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How to Paint: Cold Weather Painting

What to do and what to avoid when painting in cold weather


Paint cans and paintbrush
Martin Barraud/OJO Images/Getty Images

How to paint in cold weather? This is one of the most asked questions among homebuilders and handyman workers that are trying to get everything done by the end of the year. As you might know painting is seasonal and there are many adverse factors when painting in cold weather. Cold weather might be referred as temperatures ranging between 35 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. So, How to paint in cold weather? If you don’t have any other option, try following these tips.

How to Paint in Cold Weather: The Facts

It is important to understand how really low temperatures can affect paint application and how it changes the drying pattern, characteristics and performance of the paint. Cold weather affects painting because alkyd and oil paints are based on natural oils and resins that at low temperatures become more viscous. So when painting in cold weather, or even at subzero temperatures, some paints, will become very thick or semi-solid that might require excessive thinning. However, latex paints will freeze at low temperatures, requiring some special additives to improve freeze/thaw resistance in paints. These same additives could be used for hot weather painting making easier the brushing and rolling process. Latex paints are affected solely by the slower evaporation rate of water and volatile additives at low temperatures

How to Paint in Cold Weather: How to identify if the Paint is Unusable?

Latex paints, as we explained earlier, might freeze and thaw, if they are not treated properly. Nonetheless, how can you paint if the product has gone through several freeze/thaw cycles? If that’s the case, and if you are planning to use that old latex gallon, you might want to check if the paint has become lumpy. When such consistency is observed, then that paint is no longer usable. Latex paints are manufactured to undergo a limited freeze/thaw cycles, but at this moment that paint should be discarded.

How to Paint in Cold Weather: Recoat

Cold weather will slow drying time and will extend your recoat times. Recoat time, using latex paints, at 75 degrees Fahrenheit requires a period of four hours. If the temperature drops to 50 degrees, then the recoat time will be extended to six hours. Painting in cold weather using alkyd paints will require even more time, in some instances more than 48 hours before recoating. It is important to note that the surface temperature can vary between different areas on the same structure causing the dry time and proper film formation to vary as well.

Some of the results that you might get when painting in cold weather will be:

  • Film Cracking
  • Poor Touch Up
  • Inadequate stain resistance
  • Color Uniformity Issues

How to Paint in Cold Weather: Problems

Painting in cold weather might bring additional problems such as:

  • Poor color uniformity
  • Heavy film might slow down drying period
  • Paint will require more mixing time
  • Water spotting problems, especially Latex paints
  • Improper film formation causing a powdery film
  • Touch up coat might look lighter than the base coat
  • Excessive film building up might reduce your paint coverage
  • Oil based paint should not be applied when temperature is below 40 degrees
  • If the room temperature is raised to create better environmental conditions, premature skinning of the surface might occur
  • A latex paint film that goes under freeze-thaw cycles during the first two weeks of cure may shorten the long-term life of the paint system.

How to Paint in Cold Weather Tips

If you have no other choice, than painting in cold weather be sure to:

  • Verify that the paint manufacturer recommends the paint for your specific temperatures
  • Check the wall’s temperature with a non-contact infrared thermometer, too, not just the air temperature
  • Paint between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Set up scaffolding, wrap everything and heat the area
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