Painting a Timber Building

Published: 30th May 2012
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Top tips for painting a timber building. From a humble shed to a grand gazebo it is important to choose the right products when painting your new investment. This article covers choosing the right products, preparation and making the right environmental choices along with other top tips from the Garden Building experts - Garden Affairs.

Painting a timber building is a great way to inject colour into your outdoor space. From the grandest gazebo to a shabby-chic shed, you can make the most of your investment by protecting it and making it beautiful. It's not difficult if you follow a few simple guidelines, and it will repay your time and trouble for years to come.

Choose a ready-painted building or paint it yourself

Many timber garden buildings come factory pre-treated and painted in a range of heritage colours, so that all you have to do is move in. Whilst you will pay a bit more for this option, it is certainly worth considering if you are not DIY minded, or your simply don'ts have the time.

If however, you are keen to make your own design statement and paint your new addition yourself, this can be a fun DIY project over a weekend. So what do you need to consider before dunking your brush?

Choosing the right products

Your timber building will be exposed to all types of weather for many years to come. It's important to use the right products to protect your investment and keep your garden room sound and watertight. The correct paints and stains will save a lot of time and greatly reduce potential problems in the future.

Here is an area where you really do get what you pay for. They are not the cheapest on the market, but a good timber trade paint or stain such as Sadolin, Sikkens or Dulux Weathershield Aquatech will protect your summerhouse or garden office for years to come. These more specialist types of paints can be sourced through a good local trade paint centre such as Brewers, or if you don't have a paint centre in your area, then there are many on-line retailers who will deliver direct for a charge.

What about environmental choices?

Many people choose a garden building because they love the outdoors or want to reduce their carbon footprint by working from home. It makes sense that they look for an environmentally sound choice of paint which will also offer a healthy place to work or play. Traditionally, paints and treatments for outdoor wood were solvent-based, but this is no longer the only option.

Solvent-based paints provide a high-gloss finish, but have long drying times. The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in their composition give off a strong odour while they dry and continue to off-gas over time, with possible impacts on air quality and our wellbeing.
Happily, paints formulated with a water base now offer a high-performance alternative. Not only do they dry faster and have much lower levels of VOCs, but they donít need an undercoat, and you can clean brushes with just soapy water. Over time, water-based paints tend to discolour less than solvent-based, and as your timber experiences natural movement due to changes in moisture levels through the seasons, these paints flex with the wood rather than splitting and cracking. This extends the time period before repainting is necessary. Most manufacturers recommend six years between repaints, saving you time and money.
Preparation is everything!

For log cabins, summer houses or garden offices supplied ready for painting, you will need to get to work quickly to protect your manufacturer's warranty (usually within 3 months). Choose a smooth planed timber then there is no need to factor in sanding-down time. Rough timber will require preparation prior to painting.

If the timber has not been factory pre-treated against insect or fungal decay, then a clear preservative treatment MUST be applied first. This is something you can do yourself quite easily and once it has been applied it is good for the life of the building. And don't forget it's vital to coat end-grains of timber such as under doors, to prevent water soaking in.

Before you start, check the weather forecast! Choose a fine, dry day, and not too cold. Paint performance and drying will be impaired below 10 degrees C (50 degrees F), and paint applied to wood that's already wet will blister and flake later. Paint spraying needs to be done when it's not too windy.

Make sure you have a safe means of reaching higher sections. Many garden buildings conform to UK planning guidelines requiring them to be below 2.5m high when within 2m of a boundary, but even so you will need a sound ladder or steps for work around the roofline. For larger structures, you may wish to rent a scaffold tower.

Protect the surrounding fences, walls and ground with dust sheets, especially if you plan to use a paint sprayer. Your neighbours won't thank you for covering their prized Azalea in bright blue paint! Next, protect windows with newspaper and masking tape, especially if you plan to use a paint sprayer. And it may sound obvious, but do think ahead about keeping pets and small children out of harm's way.

Paint can be applied with a brush, or for a larger building a paint sprayer is a more practical option. These can be rented from most tool hire shops if you don't need one longer-term. Have smaller brushes ready for fine detail work, and it's a good idea to have a supply of rags or paper towels handy to deal with spills.

As with painting indoors, plan your time, start at the top and work downwards, and work out where you can pause without creating a visible edge, such as at the corner of a building or behind a guttering down-pipe. YouTube has some useful how-to videos if you need more guidance. Arrange regular supplies of tea and biscuits (or equivalent!) and you're away.

As you finish

Finally, please make sure you dispose of paints responsibly. For tins containing water-based paint or paint residue, store them securely, remove the lids and allow the paint to harden before disposal.

Then stand back and enjoy the result. Or why not invite a few friends round to admire your great weekend's work?

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