How to Touch Up Your Exterior Paint for a Flawless Finish

Make your home’s exterior the envy of all your neighbors

Kristin Luna
Written by Kristin Luna
Updated May 11, 2022
Man painting house with brush
Photo: The Good Brigade / Getty Images
Difficulty

Simple

Flex your DIY muscles.

Time to complete

8 hours

3–8 hours for a one-story home

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What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Putty knife
  • Caulking gun
  • Paintbrush
  • Roller frame
  • Roller
  • Bucket
  • Ladder

SUPPLIES

  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Painter’s putty
  • Caulking
  • Bleach
  • Sponges
  • Lead test kit

First impressions matter, and the last thing you want people to see when they pull up to your house is exposed wood or peeling paint. Lucky for you, in most cases a little bit of paint in the problem spots is all you’ll need to shape that first impression. Below you’ll learn how to touch up exterior house paint on your own.

  1. Identify Areas That Need Touch Ups

    Orange roller paint white wall
    Photo: bagi1998 / Getty Images

    Before you start any exterior painting, survey the entirety of your home and take note of any areas where the paint may be failing, chipping, or flaking off. 

    Underlying issues such as a leaking gutter, failed roof flashing, or a puncture in the asphalt roofing often cause these types of failures, so addressing problems at the same time as a touch-up paint job will help mitigate the amount of work you’ll need to do in the future. At the same time, look for any signs of water damage to the wood, bubbling paint, or areas that have been faded by direct sunlight.

  2. Scrape Off Any Flaking Paint

    The most important home painting tip for any DIY project is to adequately prep the surface before you take paint to it—and that includes removing any old paint that’s peeling or detached from the wall. 

    If the area of flaking paint is larger than a picture frame, you might want to set up a paint capture system like a tarp or drop cloth. Flaking paint is notorious for mixing with mulch and plants as it’s removed, so taping plastic sheeting below your work space to collect as much of the detritus as possible is a smart move. 

    As you remove the old paint, work slowly, wear gloves, and be sure to conduct a lead paint test if your home was built before 1978. You’ll also want to sand the edges of the remaining paint to make the hard edge of peeling paint disappear before you prime it.

  3. Give the Siding a Proper Cleaning

    If your siding shows signs of pollen, mold, or dirt, thoroughly wash it before evaluating the scope of work involved with touching up the exterior paint. There are many paint projects that simply need a good cleaning, so choosing a regular hose versus a pressure washer makes a huge difference in blasting off the paint and leaving bare wood behind instead of gently washing an otherwise intact paint system with normal pressure. Pressure washers can also be modulated and don’t need to be used at full strength to get the job done. 

    If the paint is clearly old, be careful with the high-pressure washer as it’ll rip through flaking paint (or seams in the siding) and result in one big mess for you to clean up. Manually removing old paint—with a light wash afterward to get all the dust down— is usually the best strategy for dealing with flaking or peeling paint. 

    Leave projects like cleaning the upper stories of your property to the high-pressure water system or hire a local power washing company to do the hard work for you.

  4. Let the Siding Dry Out

    If you’ve washed your exterior, let the siding dry out before priming and painting your house. For wood siding, you’ll want to allow at least two to three weeks of drying before touching it up with paint if you’ve used high pressure, which injects moisture into the pores of the wood. One of the most common reasons for bubbling paint is the presence of moisture content in the underlying substrate. Getting that right before sealing it all up is important to avoid similar repairs in the immediate future. 

    If you’ve done a gentle cleaning without high pressure, you can start applying paint products within one week, assuming the weather stays dry.

  5. Apply a Coat of Primer

    Now that you have a clean, dry, and prepped surface in the touch-up spots, brush or roll on a high-quality primer. Applying the primer extra thick never hurts, and allowing it to dry between coats will ensure a uniform appearance in addition to thoroughly protecting the house, which is the focal point of these painting systems. If you find yourself needing to cover an entire wall, you might consider renting a paint sprayer rather than rolling or brushing by hand.

  6. Add a Layer of Paint

    Once your primer has dried, it’s time to put the final layer onto the touch up spots. It’s often advantageous to paint an entire section to ensure the touch up paint blends in with the old, but if you’re working with a few small spots you’ll likely be able to fade the paint into the old work with a brush or roller. Taking the time to do two lighter coats instead of one thicker coat is a good idea, as you’ll have a cleaner finish and the top coat will dry faster.  

    Of course, if you simply don’t have the time for a DIY exterior touchup job, you can bring in a local painter to help out.

FAQs

How do you match new paint and faded paint?

Matching new paint with an old, faded color can be tricky. First, you’ll need to determine whether the paint on your house is latex-based or oil-based. Lightly scrub an out-of-the-way areas of your home with rubbing alcohol—if the alcohol scrubs away the paint, it’s latex-based. If not, the paint is oil-based. 

Once you have that settled, bring a paint chip or photo of the color to a paint professional and have them mix you a matching paint in the same base (latex or oil). Then paint another inconspicuous part of your house to see if it’s a match.

Can you paint vinyl siding?

Yes, you can paint vinyl siding. It isn’t the best long-term solution, but it can be a temporary fix until you replace the siding. Vinyl is resistant to many types of paint, so you’ll need a latex-based VinylSafe paint to do the job. Otherwise, your paint job won’t stick.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.