Most professional painters try to finish their painting jobs before the end of the year, when cold weather in our neck of the Northern Hemisphere is inevitable. The reasons for avoiding painting in cold weather are manifold. If there’s any moisture in the air, not only in the form of snow or frost, but in fog form or rain form, the paint will have trouble bonding with exterior surfaces. But even in cold, dry weather, the air temperature affects the paint. Alkyd and oil-based paints become more viscous, causing uneven application on a surface because it doesn’t spread as easily. Latex paints will freeze at low enough temperatures and can also be affected by slow water evaporation.
If chemistry isn’t your thing and you have to paint your house this winter in spite of the elements, there are a few things you can do to help yourself avoid poor color uniformity, paint cracking, and more.
First, before you do anything, check the weather report. Painting in cold weather works the best when the forecast is clear and dry. I mentioned already how moisture in the air, even if it’s not actively snowing or sleeting (please don’t try to climb a ladder when it’s sleeting), can affect your paint.
Plan to paint when the sun is at its brightest and warmest. Usually, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. are the best times for this. Not only will you avoid the dangers of an early sunset, you’ll paint when your home has the most exposure to sun possible in winter months, helping the paint dry faster.
You’ll also have to leave more time to mix your paint and add paint thinner to counteract the cold. One last trick before you put your heavy painting jacket on to brave the outside is to turn up the heat inside your house. This will help warm the wall from the inside, which can be even colder than the air.
Invest in the Right Equipment
You might need stronger and larger rollers or brushes to fight through low-viscosity paint. Make sure your equipment can stand up to additional stress and force before you dip your brushes in your paint buckets. The paint itself might not be fit for the project as well. If your latex paint is lumpy, for example, it won’t work because it has frozen and thawed too many times.
If you can, set up scaffolding along the wall where you’re painting. Wrap up and protect the area in plastic to help keep what warmth might be seeping through the wall on its exterior surface.
In Colorado, snow storms seem to come out of nowhere often. But, if you see snow or other winter weather threats in the forecast, put off your cold weather paint job a little longer. Your paint will be vulnerable as it dries in the cold. If temperatures are expected to be below 35 degrees Fahrenheit for two days after your paint job, don’t do it.
In addition to taking care of your house and your paint, you have to consider your body. Working outside in cold conditions, even without snow and ice, can be very dangerous. Don’t paint in the cold without a plan and a firm grasp of the weather forecast.