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Peeling Paints? Turn Siding Inside Out!
When house paint is peeled and cracked as badly as mine was recently, the customary treatment is to scrape off the loose paint then sand a featheredge on the remaining paint. I tried that for a few square feet and then sat down to reconsider.
A quick calculation showed that I would be scraping and sanding for 50 hours or more. After that I'd still have to prime the entire house and apply at least one finish coat. And a few years later I'd have to do it all over again.
I hit on a better way. Every clapboard has two sides, and one of these has never been painted. I decided simply to remove the clapboards, turn them over, and nail them back on again inside out. To simplify the job further I stained the unfinished wood instead of painting it. Also, while the siding was off I added fiberglass insulation to the walls.
Here's why I decided to stain instead of paint: The back side of the clapboards is rough sawed. If I had wanted to paint the house and repaint it every few years I'd have to sand or plane the boards smooth before reinstalling them. That would have required some time and effort, although not as much as scraping and sanding the old paint.
But the decision to stain cut the preparation work to practically nothing. Only the bottom edges of the boards needed sanding. And that went fast with a belt sander and 16-grit paper. I had to replace one short section of clapboard because it was rotted beneath the paint.
Staining was fast and easy. A two-gallon garden sprayer applied the stain evenly. Because of the sprayer's low pressure there was no problem with overspray even on a windy day.
If your house isn't well insulated, an added attraction of this home-improvement technique is that you can add insulation when you reverse the clapboards. Remove the sheathing, and staple in fiberglass insulation, keeping the vapor barrier toward the inside of the house. The job doesn't have to be done all at once. I reversed the siding and applied the insulation in small patches, working whenever I felt like it.
There are two tricky parts to the job. First, make sure you number the boards before you remove them so they can be reinstalled in the same place. The clapboards may not fit properly otherwise. Second, where boards are angled at gable ends, with a window in the middle, you'll have to switch the boards with their counterparts on the other side of the window.
I didn't have any trouble with this because my windows are centered in the gables. But if you have an off-center window, you may have to saw off some long boards and add those sections to the shorter boards on the other side of the window. It's simple if you plan the job. Again, the actual work is easy.
The entire operation cost only a few dollars for galvanized siding nails and stain. The insulation was a little more expensive, but fiberglass is one of the cheaper types, and insulation costs are tax deductible.
To complete the job I painted the trimmings to match the stain. The result is a light, natural finish an enormous improvement over the peeling siding I started with. Best of all, because the stain doesn't peel, blister, or chip, I'll never have to scrape or sand again.
Story and photos reprinted with permission from Popular Science Magazine.

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1985 - Volume #9, Issue #6