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Column: Use 'Stay Home' orders as a chance to examine outside wall damage
Rudi Kiefer

Many houses in North Georgia might benefit from current “stay home” orders. The woodwork deserves an examination for rain and frost damage. Prevailing winds in our area come from the west, the direction from which most rainwater is driven against the structure. But the western side of the house also dries faster than its northern one, due to the sun angles. Northern walls never see direct sunlight. Moisture accumulated in joints and crevices has time to make the wood rot. I like to look at that side first.

Remove peeling or flaking paint with a scraper tool. Then, resist the temptation to apply caulk or the beautiful color paint that adorns the house. It’s extremely important to put on at least one coat of that dull-looking primer. Its job is to seal the wood against moisture invasion, as well as forming a surface to which the topcoat can bond. Without primer, that expensive color paint will fall off again after a while. There are now formulations that combine paint and primer, but I’ve always had better results with the 2-step approach.

Primer also helps caulk adhere better. So now comes the step where the gaps and joints of the wood get filled. Don’t use 100% silicone caulk, it’s for bathtubs and sinks, and not paintable. Use a high quality latex caulk. The longer the lifespan stated on the cartridge, the better it usually holds up. 

When the caulk has cured overnight, it’s time for a couple of topcoats. Grandpa’s old turpentine paint has long been outperformed (and outpriced) by the modern latex products. Flat and eggshell surface formulations are slightly less expensive and can hide small irregularities. But semi-gloss and gloss paints are more accepting of scrubbing and careful pressure washing. Unless you like to experiment, an unknown cheap brand is not a good choice. Using top-quality brand-name paint makes an enormous difference compared to the economy lines. It goes on more smoothly, requires fewer coats to cover properly (two coats is usually the standard), and lasts longer in our dry, hot, windy, cold, wet and freezing Southern weather. 

Dollar-bin paint brushes are good for one-time tasks with non-washable coatings like polyurethane. But for house woodwork, a $10-15 brush produces amazing results. For cleanup, soap and water are sufficient. But using a hair shampoo/conditioner product cleans and also conditions the bristles.


Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor at Brenau University, teaching physical and health sciences on Brenau’s Georgia campuses and in China. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.

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