams.com: “When the forecasters predict changing temperatures that may drop below the normal recommendation of 50° F for latex paint, consider using a house paint that can be applied and will cure at temperatures as low as 35° F. This will give you the opportunity to extend your painting season by as much as two months in most areas of the country.”
SIDE NOTE 4
How are you at re-painting cars? Be careful about wind direction and vehicles that may be in the overspray drift. If there is any doubt at all, then move the vehicle, ask a neighbor to move the vehicle, cover it or don’t spray!