Q & A: Cold Weather Exterior Painting

What You Need to Know About Exterior Painting in Low Temperatures

Q: Cold weather is coming. Can I still paint the exterior of my house?
A: Temperature is one of the most important factors to think about when you are considering painting the exterior of your home. Paint reacts very differently as temperatures approach the freezing mark compared to how paint performs during warmer weather. With newer product advancements utilizing modern chemistry, paint manufacturers have extended the temperature range at which some exterior paints can now be applied. Select paints are available in the marketplace today that deliver successful exterior painting in cold temperatures. However, some precautions need to be taken to ensure a satisfactory result. One paint designed for application in temperature extremes is McCormick Paints Generation LX Premium Exterior Latex allowing cold weather painting in temperatures as low as 35˚F, plus it delivers other great features:  Self-Priming, One Coat Coverage, Algal/Algae/Mildew Resistant, Superior Hiding, Tannin Stain Resistant, Excellent Color Retention, and a Lifetime Warranty.

Q: What steps should you take before attempting to paint in cold temperatures?

A: Even though there are now products that have the ability to perform in lower temperatures, there are still many precautions you need to take before applying exterior paint in colder weather.

  • Priming. Many exterior paints are now self-priming products. If the product you’re working with is not, make sure you use a good bonding primer before applying paint.
  • Pay special attention to the substrate. You really want to know the moisture content of your substrate. Paint adhesion can be negatively affected by the surface having too much moisture. Also, substrate temperature should be checked before painting. Just because the outside air temperature is 35˚F does not mean that your substrate has also reached that temperature. Be sure your substrate has reached the proper minimum temperature before applying paint.  There are tools you can purchase to measure surface temperature.

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  • Make sure the paint is actually rated for 35˚F temperature. Many common house paints and stains are still restricted for use in temperatures of 50˚F and warmer.
  • Know your products. Although your paint product may be approved for use in low temperatures, other materials you use may not work in cold weather.  For example, warmer temperatures are usually required when using fillers, primers, and caulking effectively.
  • Use the correct tools. Using the correct painting tools for cold weather is critical to the success of your project. Check with a McCormick Paints professional for recommendations on which brushes, rollers and other tools to use with the paint you purchased. The consistency of the paint will tend to be thicker at the lower temperatures so choosing the correct paint brush is important. Generally speaking, the use of a Nylon/Polyester paint brush or Chinex blend paint brush work well as they tend to be a little “stiffer” and will apply the paint better in lower temperatures.
  • Work midday. Focus on preparation work in the early morning and late afternoon. Apply our exterior paint between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.  This allows surfaces to warm up and will also allow time for the paint to cure before temperatures begin to drop rapidly and dew falls.
  • Follow the sun. In summer the rule is, don’t paint in the sun—follow the shade around the house. But in cold weather, it’s the opposite.  Since we want the paint to adhere and set, apply paint in full sun during colder seasons. Follow the sun across your painting project trying to keep the painting action in the full sun whenever possible.

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  • Don’t forget the wind. Along with monitoring the air temperature and moisture content of the substrate, wind speed and wind direction can play a major role in determining the temperature of the substrate to be painted.  In colder weather, note the direction and force of the wind – your substrate temperature will be directly affected by the wind.

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  • Allow for drying time. Multiple coats applied too quickly in cold weather may show bubbling and blistering.

Bottom line, if you decide to tackle an exterior paint project with latex paint at this time of year in the Mid-Atlantic region, pay close attention to weather conditions. Ideally, wait until the temperature is predicted to remain above the recommended minimum for the next 36 hours!