Cheap Thrills DIY House Painting

See full size image We recently had some very necessary siding repairs done to the upper level of our home. Leaking ceilings, rotting siding, sponginess, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Since the week after Easter I’d tried to get estimates or quotes from several contractors (indies, big companies, anyone). I must have had ten guys out to look at the house, climb on the roof, measure, and promise an estimate in a few days.  Of these, one actually followed up, and came highly recommended; they’d done some work a few doors down.  HRB Construction — these guys are great, and I recommend them.  I have no idea where they fall in the price matrix, but it sure was worth it to get done, done right, and done by professional guys.  Part of their work included painting the new siding they replaced/repaired.  I bought the paint, good stuff, at Sherwin Williams, at a pretty penny (ouch!).  I knew they’d only use about two gallons, but I gulped and got the 5-gallon bucket.

I thought this summer would be a good opportunity to teach #1 how to paint a house.  Stop laughing.  I figured we’d start with the back of the garage: not too high, semi-hidden from daily scrutiny in the backyard, and a big expanse of wall.  That idea led to other surfaces, and the repair of brick mold.  Then it literally decided to rain on our parade.  We’re making slow progress, but it’s getting done.

I underestimated the amount of time and work for the prep.  Sure, I remembered scraping, sanding, caulking and priming.  But I forgot how old my joints are, and how often you have to go up and down the ladder.  Start at the top and work your way down.  Here’s the drill:

  1. Use a scraper to remove large chunks of peeling paint.  You might be surprised at how large sheets of old paint fall off, and how much is really loose.  That’s okay, you’re taking care of it.
  2. Use coarse sandpaper to smooth the edges of the paint where it meets the raw wood trim or siding.  This is going take a long time; get comfy on the ladder.
  3. Sweep/wipe all traces of debris and dust from the surfaces, one section at a time.  Be thorough.  Pick up as much of the old paint and caulk as you can from the lawn.
  4. Caulk where the trim meets the siding.  Smooth it down.  Let it dry.  Overnight.  Clean up, take some ibuprofen and go sleep well.
  5. Put down multiple drop cloths on sidewalks, fences, stained wood walkway trim, etc. 
  6. Prime all exposed wood with oil-based primer.  That includes where you’ve scraped/sanded, any new trim or siding you’ve replaced, all joints, seams, etc.  Let it dry.  Overnight.  Clean up your brush (or place in a zipper freezer bag for later use), and all other materials, take some ibuprofen and go sleep well.
  7. Put down multiple drop cloths on sidewalks, fences, stained wood walkway trim, etc., again.
  8. Paint a nice, thick coat of color with quality latex paint (I used one with a 30-year warranty), using a different brush and fresh roller.  Feather out all paint bumps, roller marks, etc.  Let it dry to perfection.  Wash the latex paint from the brush (don’t use the freezer bag trick with latex — wash it out and let it dry), clean up your stuff, take some more ibuprofen.

It slipped my mind that much of this would be done on a high, heavy ladder.  Reaching, stretching, hanging on with three fingers.  The humidity means that there is longer wait time for caulk drying, primer setting, and paint drying.  And fitting in a few hours of paint work after regular work, in the heat of late day, is challenging.  Oh, but the satisfaction!

It looks awesome so far, and #1 has done a fantastic job!  The wet paint is just enough of a different color and sheen to tell where we’ve painted over the existing fading color, so we’re confident we’re putting full coverage on the house.  It’s like a latex glove to protect the inside from the elements.  And it looks great!

I also replaced some rotted brick mold on one window, and have two more to go.  That’s another whole issue, but let’s just say it involves frustration with inept former window contractors, using leftover backer rod I happened to have in the garage, fully priming the replacement trim piece with oil-based primer before installing, using wood filler epoxy putty (a new and fun product for me) and anger management techniques every homeowner should attempt to master.  Of course, caulk, dry, prime, dry, paint, dry.

If the rain stops before #1 has to start another summer commitment, I’ll be up quite high on the chimney chase, going through this routine all over again.  That’s the most discouraging part of this project, that I might not be able to reach everywhere with a heavy, paint-laden roller.  (I’m searching for a sprayer on Freecycle, btw.)  The chase is the highest part of the area of the house we’re painting this year, so the rest will be downhill, so to speak.  The trim and cut-in are the biggest challenge, because most of it needs to be scraped/sanded, and without a sprayer I have to use a brush for primer and paint.  The siding and trim are the same color, though, in the back, so we’ve eliminated one additional hassle.

Painting the side and back of the house is costing us about $25o.  Because we had a cheap, quick paint job about 5 years ago, I know we would have spent at least $5,000 for these repairs and the full job we’re doing now.  That’s twenty times our current cost.  And there’s the bother of trying to get estimates, arranging to be here while contractors are working, and knowing I can reach it myself.  It’s good exercise, really, and a workout of my patience and mental abilities, too. 

I’m learning as much as my son, I think, although they’re different lessons.  This will end up being a summer to remember.

Home Depot Improver

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