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Home > Products > Porches - START HERE! > ONLINE PORCH GUIDE > Existing Porch Assessment > Paint and Caulk Inspection

Paint and Caulk Inspection


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Wood contracts and expands with changes in humidity. This is a natural process that is greatly lessened by a good paint surface to keep moisture out. This paint surface is particularly important on the ends, as wood's end grain absorbs moisture more readily than other surfaces.

As paint ages, its ability to flex with the movement caused by humidity changes lessens. Also, as older paint becomes brittle, it typically develops hairline cracks even without underlying movement.

Once the paint surface is compromised by these cracks, moisture penetrates into the wood, creating ideal conditions for the growth of wood rot. In fact, older paint may be worse than no paint since moisture that has gotten behind the paint tends to dissipate more slowly, actually somewhat trapped by the paint.

Solution
Inspect periodically, as described below. Repaint when the surface begins to degrade. And, since the ends of items are the most vulnerable, due to the tendency of wood's end grain to absorb moisture, paint on the ends should also be refreshed periodically. Yes, that means disassembling to get at the ends. This will be much easier if you have followed our installation instructions.

Paint inspection
If rubbing your fingers across a painted surface leaves a chalky residue, you need to repaint. Your paint film is already degraded. If this quick test does not produce a chalky residue, you should inspect the paint surface more closely, perhaps with a magnifying glass. Does the paint appear fresh and thick? Are there visible hairline cracks, chips, or other degradations of the surface. It may be advisable to take a Baluster to Sherwin-Williams or another full service paint store for inspection.

Subsurface check
Whether problems are apparent in the paint surface or not, you should also do a subsurface check for the presence of wood rot. This can be accomplished using a flat blade screwdriver. First, using the blade end of the screwdriver, apply moderate pressure to the surface of the post about two feet from the bottom of the post to establish how solid wood should feel. (We are assuming the post will be sound at that distance from the floor.) You should not be able to detect any appreciable softness.

Next, using the handle end of the screwdriver, tap the same spot two or three times and note how it sounds.

Repeat these two test about an inch above the post bottom on all four sides of the Post.

If applying the same amount of force with the blade end detects softness, it is likely some rot has started under the surface due to failing paint, or because the bottom of the post was never painted. Likewise, if tapping near the bottom doesn't yield the same resonance, hidden rot could be the reason.

If you suspect hidden rot, apply more force with the blade end of your screwdriver to further investigate. Check all four sides. Repeat these tests on Balusters, Rails, Newels, etc, in each case first testing away from the ends and then near the ends.



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