Exterior prep tips for moody spring weather

by Brian Sodoma

With winter thaws and warm weather, outdoor work is around the corner for many paint pros around the country. But in the meantime, there’s the see-sawing temperatures to contend with in spring as customers start calling on exterior projects. Here, a few pros share how they tackle exterior prep work during the volatile spring months.

Insights from the Northeast

Peter Berke has been in the painting business for a couple decades, and springtime in Maine, where his company, North Atlantic Painting Co. is based, comes with moisture and crazy temperature swings.

This time of year, crews follow the sun when they work, he says and, because of high moisture, he avoids aggressive pressure washing of wood surfaces, preferring more hand-washing instead.

“When you’re injecting water into the wood at 2,000 and 3,000 PSI, it’s really not good for the surface,” he said.

Berke also regularly uses moisture meters this time of year, and looks for readings not to exceed 18%. He also watches for at least two-day windows of good weather so he can scrape, sand, caulk and prime one day and paint the next. He monitors night-time temperatures, too. If it’s cold, even with warm daytime temperatures, primer and caulk may not dry adequately, so he may hold off on the job.

“We stay in constant communication with the customer. Inevitably you get those who want to be first on the list, but that’s not always a good idea,” he said.

Berke also uses the springtime months to set his schedule well in advance for the busy warmer months. By the end of March, he usually has his crews scheduled through October.

Thoughts from the Midwest

Zach Shrum, owner of Davis Custom Painting in Oklahoma, says dew point readings dictate how he executes a lot of his springtime exterior prep work. If the dew point is within 10˚ of the actual temperature, dry time may triple for a primer, sealer or topcoat, he said.

Due to high moisture, he’s also careful about the caulk he uses. He likes AllPro Pro Stretch sealant for its flexibility. It takes a little longer to dry, he said, but he’s happy to give it 8–12 hours of dry time before painting, if needed.

Shrum will also stack jobs in the spring when he sees two or three days of good weather coming. He’ll load up crews to knock out prep on two or three jobs in one day, then come back the next day to finish them.

“This time of year, good communication is key,” he added. “We meet every morning in our shop so guys know what they’re looking at for the day—or next couple of days.”

Pacific Northwest prep

Mike Clothier of Scappoose, Oregon-based CHS Painting, primarily paints wood and cement board siding surfaces.

Moisture meters get heavy use in the spring, he says, and he looks for readings not to exceed 15%. Clothier’s crews also use infrared sensors to gauge surface temperatures, particularly on cement board. The surface should be above 35,˚ preferably closer to 40,˚ he says, and a nighttime freeze could force his crews to start later as they wait for surface temperatures to increase on cement board.

“This time of year, we have to be patient. Ideally, we like to show up a day early, prep, caulk and give everything a good 24 hours before painting,” he said.

Find more articles on prep work insights for painting professionals at

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