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Most preservationists will argue to keep painted surfaces in the original form and color (i.e., no vinyl siding!). It’s what makes Northeast LA so attractive.

The beauty of many vintage homes is in the color. Whether it’s the Victorian “painted ladies” or the smart three-color exteriors of Craftsman homes, those colors can express style and elegance in ways that masonry cannot. Pity the expensive brick home next to an exquisite Queen Anne within the available real estate in Mt. Washington or Highland Park because it’s easy to see which naturally draws more attention. 

Throughout Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) – from homes in Glassell Park to Garvanza, Eagle Rock, and Hermon – there has been a transformation of these vintage homes in the past decade. Decades-old neglect has given way to wonderful transformations, as old, weathered buildings are renovated and restored. The crowning touch on these structure, after the mechanical systems are updated and kitchens modernized, is a new coat of paint.

But simply applying new pigment on top of old is almost never how it happens. There’s removal of loose paint, priming where necessary, and not one but typically two coats of higher-quality paint. In the past, new painting on wood exteriors needed to be done every 5-7 years but with improvements in paint formulations that might be extended to 15 years.

The temptation to replace wood surfaces with vinyl siding, for example, or stucco where wood is now, is to be resisted. In some neighborhoods, historic preservation interests can block altering the façade or more of the exterior. For example, the Highland Park-Garvanza HPOZ, or Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, not only insists on maintaining painted surfaces by maintaining the existing paint colors; one could quibble, however, on the precise pigments those are given that all colors fade with time.

The process of restoring original paint (and colors) isn’t simple. But the effect is often gorgeous – and why NELA real estate is booming:

Remove/prep – Old, failing paint has to be removed. But note the California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 1532.1 stipulates that it be done carefully. This is largely due to lead-based paint being commonly used up until 1978. And take care not to deposit sanded or peeled old paint in the soil below, as it will leave behind lead that can affect vegetation growing there (including a vegetable garden) in the future. (Gardeners: always have soil within ten feet of the house tested for lead; likely, there is some from previous repainting efforts).

Repaint – For the most part, you get what you pay for in paint. The better quality, higher-priced paints will simply last longer. Ask your professional painters to use a brand of your choosing, as they may otherwise get a trade discount on a cheaper brand (why wouldn’t they? They’d rather get your repeat business sooner rather than later).

Don’t seal – Some manufacturers urge waterproofing an exterior, which is a flawed and useless idea. Houses need to breathe, so attempts to create a waterproof environment block the “exhale” of moisture that inevitably gets there anyway.

Realtor Tracy King has long worked with buyers and sellers of vintage homes in NELA, and has a developed perspective on how paints make a home more marketable as well as how they can fail. Contact her office to learn more: 323-243-1234

tracy 150x175With over 30 years experience in helping clients buy and sell homes in Northeast Los Angeles, Tracy King has a depth of real estate knowledge that makes her the go-to for both the first-time home buyer and the seasoned real estate investor. When she's not holding open houses or negotiating offers, Tracy enjoys wine tasting, cooking, or planning her next trip to Paris. If you are looking to buy or sell a home in Northeast Los Angeles, contact the Tracy King Team at 626.827.9795 or