Fixing Our Old House

Fix wood rot
Painting siding
Fixing metal roof
Fixing wood damage
Installing gutters

Painting and Stripping Old Wood Siding

Here are the step-by-step procedures in painting original wood siding on an historic house as discussed in our Painting and Stripping Old Wood Siding—Overview page.

Strip the old paint using an infrared paint stripper for large areas and a heat gun for hard to reach areas.
More information on our paint removal page.

Remove any caulk between the boards of the siding. In old houses, caulking between boards will trap in moisture that can cause the paint to peel.

In the photo on the right, you will see wooden plugs use to cover the holes drilled to blow in insulation. We reset all of the plugs by removing them, applying polyurethane glue (Gorilla Glue), and resetting them in the siding so that they were flush. Even better is to use a wood epoxy like Abatron LiquidWood. What doesn't work is to use a regualr wood glue or wood filler.

stripping paint with an infrared heating unit.
Using an infrared heat paint stripper


Scraping. We used a good carbide blade triangular scraper we purchased from the firm selling the infrared paint remover we use. scraping weathered siding.
Scrape and then sand to removed any weathered surface. On our siding, the wood actually weathered under the peeling paint. Paint will not hold to weathered wood.

Nail any loose boards. We removed the old cut nails from 1860 because they no longer gripped well. We replaced them with stainless steel siding nails.

Sand. We used a palm sander with course 40 grit cloth backed sand paper.

Modern paints, on the other hand, are primarily bonding paints with little ability to penetrate a substrate. For this reason, surface preparation is extremely important for today's paints.
  Before preparing the interior for repainting, all moisture penetration from failing roofs or gutters or from faulty plumbing or interior heating elements should be identified and corrected. A paint job is only as good as the preparation that goes before it. The surface to be painted, old or new, wood, plaster, masonry, or metal must be made sound and capable of taking the paint to be applied.

National Park Service Preservation Briefsleave site

Patch any surface holes with an exterior wood filler. We used Dap Wood Dough for small holes and surface cracks. We now use an epoxy filler for all holes, large or small (See below). You want to use Epoxy filler that has the same expansion properties as wood and doesn't shrink when it cures.

Do a final sand with course 60 grit cloth backed sand paper.

Because older wood framed homes are not rigid, wood fillers can work loose over time. For this reason, we were careful to use the epoxy filler on large holes and to caulk thin cracks using the flexible, paintable silicone caulk.

Note: Use an epoxy filler designed for use on wood (two are recommended below) so that it will have the same expansion characteristics as the siding. We don't think it is cost effective to use cheaper auto or marine epoxy fillers.

Fill siding holes
Wood putty filled hole. The nail hole will be primed and caulked over.
cracks filled with epoxy cracks filled with epoxy
Damaged board first stabilized with liquid epoxy, e.g., on soft wood, cracks, and edges that will contact water. Epoxy filler is then added to cracks and large holes. Regular wood filler is used for small indents.
Prime exposed nails. If rusted, use the correct rust primer, or better, use a rust converter. This is a chemical that converts rust into a neutral coating.
Another option is to replace original nails with stainless steel nails.

Apply a coat of wood preservative on any wood sections not coated with the liquid epoxy. We used Wolman's Zinsser Woodlife Classicleave site. To use a preservative, the siding must be free of paint so that the preservative can be absorbed by the wood.
Use an epoxy consolidant instead of the preservative where the wood is soft (See below). We painted all of the the window trim using the epoxy consolidant as this provides the best water protection and paint bonding. The epoxy consolidant is too expensive to coat all the siding.

Note: Be sure to paint on the epoxy consolidant before painting on the wood preservative. Don't bother to use the preservative on any painted or epoxy consolidated wood. It won't be absorbed.

Paints containing linseed oil are very susceptible to mildew. Of the available water-base paints, acrylic latex is the most mildew resistant. Porous latex paints applied over a primer coat with linseed oil will develop severe mildew in warm, damp climates.

