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A Bird's Home

Painting Gourds


Purple Martins

Gourds should be painted before using for purple martin housing. But before painting, the insides of the gourds should be brushed with a good water sealer such as Thompson's Water Seal. This will help make them last longer. Also, dipping the gourds in a copper sulfate solution preserves them and makes them last much longer.

Here are the two methods in detail.

I do a lot of gourds, so what I do is pour a gallon of Thompsons in a large container. I use Thompsons because it is a good sealer and it is readily available in my area. Then, what I do is dip the gourd right down in the sealer and roll it around making sure I have good coverage both inside and out. I leave it sit for at least 5 minutes rolling it and moving it so the coverage is complete. Then, I remove it, let it drip dry for about a minute and then hang it somewhere out of the way. I let them set for at least a week, maybe two. I want the sealer to totally set in the walls of the gourds. Since this is part of my hobby and a winter project, I'm not in a hurry. Once, they are dried, I then proceed with the painting.

As for Copper Sulfate, it's pretty much the same method. Put one pound in a 5 gallon bucket, then add water. Don't fill the bucket, or else it will spill out when you push a gourd down into it. Put about 3 or 4 gallons in the bucket. Then, submerge each gourd for 10-20 minutes with something heavy like a brick. Remove and drip dry, then let the gourds sit for about a week to make sure they are fully dried.

The gourds are now ready to be painted. I suggest painting them, because it will also help make them last longer. The out side should be painted either white or a very light pastel. Again two things. The light color will help repel heat in the summer time and it will also help attract the martins. They seem to look for the light colored gourds and are drawn to the dark entrance holes.

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Charles Myers in issue 7(1) of the Purple Martin Update, a magazine published by the Purple Martin Conservation Association. He describes the proper method for painting gourds so the maximum life can be obtained from your gourds. This method uses a rubberlike, weatherproof paint called Elastomeric Coating. Elastomeric Coating will last 3 to 5 times longer than paint, and will seal any small cracks that appear in your gourds. It's also known as "Kool Seal". It can be purchased from just about any major paint store. If they don't have it handy, they can order it.

One note:
Don't be in a hurry. Be sure and give all the steps plenty of time to dry properly.

Step #1
Clean gourds with a bleach solution to remove dirt and mildew. Mix 1 part bleach to 10 parts water and use a medium bristled brush. After cleaning, let stand until fully dry. At this point, you can apply the waterproofing such as Thompsons or Copper Sulphate. Be sure and let stand until fully dry again.

Step #2
Sand with medium grit sandpaper to rough up surfaces. 100 - 150 grit sandpaper works fine. Don't over do it and break through the hard outter skin of the gourd.

Step #3
Prime areas to be painted, using a good quality Exterior Oil Based Primer. Let stand for at least 24 hours until dry. Clean up with mineral spirits.

Step #4
Using a nylon brush, apply 1 to 3 coats of white Elastomeric Coating with one good coating being the absolute minimum. More is better than less. Apply straight from the can and do not thin. Elastomeric is easy to apply and will not run. Allow a minimum of 4 hours between coats.

If you can't find the Elastomeric Coating, then you can us a high quality, exterior gloss acrylic latex paint. Just be sure and use an oil based primer and let it fully dry before painting. If your going to go through all this effort to put up your gourds, finish the job right so they will last.

Follow these instructions and you will have a finish on your gourds that will last for many years to come.

My thanks to Charles Myers and James R Hill for allowing me to use this excerpt from The Purple Martin Update.

Email Me

If you have any comments, would like to send me another Martin site, or just say "Hi", please click on my mail box to send e-mail to

Chuck Abare

Please note:
If you send me an Email and ask a question and do not get an answer of some sort from me within a couple of weeks, it's because your return email is not correct. Find out what your correct email is, correct the problem and then send your question to me again.

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