A Brief History of House Paint- Health and Environment

House Paint 1920s

Lead paint had widespread usage in the colonial days. In 1786 Ben Franklin wrote a letter to a friend warning of the health dangers of lead paint. In America lead paint’s usage peaked in the 1920s. In those days the painters took a bag of lead powder and mixed it into the solvents and pigments while inhaling clouds of lead dust. Many painters died young from unknown illnesses known in the trades as “Painter’s disease.” It took many years of knowing the hazards of lead, before science and the political will overcame the lead paint manufacturer’s lobby, when in 1978 the government finally outlawed the use of lead paint completely. Now many of the old historic homes are still caked with layers of lead, it was a very tough and durable coating: Lead paint jobs were known to last twenty years.

House Paint 1980s

Latex coatings, developed in the 1940s, came onto the scene as a clean option for homeowners, but was widely considered inferior by tradesmen and homeowners alike. When I began painting in the early 1980s, the gold standard for house paint was enamel or oil. The paint was fumy, messy to work with, slow to dry, and hard to clean. Still, in the 1980s the data showed that latex had better color retention, more resistance to chalking, blistering, and fading: An all-around better performance than oil for general exterior applications. It took over a decade for the data work its way into the minds of the tradesmen and the general public. Now oil exterior house paint is no longer manufactured for general use.

House Paint 2018

In 2018 the only commonly used oils in exterior house paint were the primers. Despite many of the advances in latex paint, only oil primer will block the tanning bleed—a resin inside the wood and stains the coating—from rising to the surface. Once the paint manufacturers solve the problem of tanning bleed with latex, there’ll be little need for oil, except as a specialty finish. Now all the advances in coatings most of the new technology is geared toward latex paint. This is not only good for the painter, the homeowner, and the environment, but it allows for the most clean and efficient application, with long lasting results.

house wood rot

When Does Your Home Need Painting?

As a paint contractor one of the most frequently asked questions is: how long will the paint job last? My stock answer is, it depends on a lot of variable factors. I suppose the average number of years is around five. Some of the factors determining the length of a paint job are the types of wood used by the builder and environmental conditions. For instance, a waterfront home is challenged by the worst of conditions, and it’s not uncommon for the side facing the water to need a maintenance coat within three years or less. On the North Shore most homes are affected by the ocean’s moisture, even if you live a quarter mile away.

Another factor determining the length of a paint job is the homeowner’s tolerance for fading and failing paint. Many homeowners have their paint contractor touch up failing paint between paint jobs. In this process, the touch ups can be noticeable—the touchup being a little shinier or brighter—but if there is any single way of extending the life of a paint job by an average of two years, it is a periodic touch up. One of the benefits of addressing failing paint as it arises is that it provides a homeowner the opportunity to prevent moisture penetration into the wood that frequently leads to rot and costly repairs. The rot on a house that has delayed a paint job can often cost as much as the paint job itself. As Ben Franklin once said, “A stitch in time, saves nine.”

exterior trim rot                          exterior trim rot

Like people, houses are quirky, each holds it paint differently—paint tends to peel and break down in the same spots. Many of the modern construction were built with new growth pine and finger jointed wood; some of these also have clapboards that are not fully primed before installation. These products are notorious for attracting, moisture and rot, and houses built with these products frequently have premature paint failure. (I actually own one!) This is why on the newer homes, particularly on the high-end, all new trim is made of plastic or some type of synthetic. And paint loves plastic, it may fade, but in my experience, it never peels and rarely fails. So how long do you wait between paint jobs? It depends. But blistering or peeling paint is a good indicator, and keeping on a regular schedule of maintenance is a good way to protect your home’s looks and value.

interior painted living room

Curing Those Winter Blues

Congress and Washington are in gridlock, the Patriots have once again failed in their quest for another Super Bowl, and though it is freezing out the ice caps are melting. It’s winter in New England, that limbo between Thanksgiving and Easter; it is time to keep warm, maybe catch up on some reading, or perhaps working on the house. Most people are too busy to keep up with their household chores: clutter gathers in the closets, there’s expired food in the refrigerator, and that damned basement seems to be filling up with every unwanted article. Home projects can leave many homeowners in paralysis; you take care of the emergencies like the water heater flooding the basement and that broken light by the front door. Painting may be the last thing on your mind.

But there is hope. The days are getting longer. The Red Sox will soon be in spring training. Pick on project at a time. Maybe go through your clothes and throw out anything you haven’t worn in a year. If you can’t do that, then start with everything you haven’t worn in the past five years. Just start somewhere! Maybe it’s the medicine cabinet, where you stuffed all those pills for future ailments. Get rid of those old pills. Don’t worry you can always call a doctor. Move ahead. When you accomplish one task the sense of accomplishment can inspire you to move onto another. Think of the rooms in your house, maybe your favorite room or maybe that office space that you had always wanted to get to. Study the room. Are you happy with the furniture? Are the lampshades tired? How could you imagine making that room better? Make a list.

