Q: Help! I have a huge mess on my hands. Last month I had my roof redone–a complete tear-off. Then, I decided to have the asbestos siding removed. Now I realize I’ve opened a big can of worms.

Of all the articles you’ve written, and I’ve saved, I can’t find one on the correct material to fill the hundreds of nail holes that now cover my house. The first paint store I went to said to use exterior spackling paste, but my neighbors say that stuff will harden and pop out of the holes and that it won’t expand or contract with the wood. The second paint store sold me painters’ acrylic latex caulk.

Now, the two painters who are supposed to be sending me estimates told me the caulk was junk, and that they would use elastomeric patch. What’s that? One also mentioned using Bondo on the big gaps.

I hope to save a few bucks by starting the nail pulling and by filling some of the holes myself. Any advice would be much appreciated.

A: Thirty years ago, Kevin started his journey in renovation as a housepainter. He worked outside the whole year. The only thing that stopped him was rain hitting wood siding that was so dry it would suck up water. Because your house was covered with asbestos siding (we’d guess for 40 or 50 years), we doubt it’s that dry.

We applaud your efforts to do some of the prep work yourself, but wonder if that’s the best use of your time for the dollar or two you save.

The most important part of a lasting paint job is surface preparation. Our advice is to let the painters do it. We don’t think you’ll save enough to make it worth your while. Pull a few nails if you must, and watch like a hawk during the prep.

Surface preparation is time consuming and tedious. It doesn’t always get done as well as it should. Don’t hesitate to point out nail holes that are not filled or joints that are not caulked, even if the painters get a little miffed with you. Ten years down the road, you’ll be glad you did.

Like most things in building, there is a sequence of events to do the job. When painting a house, this is the sequence that’s worked best for us: pressure-wash the siding to remove dirt and any chalking paint. Scrape off the loose paint and sand the surface to feather the edges of the old paint. Prime the surface. Depending on the integrity of the old paint, priming the whole house may be required, or spot-priming the bare wood may do the job. Fill any nail holes and caulk any joints that are gap-y. Finally, apply the finish coat(s).

As far as fillers go, we agree with your painters about the nail holes. Use elastomeric patch for the nail holes and imperfections less than 1/4-inch deep or wide. Elastomeric patch is a flexible, mildew-resistant, waterproof, paint-able polymer. It can be applied with a brush, trowel, or putty knife. DAP makes an elastomeric patch under the brand name ElastoPatch. Your local paint store should stock it. The cost for a 2-gallon bucket is around $30.

We don’t agree that painters’ caulk is “junk.” We’d go with a good latex caulk for seams, between window and door casings and on corner trim where it meets the siding. Avoid exterior spackle. Your neighbor is right. When it dries, it is brittle and it does tend to pop out. We wonder about Bondo for the same reasons. We don’t know if it would stand up to the expansion and contraction of your wood siding.

We recommend a good latex caulk for joints, rather then elastomeric patch because it’s easier to apply and it can be smoothed with a finger. This forces the caulk into the joint and provides a smooth surface, making for a nicer-finished job.


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to opinion@inman.com.

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