August 26, 2011

Putting on the Paint

Giving your house a facelift with a fresh coat of paint will do more than refresh the look and protect the surface – it will also add value to your home.

BY LESLIE PETERSON

So the old house is looking a little tired – paint’s flaked around the windows and faded elsewhere. All set to effect a transformation with a fresh coat of paint? Not so fast, experts caution, for the world of paint is no simple matter. Indeed one company sends its representatives to paint university once a year. There are thousands of enchanting exterior colours to tempt, from Captivating Teal and Raspberry Mousse or Simon Chang’s whimsical palette which includes Microsofter Blue, Pink Tank and Going Gaga. Major paint manufacturers have turned green with a new generation of low VOC (volatile organic compounds) latex paint that is as long-lasting as alkyds, mildew-, stain- and dirt-resistant. Products such as Beauti-Tone’s Designer Series and Benjamin Moore’s Aura can be applied at five degrees Celsius, whereas the old standard was 10 degrees.

Designers tell us that light colours make a small house appear larger while dark shades can improve the proportions of a large, rambling house. Some colours attract buyers more than others. Men gravitate to warmer colours, women cooler ones. There are also regional preferences, for example brighter works better in the Maritimes while in B.C. colours are more nature-inspired, more muted. “If your house colour differs dramatically from your neighbours’ houses you become a landmark, which you don’t want,” says Beauti-Tone’s Bev Bell. “It also depends on the architecture of the house, whether its style is Victorian, Tudor, Craftsman or modern.”

Hot colours? “Greys are very big and there are some beautiful, warm shades, from blue/grey to green/grey and brown/grey,” says Benjamin Moore’s colour and design coordinator Georgina King. “Also popular are rich, dark blues such as our Aegean Teal and Nocturnal Grey. Shaughnessy is definitely blues and greys.” Both Beauti-Tone and Benjamin Moore offer clients on-site colour consultations. The former’s cellphone-sized device called CapSure, a portable spectrometer, will match any shade it encounters; the latter’s Personal Colour Viewing service covers the full palette – main body, trim and doors.

So now you’ve chosen the colour, but if you plan to do it yourself, before you break out the brushes, pay heed to a seasoned professional who has witnessed far too many well-intentioned but half-completed projects. Preparation is essential to the business of house painting, says Lower Mainland painter Lee Albrighton. “Preparing and painting the outside of a house can be quite overwhelming. People get halfway through and say ‘this is too much for me.’ Then I get called in. It’s a big undertaking and home- owners have a tendency to rush things.

“Preparation is more than half the job. You can’t just pick the paint and go. With our climate in B.C. mould is a big issue so you have to first give the house a good cleaning and if it’s really old then scrape and sand it right down to the wood.

“A lot of homeowners will rent a power washer; that’s a big mistake because it can do more damage than good when it comes out at great pressure and puts a lot of water into the cavity of the house. The minute it gets sunny the water in the wood will want to come out and the paint will bubble.

“Wash the house with a big scrub brush and hose and a solution of one cup TSP [trisodium phosphate powder] and one cup bleach in two gallons of water. That will get rid of mould and mildew. Let it sit on the house for an hour then wash the whole house off, giving it a really good rinse. Let it dry out for a day then sand the wood. I prime with oil-based primer. The trend is to use latex primer but only on bare wood and not on oil-painted wood.

“For the body of the house I use flat-finish latex, then soft gloss for the trim, almost like a satin finish. The good thing about latex is that it expands and contracts with sun and cold whereas oil has a tendency to crack when hot.”

Experts are unanimous in their belief that dollar for dollar, a professional-looking paint job will add more value than just about any other improvement. “Painting an exterior is my favourite thing to do because it’s such a huge change,” King says. “The wonder of exterior painting is not only are you protecting the surface but with the right colour choices for walls, trims and doors, you are giving your property a professional facelift.”

A Handle on Hardware

When planning exterior home design – new or renovated – don’t underestimate the importance of hardware, the first thing people see. First impressions count, whether doorbells, doorknockers, hinges, house numbers, mailboxes – or exterior lighting.

Bradford Decorative Hardware's door handle by Rocky Mountain.

Wes Zeller, owner of Bradford Decorative Hardware, found several years ago when he was building custom homes in Calgary that there was a high demand for this type of hardware, “the jewelry of a home.” Far more than utilitarian knobs and numbers, his Vancouver company offers a wide variety of brass, bronze and stainless steel accessories. “Your front door is your guest’s first impression,” he says, “so one of the simplest things to do that will make one of the biggest impacts is to update your hardware. When clients come to us, homeowners or those who want to sell their house, spruce it up or restore it, they tend to spend a little more on the front door; they’ll bend their budget because of the curb appeal.”

Most popular finish today is satin nickel, a brushed finish that requires less maintenance than polished finishes, Zeller says. Unique and a top choice of architects are bronze patina finishes, including Ashley Norton’s newest white-bronze patina. All patina finishes oxidize over time – making them a living finish.

For those who prefer keyless entry systems, Emtek’s new EMTouch Electronic Keypad can be programmed with up to 20 codes and paired with any of their knobs or lever sets.

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