exterior painting

I have never painted the outside of my house, just the interior. I am about to paint a typical white picket fence. The paint has chipped off 20% of it. The paint on the rest doesn't look great.
How should I go about painting? Should I scrape off as much as I can ? Should I use a solution to take all the paint off? Suggestions appreciated.
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Me wrote:

Does this typical white picket fence go all the way around a one acre lot, or is it a 20 foot section across the front? Using paint remover to take off all of the paint could likely cost more than replacing the pickets. Stringers and posts in good shape?
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Me wrote:

Yes. A hand scraper is your best bet. I prefer pull scrapers, since they generally do less damage than a push scraper. But a push scraper (looks like a stiff putty knife with a fairly sharp edge) can be handy, especially when the paint is old and cracked. I've tried power rotary strippers, but they tend to be very slow or they damage the wood more than I'd like.

No. It costs a small fortune and requires you to very thoroughly clean off the solvent. I would use stripper only on moldings or fine trim details that you can't scrape or that will be destroyed by scraping. It's often easiest and produces best results to simply replace old trim rather than scrape it.
The exception would be if your old paint has a high gloss. For the new paint to get proper adhesion, you may want to spray it with a 'dulling' solvent. Either that or sand all the old paint enough to at least scuff it up.
In general, just scrape, kill any mildew with bleach, rinse, prime any bare spots, and repaint. Be sure that the new paint is the right type to go over the old. In general, latex can cover anything, but many oil-based paints won't cover latex without blistering. Also, it's probably best to buy your primer from the same manufacturer as your top coat. My personal favorite exterior paints are Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore. Pratt Lambert also comes highly recommended.
In general, old latex paint is identifiable because it blisters and peels like a plastic -- in strips or sheets with slightly rippled edges. It also curls up and shreds when you scrape it. Old oil-based paint tends to crack or flake off. Both paints will come off in smooth sheets if water gets behind it or it didn't adhere well initially (poor prep equals a poor bond for any paint).
Be sure to look for rotten or wet wood when scraping. Rotten wood must be replaced. (Car body bondo is an ideal filler and is identical to the stuff sold as home wood repair compound, and usually cheaper.) Wet wood needs to dry before repainting. If you find wet wood, you should eliminate or reroute its water source, or the new paint will also fail there.
Have fun...
Randy
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