After we released our previous FAQs about painting and decorating we received several enquiries from potential clients and thought we should make another addition. In this entry, we answer such questions as: How often should I paint the exterior of my house? What can we do to paint over a damp stain in the ceiling? and more. And remember, if you still have any questions relating to painting and decorating in your home or office, please contact us via our enquiry form and we'll try to answer it.

1. How often should I paint the outside of my house?  
   1.1. Exposure to the elements. 
   1.2. Types of material and what that means for paint damage. 
   1.3. Temperature damage.
   1.4 So, how often should I paint the outside of my house?

2. I've had a leak from an upstairs bathroom / pipe and the ceiling has a brown stain. Can you paint over this water mark?
   2.1. What causes the brown staining.
   2.2. How we can paint over it.

3. Can you repair cracks and holes in the plaster?
   3.1. How we treat small cracks before the painting and decorating begins.   
   3.2. How we treat larger damage in plaster.

4. How do you provide a quote?

1.0 When is the best time to paint the outside of your house?

This is a question that comes up with a surprising frequency from our client base. There are obvious artificial reasons for painting the exterior of a house - such as getting it ready for a sale, for instance, but there are also more precise reasons that are, in effect, non-negotiable. For the Worcestershire home owner, deciding when to call in the decorators can be a moment of trepidation, so we have decided to offer three main variables to consider that all impact the longevity of a good paint job.

1.1 Exposure to the elements.

Most houses have different facing sides. Those facing south and east will get more sun than those looking north and west, and at greater intensity too. Likewise, depending on local patters, some faces of the house will get more rain that others due to local wind conditions. The effect of these elemental impacts are perhaps more subtle than you might at first think. A south-facing converted barn in rural Worcestershire was exposed more often to the sun than on any other side. This encouraged the industrious mortar bees to make their home in the aged wall that led to increased damage over time as they burrowed into the brickwork and crumbled the mortar - on the other side of the house, this was barely a problem. (This problem was solved, and an 'insect home' was added at various intervals along the wall to give the creatures egg-laying and nesting/hibernation sites). Plant life too will behave differently depending on which side of the property it is growing. Ivy can have an obvious deleterious effect on the external painting of a wall as its vines take root.

The composition of the rain and the compounds contained in the droplets will also impact the longevity of exterior paintwork. If you are unfortunate enough to walk around in a city next to the main roads, and you cast your eyes up at the tops of the buildings, you will probably notice that many of them are streaked with soot-like stains: the results of what is mostly car exhausts exuding particulate matter from the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons. Obviously, for buildings in cities, this has a direct negative impact on the paint work, but for buildings farther away there still an impact as these particles will be carried into the atmosphere and then brought down again by the rain.

Other pollutants can be carried in a similar way: which is why buildings in and close to cities and main roads (or some other form of gaseous output like some factories) will suffer more than properties located farther out.

1.2 Types of material and what that means for paint damage. 

We have already seen how mortar bees can burrow in between the brickwork, yet each material comes with its own strengths and vulnerabilities where painting is concerned. On metal, for example, paint can bubble and peel off, and once this happens the metal itself is left to the slow process of oxidization and rusting as it is no longer sealed off from the elements.

Wood is similar in some ways: the paint serves to protect and preserve the wood from the elements: we've all seen garden furniture that has been left out for too long and the peels and cracks in the paint that exposes the wood below. But for property the consequences of leaving this can be quite severe (and more expensive). Window frames in particular can rot if they are not painted properly - and this in turn can lead to more damp getting into the wood and making the rot worse. If it's left too long, then a paint job won't suffice at all - and you will need new frames put in.

On thicker wood, like old beams and gables, then it is still important to keep them painted to protect them. Once, Worcester Decorators painted a wooden gable over near Kempsey using a cherry-picker to get us up there, only to find that rot had set to a substantial area of the wooden frame. It just goes to show that putting off these projects can end up costing a great deal more than a simple paint job. 

Brickwork is probably the least susceptible to damage from the elements (depending on the presence of mortar bees!). But it does have its own vulnerabilities and weaknesses too. If you've ever painted a room in a house you might have noticed that there will be occasional cracking later on as the property moves and settles. With brickwork, cracking is the major cosmetic eyesore, and though it is to be expected over time, too much of it will lead to flecking and breaks. What is more, brick is a good transmitter of damp and moisture: especially in older properties that have been used for animal shelters such as barns and coach houses and that have since been converted (the waste products of animals can also make a damp problem worse). Last year, Worcester Decorators had to re-paint a wall on a converted barn. The house had been used in bygone years for cattle, and over that time (perhaps decades) the urine from these beasts had soaked into the ground and then been carried up with the moisture into the walls. The plaster on the inside of the lounge was patched with damp, and the outside paint had broken so the brick work was exposed. We re-plastered and repainted the inside and outside respectively.

