Touching Up
Before you begin work, mask windows and doors with heavy plastic or builder's paper and lay drop cloths on the ground. Use a hook scraper to remove loose paint. In spots where wood is uneven, try a putty knife, which is less likely to damage wood. Sand the remaining paint to a dull finish; taper or feather thicker spots. Remove all cracked caulking. Wash the house using your garden hose and awire brush to remove any remaining loose paint. Never use a steel or iron brush, which could leave stains and may glaze the surface.

Then it's time for a primer, paint formulated with a high proportion of binder in order to adhere tightly to wood and to the next layer of paint. Some painters prefer the oil-based variety for its penetration and ability to block the stains that bleed out of redwood and cedar, but I would recommend an acrylic latex to lay the foundation for a lasting paint job. This first coat of primer makes small cracks, nail heads and other imperfections more visible, so you'll want to fill them with a latex caulk and exterior filler, such as a two-part epoxy or a light weight spackle and sand until level. Remember to always prime before caulking or filling. Then mop the house's surface with a damp cloth to remove any remaining dust and apply a second coat of primer.

If you are stripping the whole house down to bare wood, start with a vigorous hand-scraping. When you've scraped as much as you can, patch any gouges or gaps with a two-part wood epoxy. Then sand the entire surface until smooth.

Even the most thorough scraping and sanding won't dislodge mold and mildew in old wood, but a cleaning solution containing a cup of bleach and a cup of trisodium phosphate in two gallons of water should do the trick. Spray the house's surface while scrubbing with a stiff-bristled brush. Let it sit for half an hour before gently rinsing with a garden hose. A power-washer may sound like a time saver but its streaming jets can damage old wood.

Let the house dry for one sunny day and then pretreat the bare wood with a clear, paintable water-repellent to prevent moisture infiltration. Whatever brand you buy, make sure it contains a repellent, often a wax, to help the wood swell less when it rains. Also check the label for a preservative that kills mildew, which can discolor the top layer of paint or cause wood to rot. One to look for is 3-ido-2-propynyl butylcarbamate or IPBC. Repellents not labeled "paintable" may contain so much wax that paint won't stick. Allow this treatment to dry for at least two warm, sunny days before applying primer.

Next you're ready for a coat of an alkyd primer, which has resins that help preserve the wood. After the first coat of primer, seal window surrounds and door joints with siliconized acrylic latex caulk. For the second coat of primer, use an acrylic latex to prime for all top coats.
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