I'm interested in the best way to prep/paint my house.

I have an older (1917) house with cedar shingles with many layers of paint on them. I've noticed that some of the houses in the neighborhood have paint jobs that look good from the road but not so good up close. Here is one example: uneven underneath

This was professionally done (versus a home-owner) but I don't know what they charged or the expectation.

My cedar shingles are in good shape but there are many places where the paint has partially delaminated so I worry that if I just powerwash and repaint I'll end up with what you see in the picture.

What is the minimum prep work you would do before painting? How would you prep to "do it right"? Do you need to remove all the paint down to the wood, or somehow just make it smooth? And it seems the IR heaters + scraping is the best way to remove old paint. Is this true?

I guess a side question is: I really dislike how the other paint jobs look and it bugs me whenever I see this even on other peoples' houses. But am I being too picky?

  • 1
    Prep is the longest/hardest part of a good paint job. At least a good cleaning. Might require a light sanding or heavy sanding to remove bumps, checking of the wood and repairing of damaged sections if needed. Removing of all loose/peeling paint. After that painting is almost fun.
    – crip659
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 15:29
  • 1
    The picture shows clapboards, not shingles. And you need a paint stripping tool that will take it right back to bare wood - and you probably have lead paint containment issues given the age. There are things much like a floor edging sander that will grind the paint off, but they make considerable dust, so you'll need one heck of a vacuum attached.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 16:35
  • Painting cedar shingles at all is, in my observation, a huge mistake. If you really don't want the natural color, stain, at most. Paint just leads to a cycle of paint problems that naked cedar shingles are not prone to.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 16:49
  • @Ecnerwal, I can't disagree but your comment is about 50 years too late. :) Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 20:33

3 Answers 3


Unfortunately, there is no minimal when it comes to doing good paint prep - I think what you're seeing (and don't like) is the result of "minimal" (even if it was done by pros).

Once you remove all the loose paint, you'll probably be left with a patchwork of bare and painted wood. In order to minimize the lumps and bumps you're seeing, you' have to then sand to make it smooth, and even that may not do the trick. Remember, though, you may be sanding through (multiple) layers of lead-based paint, so wear proper PPE and contain the dust so others aren't breathing it either.

If you want to completely eliminate the lumps you're seeing, you'd have to completely remove the original layers of paint and get back to bare wood. That, IMHO, isn't "minimal" work, but I think it's the only thing that will meet your finish requirements.

  • you captured exactly what I was curious about. So for a "good" job something like using an IR gun to scrape off most of the paint and then that's it. The final quality will just depend on what topography I leave. Is that correct? Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 21:04
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    Correct, @RobertLugg. The new layer of paint will telegraph what's under it, so the smoother the starting surface, the smoother the final surface. Unless, of course, you gloop on the paint very thick, but then it'll probably run down the wall before it dries, and that won't look good, either.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Aug 11, 2022 at 11:11

The above photos show a job where the requirements were to clean, remove the loose paint, maybe prime and then paint. I've seen this approach done a lot. It's the most inexpensive way to get the house looking good from a distance.

The best possible finish and fastest would be to sand blast all the paint off the wood. Scraping and sanding all the paint off would be second best but you'd lose any grain that might be in the wood.

When dealing with lead paint, do not blast it. Using a good paint stripper is a safe way to do it. Those IR heat guns are good too but don't burn away the paint. Check with the local inspectors because they can be picky on how and who can remove lead paint.

  • makes sense. I understand if paint was applied before 1978 is almost certainly has lead. That's why I was wondering about IR since it seems to be one of the cleanest ways to remove led-based paint. Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 20:55
  • @RobertLugg Lead paint changes the whole ballgame. Don't blast lead paint. It will spread lead particles all over the place.
    – JACK
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 21:11
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    @RobertLugg If there is lead paint, most places are quite picky on how it is removed and dispose of. Usually not allowed for the normal DIYer, unless they want their deep pockets emptied.
    – crip659
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 21:11

You can take everything back to bare wood if you really want to. But then you'll need to patch, prime and paint at least once if not twice, and you'll still have less protection than if you put a new coat over the old stuff.

Additionally, there are only so many sandings that the clapboards can take, and they are far more likely to split and break if you go down that route.

You can also try power-sanding the high spots down, and after a few repaint cycles, things might become more level.

But all of this costs $$$$$, and is far far more expensive than the traditional route of scraping loose paint, cleaning, priming the now-bare spots, and repainting the whole thing.

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