1.3. Temperature damage.

As well as the elements that an exterior painted surface endures, and what material it is composed of, the other key factor is the temperature that it is exposed to. In hot weather, exposed surfaces can expand in the day and contract in the evening, and UV rays can degrade paint colour over time, bleaching and blistering them. It is also the change in temperature that can have the most adverse impact on the quality of the paint: and in Worcestershire we often experience 'four seasons in one day.'

1.4 So, how often should I paint the outside of my house?

Having read through the three variables that most effect the paint on the exterior walls of your property, you should have an idea of the tell tale signs to look for. In our experience of the Worcester area however, I would say it's a good rule of thumb to look to getting a house painted every 10-12 years to keep it looking good (and provided there are no obvious problems).

2.0 I've had a leak from an upstairs bathroom / pipe and the ceiling has a brown stain. Can you paint over this water mark?

Water damage to property is one of our most frequent call outs. This is more so in the January and February period, when the weather is coldest and it is more likely then that frozen water, expanding in the pipes, can cause ruptures and breaks. There are also fewer things more unsightly on a pristine white painted ceiling than the glaring splodge of creeping brown damp. It hints at a house (and owner) who is not capable of looking after their property and is a sign that, quite literally, the rot is setting in! We at Worcester Decorators have many years of experience in painting such marks, but the truth is the paint is really the last thing that needs to be applied for a long term solution. So let's analyse what causes the staining and see how best to treat it.

2.1. What causes the brown staining from water leaks?

The brown stains that are so often the first sign of a leaking pipe from the room above is caused by the minerals within the water which soak through the decor. The water itself can dry out if there is a free air flow over the damaged area, but the unsightly stain will remain unless it is painted over in the right way. Worcester, and most of the county, suffers from 'hard water' supplies which is water that is high in mineral contents, such as calcium (it is calcium deposits that can also cause the brown 'rusting' stain in toilet bowls). Because of this, Worcester Decorators has considerable experience in tackling these unpleasant water stains.

2.2. How we can paint over it - and in a way that will stop it from showing through again!

Water stains will often bleed through new paint layers if they are not treated correctly in the first instance. The foremost thing, and the most obvious, is to stop the source of the leak itself: be that water coming from a loose connection on a pipe or a line of water tracking back along a wood beam and then leaking down at a later point. (We attended one case where a tiny shower leak was dripping through a crack in the sealant over a period for several years. Dry rot had set in on the beam below and the water was tracking back over this before, eventually, making its presence known by a brown stain appearing on the white painted ceiling below. Luckily, it was simply a case of replacing the rotten beam and shower unit and, in our case, painting over the affected area).

Once the leak is stopped, and any repair work carried out, it is important to let the damp area dry out thoroughly. Once it is completely dry, then the first job is to prime the surface with a damp seal product (it is sometimes helpful to use a Damp Meter to ensure that the affected paint work is dry - human skin can be deceived if the surface is cold). Often, this will need more than one coat to try and be sure the stain won't bleed through onto the new paint.

When the primer is dry and the seal is secure, then the painting and decorating work can begin.

3.0 Can you repair cracks and holes in the plaster?

Damage to plaster is a common problem we at Worcester Decorators are confronted with. Sometimes, it is damage done by an unwitting DIY enthusiast who has stripped back the wall and gone too far. Other times the cause can be damp related, where it has become so bad it has effectively crumbled away. We can treat most forms of plaster decay.

3.1. How to treat small cracks before the painting and decorating begins. 

Small cracks in plaster are very common in any building with a few years since its construction date. Houses move and settle and plaster cracks. With small damage, repairing the plaster still needs to be done before any serious painting and decorating work is carried out (otherwise, we might suffer, as my old master used to say, "the most egregious results!"). To get the smooth surface a good paint job requires, we use a filler on the cracks, let it dry, and then sandpaper it back so it is all nice and level.

3.2. How to treat larger damage in plaster before any decorating work starts.

Plaster that is suffering from more severe damage obviously needs to be treated before any painting or wall papering can be applied. It is essentially the same process as smaller cracks and holes in plaster are treated: firstly, remove any loose plaster or brickwork from the area, then fill it with a filler, leave it to dry, and sand it back to get the smooth finish. It is important, with larger areas of plaster damage, to find out what caused it in the first place, as this might be a useful indicator to a more fundamental problem with the property itself.

4.0 How do you provide me with a quote?

We at Worcester Decorators like to come out and view the work that needs doing in preparation for a proper, comprehensive quote. We feel this is important as you will get to meet us in person before any decorating work begins, and ask any questions about the way we work, our history, and our commitment to getting the job done on time and within the stated budget. (Please visit our testimonial page for some recent reviews of Worcester Decorators).

After the initial visit, we will go away and prepare a written quote for you with a guide of what needs to be done. It is a transparent way of working and we have found that it suits our clients best this way.