Q: Is there any way to prevent nail holes from showing through a paint job? I've used oil-based putty, which is labor intensive, and yet the nail holes still show through. — Jeff, Petoskey, Michigan

A: Steve Thomas replies: I don't know whether you're talking about an interior or exterior paint job, but I'll assume outside because that's a little tougher to tackle.

As you probably know, houses expand and contract with temperature changes. Wood, especially, is like a sponge. Shingles, for instance, will absorb moisture and swell in the summertime, and then in the winter when it gets really cold and dry, they contract as they give off moisture. All that expansion and contraction works on the fastenings, pushing and pulling on the joint between the head of the nail and the shingle. So we recommend just priming them with oil-based primer and letting them go.

Generally we don't recommend trying to putty nail holes because it's virtually impossible to hide them. If you really want to work at it, there is a two-part fiberglass-type putty recommended for exterior use, which a couple of different companies make. It's similar in formulation to the body putty used on automobiles and might do a better concealing job than the oil-based putty. Follow the directions on the package, obviously. We have used that to hide various imperfections, blemishes, dings, and so on. If you're patching every nail hole on the whole side of your house, it is going to take a while, but if the results are important to you, go for it. I would recommend counter-sinking the nails a little bit, then patching them, sanding, priming, and painting.
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