Caulk cracks after the preservative has dried. We used GE XST Extreme Paintable Silicone IIleave site (We are now uinsg GE Groov caulkleave site). It is important to either caulk any large open crack or use the epoxy filler. Don't use regular wood filler as it may not hold up as the siding moves over time. We also caulked over the primed nail heads.
Don't caulk the bottom of the siding so that moisture coming out of the house can escape.
Example of caulked boards.
Long cracks also can be caulked instead of using an epoxy filler.

Apply one coat of primer. We use Zinsser® Bulls Eye 1-2-3® PLUS Primerleave site primer.

Tip: Have the paint store tint the primer to the same color as the top coat.

  • Don't let the primer sit more than a few weeks before painting. Soap-like compounds can form on oil primers in as little as two weeks.
  • Use a brush when painting old siding. It allows the paint to be worked into the siding's imperfections more effectively than a roller or spray.
  • Don't prime or paint in direct sunshine, when it is dry and breezy, or is very hot (over 90 degrees F)
  • Paint should not be applied when the air temperature is below the stated figure for the product, nor if the temperature is forecasted to drop below that minimum during the next 24 hours, nor if the surface being painted is below that temperature: Oil-based paints should be applied when the temperature is at least 40 F; for latex paints, the temperature should be at least 50 F.
    When pretreating the wood with a paintable water-repellent preservative (a recommended practice), best results are achieved if it is applied when temperatures are greater than 70 F.
  • Don't paint if it is too humid (between 20% and 80% is ideal). When water-based paints cure, the water should evaporate as fast or faster than the solvents. After the water has evaporated, the paint will shrink to nearly its final shape. As the solvents evaporate, the paint chemically reacts to form a hard material. When it is too humid, water cannot evaporate and the solvents may evaporate first, causing the paint to cure while still in a water-filled state. You cannot recover from this type of disaster. Oil-based paints will also fail if conditions are too humid.

Apply two coats of Home Depot's Behr Premium Plus Ultra Exteriorleave site. Behr paints have been mentioned as a top paint in various consumer studies for many years. We use Consumer Reportsleave site as our guide to paints.

We are now using semigloss paint as it stays cleaner; however, some people do not like the glossy look.

Epoxy fillers and consolidants

Abatron's LiquidWood and WoodEpoxleave site
These products restore rotted, severely damaged windows, columns, frames, broken furniture, structural and decorative wood components. They are especially valuable for parts that cannot be replaced because of size, shape or other reasons. The objects restored with these products become fully functional parts often stronger and far more durable than the original.
   The consolidants (penetrants). Reinforces, rebuilds, water- and insect-proofs wood by hardening after penetrating. Regenerates rotted windowsills, frames, structural and decorative parts, furniture, boats, columns, floors.
   Epoxy fillers are a structural adhesive putty and wood replacement compound. They are a high-strength no-shrink adhesive paste to fill, repair and replace wood and other materials in structures, walls, floors, furniture, sculptures. They are unaffected by water and insects.

Rot Doctor's Penetrating Epoxy and FILL-IT™ Epoxy Fillerleave site


Wolmans WOODLIFE® Classic Clear Wood Preservativeleave site

Smith and Co's MultiWoodPrime epoxy primerleave site



Purchase Abatron Epoxy Products
amazon image

Help support this site


amazon image

Help support this site by linking to Amazon from here

| About | History of |

© Waterford Connection.


keywords: preserving old house, historic house, building, heritage building, historic buidling, heritage buildings, dyi, do it yurself, home improvement

keywords: clapbooard, painting, paint, acrylic paint, clapbooards, wood siding, exterior painting, alkyd paint, scraping, paint removal, old siding, replacing wood, rotted wood, wooden siding, exterior siding, old wood, window sills, old house, historic house, building, heritage building, historic building, heritage buildings, waterford virginia, waterford va, dyi, do it yourself, home improvement, how to paint, wood plugs