Adams Stirling PLC


Associations are obligated to maintain the common areas. (Civ. Code § 4775.) Unless the CC&Rs provide otherwise, that includes painting the exterior of all buildings. Stucco surfaces, wood trim (and siding), and metal have different painting cycles. These should be incorporated into the association's reserve study.

Paint Lifecycle. The duration of paint on an exterior surface depends on factors such as the qualify of the paint, the type of surface painted (stucco, wood, metal), how well the surface is prepared, and the harshness of the environment (ocean, desert, mountain). Subject to these factors, the following is a general rule of thumb for repainting exterior surfaces:

  • Stucco: 7 to 10 years
  • Wood: 5 to 7 years
  • Metal: 2 to 3 years

Paint Specifications. To preserve warranties, boards should ensure that the paint manufacturer's requirements are made part of the painter's contract. At a minimum, the following must be specified in the painting contract:

  • Preparing the Surfaces. All surfaces must be properly prepared before applying paint. This may require power washing, scraping loose paint flakes with a wire brush, sanding surfaces, and caulking wall cracks and around windows.
  • Protection of Surrounding Areas. Masking windows, covering shrubbery, etc. should be specified.
  • Type of Paint. The types of paints required for the various surfaces must be specified, such as oil or water-based, manufacturer of paint, etc. Is a primer coat required?
  • How Applied. How the paint is applied, the number of coats and the thickness must be specified. This should be supplied by the manufacturer for its warranty.

Warning Signs of Problems. Problems with a past or current painting problem will often show the following signs:

  • Peeling. Peeling is often the result of painting over wet wood. It can also result from moisture within the structure pushing its way out. Another cause of peeling is a dirty or a glossy surface.
  • Alligatoring. This occurs when paint shrinks into individual islands, exposing the previous surface, usually because the top coat is not adhering to the paint below. Perhaps the paints are not compatible or the second coat was applied before the first coat had dried.
  • Blistering. Paint that rises from the surface and forms blisters is usually due to moisture or improper painting.
  • Wrinkling. New paint can run and sag into a series of droops. This occurs when the paint was applied too thickly and forms a surface film over the still-liquid paint below. It can also happen if the paint is applied in cold weather; the cold surface slows drying underneath.
  • Chalking. This is paint that has a dusty surface. Some oil based and alkyd based paints are designed to "chalk" when it rains. When this happens, a very fine powdery layer is removed, automatically cleaning the surface. In most cases, this is desirable. But if foundations, sidewalks, and shrubs become stained, too much chalking is occurring. This may be due to painting over a too-porous surface that has absorbed too much of the paint's binding agents. A chemical imbalance in an inferior paint may also be the cause of excessive chalking.
  • Mildew. This moldy growth appears where dampness and shade prevail. And, paint is applied over it, it's likely to come right through the new paint.
  • Running Sags. This is usually caused when a painter uses a paintbrush incorrectly (e.g., too much paint on the brush), which creates a wavy, irregular surface.

Recommendation: All contracts should contain appropriate warranties and should be reviewed by the association's legal counsel. Failure to do so could be costly if the painting project does not go well.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

Adams Stirling PLC