Five ways to get an exterior paint job that lasts

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Painting the outside of your house is a big job and one you probably don't want to undertake yourself. But a new coat of paint can add value to your home so it's worth the investment. And avoiding some tempting shortcuts can ensure you a paint job that lasts 10 years or longer. Here's some tips from the paint pros at Consumer Reports.

Don't buy by brand alone. Frequent reformulations to improve performance and lower emissions may mean that the paint or stain you loved last time doesn't perform as well the next time. Even finishes from the top brands in our latest paint tests varied depending on the line.

Prep properly. No exterior paint will give you a long-lasting coating if you rush the prepping, which matters most. Scrape and sand loose paint. Remove dirt and chalking with a scrub brush or power washer. Remove old caulking and fill cracks around windows, doors, and trim with acrylic caulk. And look for clear skies, low wind and humidity, and temperatures that will be between 50 and 85 degrees F for at least 48 hours so the paint sticks and dries properly.

Put a lid on paint costs. Buying paint in 5-gallon containers instead of 1-gallon cans can cut costs by up to 50 percent. (Figure on 12 to 25 gallons for a 2,500-square-foot house.) Even if you don't, have all your paint mixed at the same time to avoid color variations among cans. Alternatively, mix separate cans in one large container, then pour the paint back into the original cans.

Spray paint. If you're hiring a pro, you could pay 50 percent less to have him spray-paint instead of using brushes and rollers on your house, according to Nick LoGrasso of SNL Painting in the St. Louis area. Spraying uses slightly more paint and requires more time to cover up windows and shrubbery. Still, the actual application is three or more times faster and, presuming you've prepped correctly, puts down a heavier, more consistent coat.

Pick the paint you want. Painters often bargain with stores for discounts on specific brands, so the finish they push may not be the one that lasts longest. Insist on one that did well in Consumer Reports paint tests. The contract should include the brand and line to be used and the number of coats. We recommend two plus a prime coat for paints that require primer.

Need more expert guidance? From our current Ratings, you can't go wrong with the Behr Premium Plus Ultra Satin, according to Enrique De Paz, the Consumer Reports program leader who tests paints and stains. "This is the paint I'll be using on my house," he said. "It held up the best in our tests—resisting dirt better than the Behr Premium Plus Ultra Flat and doesn't need a prime coat. I especially like the way the satin looks, with just a hint of gloss."

Before you get started, take a look at our paint buying advice. Then search the latest paint Ratings for the best exterior and interior paints.

—Ed Perratore

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