A thorough scrubbing is a must before painting any exterior surface. It removes the dirt and broken-down paint residues that keep fresh coats from adhering and gets rid of mildew that grows on paint in all but the most arid climates. Most contractors clean with pressure washers, but in the hands of someone unfamiliar with the equipment, these can gouge wood, shatter glass, and drive water behind siding and trim. Using a hose, a pump sprayer, and a scrub brush is slower but safer, and just as effective. 

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High percentage of solids. The solids are what's left on the wall after the paint has dried. Anything over 45 percent is considered good; the higher the level of solids, the better, because you'll wind up with a denser, more durable coating. For example, a gallon of Dulux Exterior Flat contains 52 percent solids by weight. However, be aware that some companies add cheap fillers to beef up the percentage of solids - that makes it wise to stay away from inexpensive paints with a high level of solids. Although you typically won't find information about solids on the label, check with your paint retailer, ask to see product data sheets or fire up your modem and check the company's Website.

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When I had my interior painting done, after clearing out all of the furniture, myself, I also removed all of the wall plates in all the rooms to be painted. They were a beige color and probably yellowed. The wall was originally an off white and I had it painted a light-mid grey, so those wall plates would look terrible. After pricing replacement plates, switches and outlets (Would have been way too expensive to replace all of them), I decided to just paint all of the wall plates, switches and outlets (Used just a black gloss spray paint). I sprayed the plates outside and used a small brush on the switches and outlets. It worked out just fine and the blacks plates, etc compliment the wall color. It has been 7 years and the plates, switches, outlets are holding up well.

A good contractor doesn’t just do quality work, of course. Workers should be courteous, pleasant, and capable of clear communication. Ideally, the people altering your home’s look will be enthusiastic about the task rather than jaded and burnt out. Find out from your references what kind of attitude the company’s workers displayed, and whether they behaved professionally. Also ask whether the crew stayed on schedule, and whether they arrived early each day, did their work, and got out of there. 

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