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Paint is peeling from your house like the skin from an onion. Clearly, a fresh paint job is in order. Your neighbor suggests you strip the siding to bare wood before you repaint. But before climbing a ladder with your sander in hand -- or calling in a vinyl siding contractor -- ask yourself two important questions:
Why is the paint peeling in the first place? And is it really necessary to strip all of it off?
Normally paint peels due to inadequate home ventilation -- not because of substrate problems. If you lift a peeling section of paint and see exposed wood, it's probably because trapped moisture from inside your house has built up in the siding and "pushed" the paint layer off the wood (typically after a warm, sunny day). In such cases, improve the ventilation inside your home before doing anything else.
If the loose or peeling paint is occurring only in certain spots, it's not necessary to strip the paint completely. Instead use a sharpened scraper to remove loose or blistered paint, and sand rough spots smooth by hand or with a power sander, typically with a medium grit paper. Then prime bare spots (where wood shows through), and apply a new finish coat or two.
If, however, the paint on your house is so thick that the definitions of shingles, molding profiles, and decorative carvings have been lost, or you want to reveal the wood grain hidden by the paint, then at least some stripping is in order.
The best tools for the job are a heat gun and a good set of paint scrapers. (Caution: A heat gun is generally safe to use on any painted wood or steel surface, such as a steel door. Do not use on vinyl surfaces, and test before using on aluminum surfaces for fear of warpage.)
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