I look at houses wherever I go—when I’m driving, when I’m walking, when I’m out for a run. I notice when houses get painted, and I notice when the new paint begins to peel or crack. What most catches my eye are the houses whose paint jobs I remember, the ones that were painted 4 or 5 years ago.

When, as a contrasting example, your roof leaks after 5 years, someone, somewhere, is jarred from sleep in the middle of the night by the ringing phone, or wakes to a frantic or irate voicemail. But when paint starts flaking off a few years after the tarps and ladders were dragged away and the final invoice received, most people just shrug their shoulders and, I hate to say it, think about vinyl siding or aluminum cladding. Lots of people have come to accept the 5-year paint job as a fact of life, part of the challenge of owning an older home, a necessary expense of maintaining the character of a pre WWII house.

But it isn’t. It doesn’t have to be like this. Flaking and peeling paint, at least that soon, is usually a result of the quality of the previous paint job. The paint that is peeling is not coming off locations stripped, scraped, and sanded down to bare wood. True, sometimes it may be a result of overly moist wood or skipping the primer. But usually the peeling occurs where old paint was painted-over when it should have been removed.

To be fair, none of this is simple. True, any semi-attentive college “pro” can see the paint that is already peeling when he or she stumbles up to your house on a hot summer morning. But it takes a bit of experience and thought to determine the paint that will peel next. Or when hand scraping or sanding a house, maybe straining at the top of a ladder, knowing when to stop scraping can sometimes feel arbitrary. You could, after all, keep scraping forever—or at least until the paint is gone.

The other complication–something that inhibits that call-back to the people who last painted your house–is that the cause of paint failure isn’t always possible to determine. In some cases, interior moisture can be to blame, or roof and gutter problems. Or maybe you just got what you paid for. Or maybe that nice guy with the rusty truck was doing a side-job and is no longer around.

Complications aside, one of our main goals at Thoughtful Craftsmen, Inc. is to challenge this shoulder-shrugging acceptance of the five-year paint cycle. We do this by carefully assessing your house and, in more cases than not, we recommend near -complete removal of old paint to bare wood, especially in the most exposed and vulnerable locations.

Instead of arbitrarily putting down the scraper when the competitively-bid allotted hours are gone, we go in planning to remove all or almost all the paint wherever it is built up, cracking, or alligatoring. We don’t just remove “loose and peeling paint”; we attempt to remove the paint that will fail next. This doesn’t mean we arbitrarily remove perfectly well-adhered paint just for the fun of it. . . for there is nothing fun about paint removal. But we don’t let this get in the way of the thorough approach your home deserves.

While I’m a bit reluctant to specify a single number, because there are a number of variables at play, premium primer and paint applied over properly prepared bare wood can last 15, even 20 years. And at that point, your home may only require touch up or a quick sanding in a few spots. Either way, you don’t need to resign yourself to the five-year paint cycle.

Of course, this costs more—at least up front, though not when considered as a per-year cost. Although we have invested in the best tools and products and choose the methods best suited to your house, there is no magic way to remove old paint. It takes hard work, hands on the house for hours and hours, scraping, sanding, applying chemical strippers. And the clean-up takes time as well. We perform all our work in a lead-safe manner and use the most environmentally friendly and safe chemicals on the market. Our sanders have dust-shrouds and are hooked-up to HEPA vacuums.

Ultimately, the price of a paint job has more to do with how much old paint is going to be removed than any one other factor. Labor, and the labor of stripping, cleaning, sanding, and scraping, is the single most expensive part of a paint job. In some cases, we will calculate as many as 500 hours just for the paint prep—sometimes more.

If you’re interested in hearing more about a truly long-lasting premium paint job, give us a call for a free consultation and proposal.