On average interior paint jobs are good for ten years before the paint loses its luster and gains a lived in look: high traffic walls show signs of wear and woodwork is chipped by the kids or the vacuum cleaner. Exterior painting protects the house as a barrier against moisture and the elements, interior painting is done to preserve beauty and create an inviting living space. Both add tremendous value for resale. People often put their house on the market and after having the decorators in to stage the house and the painters in to touch up the blighted areas they wonder, “Why didn’t we do this while we were living here?” Don’t wait till you sell your house. Start it now!


Solving Paint Failure

Three summers ago, I got a call from Bruce Irving the former producer of WGBHʼs This Old House who had remembered me from the days my company had worked on “The Salem House” in 1995. He was at wits end with a clientʼs exterior cedar siding that didnʼt hold paint. Recently, the house had an extensive renovation that included new exterior siding and had been painted twice in the past four years by two different painting contractors and each time catastrophic paint failure occurred within the first year. I visited the site and witnessed the paint lifting from the siding like birch bark as if the house hadn’t been painted in decades. I met the homeowner and learned that both painters who had done the previous work were established and reputable painting contractors; they had primed with an oil primer and finished coated with a solid latex stain–the recommended products for this type of siding. Looking for a solution, I consulted with Shawn Clark, a respected paint expert and coatings consultant, and within moments of examination he had discovered wood fibers adhering to the primer coat and from this he inferred that a layer of dead wood fibers on the surface of the siding was causing the paint to fail. The solution was to remove the paint and sand off the layer of dead wood fiber to create a solid substrate. Upon further discussions with the homeowner, I learned that the siding on the house was installed in late November and the building contractor had left the siding bare for six months allowing the surface to develop a crust of dead wood before the initial paint application. The homeowner, for his own assurance, called in the Cabot Stain rep who took a paint sample off to the Cabot paint lab. The Cabot technicians confirmed that the paint failure was caused by a layer of dead wood on the substrate. After acceptance of our proposal, we strip sanded the siding of the complete house before moving on to the final coatings. Now three years later, the house looks like it was just painted, the adhesion problem is solved, and the solid stain is holding up beautifully.

Just last week, I encountered the same problem on wide red cedar shingles. With confidence I offered a proposal to the homeowner. The owner awarded us the job and we are comfortable standing behind the work. At McManus Painting we seek to discover the remedies to paint problems before we start. With thirty four years experience we have seen a lot of what can go wrong. Our goal is to prolong the beauty and durability of our work, guaranteeing your satisfaction. Each project is handled individually. We choose the products and techniques designed to give the best results.

outdoor deck painting staining

The Truth About Wooden Decks

Of all the surfaces decks require the greatest maintenance, but they can have the greatest beauty and and offer the most satisfaction to the home owner. Being a flat surface decks are blanketed with snow and ice in the winter and in the remaining months water sits on top as they often bake in the sun and suffer the wear of furniture and human traffic grinding grit into the surface. Condensation also gathers on decks, making them prone to mildew, and the constant wet/dry cycle shortens the life of the application.

On a new deck many product options are available to the homeowner. Transparent stains provide a unique beauty to a new mahogany or cedar; one benefit of these products is they have no film. But such decks typically require yearly cleaning and coating to maintain their original luster. You may also choose a semi transparent stain that has the slightest pigmentation and designed to show natural grain and beauty of the wood. If you are looking for a color you may opt for a solid stain which is available in the full color spectrum. Deck products are available in latex and oil as well as hybrids that contain the technology of both and in the recent years acrylics had become a hardier product, holding their color and resisting mildew. In addition to the conventional stains there are preservatives, usually they contain a wood colored stains in various hues of amber, red, and brown. Coatings with a film also come in natural hues and these products demand almost yearly maintenance to maintain their integrity and beauty. Sometimes cedar and mahogany decks are allowed to weather and over time the wood develops a light gray patina; such decks without applications tend to warp or cup, holding more water instead of shedding it as a properly maintained deck tends to do, thus accelerating their deterioration.

A properly installed deck is spaced to allow water to drain between the planking and wider planking tends to hold more water and warp more easily. Decks built too close to the ground absorb moisture and compromise coatings. Some deck products require all sides of the planking to be coated, but for most products a top side application is sufficient. Some deck products contain wax that causes water to bead up, but many of the finer products donʼt. Decks on the ocean or in moist conditions fare better with acrylic produces, since the oil products more easily provide a host for blackening mold and mildew. Many contractors these days are moving away from the oils, since the latest technology is moving toward the water based products which are becoming tougher and longer lasting.

Each deck product has itʼs own quirks and it is recommended that even the most experienced craftsman reads the manufactureʼs specifications before application. Painters and building contractors should apprise homeowners of the varies options, making certain that the choices are well informed and the home owner is prepared for the future maintenance. Neglected decks can be an eyesore and at a certain point may not be restored to their former beauty or require costly repairs and even replacement. But a well maintained deck can last for years, allowing the homeowner to enjoyment of itʼs natural beauty as an outdoor living space and an extension of their home. At McManus Painting we have decades of expertise and have a maintenance program for many of our clients. If youʼd like an evaluation and a quote on your deck, call now and get on our spring schedule.