Painting a 1940’s House to Add Curb Appeal

Curb Appeal PinnableLast fall we moved into a home that was built in the 40s. The interior was beautifully restored, with refinished hardwood floors, a new kitchen and baths, and a lot of really nice details. But the exterior-not so much. In fact, it was so bad we initially didn’t want to look at the house. But neighborhood is perfect, so we gave it a chance and moved in , in spite of the complete lack of curb appeal. Its time to get the outside of the house to be as nice as the inside. It’s gonna be a summer-long project, there is tons to do! The short list of projects for this summer includes painting the trim on the outside of the house, planting grass, doing some fairly extensive landscaping, getting a “tree doctor” out to trim the enormous trees in our yard, adding a deck or porch out back, and adding a serious dose of cute to my front porch. I would also like to build a circular bench around one of the trees, but I’m not sure we’ll get to that particular project this year. All these projects have been delayed somewhat by the really weird weather we have been having in Oklahoma. Usually by April, it’s reliably warm, and heading towards really hot, but that just hasn’t been the case this year. It’s been too cool to paint, or plant shrubs and flowers, or to even plant grass.  So I’ve been forced to wait it out, but finally, the stars have aligned, the weather’s warmed up, and my hubby’s cleared his calendar for a few days, so we are ready to start!!

Prep before Painting

We decided to start by painting the trim on the outside of the house. It was painted a lovely shade of pinkish-beige that did nothing for the yellow-gold brick. It was also badly weathered and peeling so there was quite a bit of prepwork involved. To start, we removed the screens and power-washed all the trim, screens, and windows.

Prepping the trim for painting
Scraped and prepped doors and trim

Next, we scraped all the peeling and “alligatored” paint, then caulked any gaps with exterior caulk. We also noticed some of the caulk on the mullions had chipped away, so we had to repair a few windows as well. While we were at it, we also power-washed the porch, sidewalks and drive; 70 years of dirt had made them pretty grimy and dingy!

Patience in Painting

The next day, the painting commenced. I started on the porch, using a 4 inch paintbrush for trim, and a 2 inch angled brush for the mullions and screens. DH painted the soffits with a 9 inch roller, then used a 4 inch brush for the fascia boards. We used the roller and the 2 inch cut brush on the garage doors. This turned out to be about a 3 day project; the first day we finished the front of the house. It took the longest because of all the doors and windows, and the front porch. There was just a lot of trim to paint, most of which had to be done with the 2 inch brush. Painting is not hard, but it does take some patience to get a good result.  The rest of the house went faster, as it was primarily soffits and fascia boards. Again, not hard, just time-consuming. However, the results were well worth it! The paint we chose is a light gray, which unfortunately in pictures appears to be white. Either way, it brightened up the house quite a bit.

carriage detail
Garage Doors with Carriage Detail

The porch has typical 1940s metal support posts, and a metal stair railing, all painted black. To get some of that black over to the other side of the house, we purchased a kit with carriage house hinges and handles to put on the garage doors. These are purely decorative, but it adds a little detail to the doors.  As with most small houses, our garage doors are the largest architectural feature of our house, so they need to be dressed up a bit.  I am thinking about glazing the panels with a darker gray, but I haven’t decided yet if I want that much contrast on the doors.   Valspar

Tips to Make Painting Easier

If you have never painted trim before, there are a few things that will make the job easier. To start, use a paint with primer. I swear by Valspar paint from Lowe’s. I have tried more expensive paint, like Sherwin Williams, and Valspar gives better coverage, goes on easier, and lasts forever. I love it! Good paint makes any painting job easier, so it’s worth finding one that works well for you. A gallon of paint will cover about 350 square feet, so you can calculate how much paint you need from that. Buy all your paint at once, with enough for touch ups, so that all the paint matches.  (Buy custom mixed paint on two different days, and you will wind up with two shades of paint.) Also, when you have to switch from one paint container to another, try to do it at a natural break like a corner. It will make any shading less noticeable. Ideally, you should mix all your paint together and then put it back in it’s  cans or buckets, but I don’t have a 25 gallon container, so I just followed the above “rules” for paint buying and usage. The next thing you need to make painting go easier is decent brushes. Crummy brushes yield crummy results.  I generally buy Wooster brushes, I think they hold up well and are reasonably priced, but any good brush with synthetic bristles is perfect for exterior latex paint. Don’t use natural bristle brushes with latex paint; the paint will stick to your brush, spread your bristles, and generally just make the job much harder than it is. Synthetic bristles for synthetic paint. Remember that, it’s important. And don’t buy chip (disposable) brushes for this job unless you just want paint brush hairs in your paint. This is a big job, and chip brushes won’t hold up. As far as a roller goes, I get the cheapest roller covers I can find and throw them out when I’m done. You don’t need “quality” rollers; you do need quality brushes, but not rollers.

drywall knife to mask with
Use a drywall knife as a “mask” when doing window trim

The last piece of equipment you need is a drywall knife, the longer the better. You can use this to “mask” with when you are doing window mullions or small trim. Simply follow your drywall knife along with your brush to protect the glass. Periodically you will have to wipe the accumulated paint off the knife, but it is so much easier and faster than taping off windows and trim! You can keep a rag handy to clean up the knife, or do what I do and just wipe it on your painting pant’s leg. Since I’m a messy painter, I have painting clothes that I save just for the times I need to paint. Then  I can wipe tools, and my hands, on my clothes and not worry about it. Easy.

The Reveal

After 3 days of power washing, rolling, and brushing, we finally finished painting all the trim on the house. We spent about $280.00 on paint and supplies, and I have enough paint left to do the porch I want to add onto the back of the house later this summer. I am really pleased with the results. Although we still have a ton of work to get the curb appeal of this house up to an acceptable level, I feel like we’ve taken a giant step in the right direction with the paint job. What do you think?

House before painting
House before painting
House after painting trim
House after painting trim


1 Comment

  1. The Home Tour: a 1940s Bungalow Entry and Living Room - The Flying C says:

    […] here is the front of the house after a summer of planting grass, installing plant beds, and painting the trim. This has been every bit of a summer long project, and it’s not quite done yet, but […]

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