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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

This Is How I Go When I Go Like This: Painting The House

So it’s 10:00 AM, Saturday morning. About 65 degrees; sunny; not much wind. I was up at 5, but didn’t have the heart to roust the teen early. We have plenty of time. We’re going to paint one side of our 1901 Victorian. 
We have a three-year plan to fix up the house. We’re one year in and holding our own. The order of things is skewed. We have next-to-no money, so we have to concentrate on labor-intensive things, not material-intensive things first. We don’t have a lot of time, either, but that’s an excuse to go fast, not to avoid things. 
One of our lovely neighbors recently vinyl-sided their house, and told us about it. Vinyl siding is common here. Vinyl siding is sold as a curative, but it’s a palliative. It’s the medical marijuana of home improvement. You still have cancer but you don’t care as much. The neighbor told us the first estimate to side their house, which is smaller than our house, was $19,000. Since I purchased my house for $24,000, this seemed less than a value. They ended up hiring a local man who charged them $11,000. If I had $11k and few months, I could renovate the entire inside and outside of my home and quadruple its value. Back when I still painted stranger’s houses, I could have painted their house eight times with $19k. That’s thirty-five to forty years of fresh paint on your house for the same money. A plastic winding sheet for your house seems more appetizing to the average American now, for reasons that escape me. 
It’s been a while since I bought housepaint. I was astonished to find the price had roughly doubled. It was almost fifty bucks a gallon for Ben Moore Moorgard latex flat; so painting one side of my house would cost about a hunnerd, and take a day. We painted the front last year. The back needs more repairs first, the other side needs… I dunno, prayers or a missile strike or something first. I’ll get to it.

There’s the side we’re doing. It’s two-and-a-half stories on a wild slope inside some trees, guarded by legions of mosquitoes. I execrate everything the former owners did to the place, and the nasty blue color the place was schmeared with is right at the top of the list; right up there with the cedar shingles they wallpapered our bedroom with.

I used to build gas stations, and we’d occasionally be hired to decommission a gas station. We removed the storage tanks and dispensers and so forth, then all the signage. Then we were instructed to paint the entire place, every last surface, with a non-descript, blah, nasty blue color that would throw off any person trying to divine what kind of gasoline used to be served there by any color scheme left showing. The color was deliberately chosen to be ugly.  Our house was painted that blue color, and it drove me around the bend, every square inch of it, every time I looked at it. It’s like therapy, not work, to cover it up

I’m in a hurry and must be efficient. I start at the hardest, highest spot, and do everything while I’m there. I palm sand the entire thing, caulk the seams, putty any holes, and paint the siding and the trim at the same time. You’ve been told by a middle-aged woman wearing too much makeup wearing an orange vest in a big warehouse that sells powerwashers that you want to powerwash your house first. No you don’t.

The paint might cost fitty a gallon, but it covers in one shot, so it’s worth the dough. Between all the gathering of stuff and so forth, this is all we had done by noon. LUNCH!

Momo le chat offered to fix lunch for us, but we don’t have a working grill yet, so we had to settle for food my wife made instead. We spent a quiet moment in the back yard, enjoying the sunshine. Winter beats on you like a LaMotta every year, so every nice day is like a sunny Christmas:

I read the Intertunnel, and am instructed constantly that children are nothing but rude, useless drains on one’s pocketbook, and pointless leeches on society and Mother Nature. I bet yours are, if you write things like that — or would be, if you’d managed to have any children instead of playing World of Warcraft in your mom’s basement until you’re old enough to retire on Social Security. Mine are endlessly useful and productive and amusing.

After finishing the moles and sandwiches, we’ve got to get on our horse and ride. Here is a rare sighting of the author in his native habitat. Don’t approach him too closely; he spooks easily and lashes out when startled:

The siding is “Providence Olive.” The trim is “Montgomery White,” which my son the wag calls monkey white. The accent color seen later is “Mayflower Red.”

Here you can look in our bedroom windows, you pervert:

That’s my office on the right. It has huge windows on the four faceted sides of it, the largest of which is five feet square. It’s a fantastic place to write. I wish I knew how to write; then life would be perfect:

Here I am again. I’m desperately handsome, and poorly dressed, which is my signature look:

We decided to press on through before eating dinner, and worked until we finished at 6:30. My heir painted the masonry “Tudor Brown,” and a lot of the lowest boards on the siding, which are called a water table. I’m the only person you know that knows what the lowest boards on your siding are called; so I have that going for me.

Some deranged persons have removed 9 or 10 windows from my house, and put plywood over the openings. I am not a violent man, but I’m willing to learn if I meet these people. I imagine they thought they were saving money on heat, but since the majority of the windows they removed faced south, southeast, or southwest, they ended up losing all the solar gain of the windows instead. Then they put tacky ceiling fans in every room with the money they “saved.”  I’ll put the windows back some day when we’re rich.

The ceiling fans went to the dump on day one.

22 Responses

  1. I love that first shot of the paint in the corner. It looks as though the horrid industrial blue has been peeled back to reveal the true nature of the house underneath.

  2. You have a generous cat? It it insane? That's against cat union rulez!

    And yeah, that Jake was a hard boy.

    I'm not sure I'd trust a painter who had no paint on his clothes–but I guess you trust this guy. On your own head be it.

  3. The house I bought is brick. I like that I don't have to paint the exterior. I hired my neighbor to paint the interior – I like that I don't have to paint the interior.

    Move in day is soon. After 5 months of labor it is almost time for the dogs to romp and stomp and enjoy the half acre I fenced in for them.

  4. Ah yes. You're a fixer-upper. Tasty paint colors you've chosen. I'm with you; screw the bloo.

    Nice of the cat to prepare lunch. At least you documented the festive board.

    You don't look nearly as funny as you are.

  5. The look on your cat's face is endlessly regal. The cat is granting we commoners permission to gaze upon the cat and evidence of the cat's overall badassness. I'm sure I made a similar face when I was a wee lad and won my first sandbox melee.

  6. Very handsome. I like colors that complement the natural coloration of the surroundings.

    My second father painted one side of his house every spring, giving special attention to the windows. The neighbor would tease him: "Ain't you got that house painted yet?" And Pop would smile.

  7. Number 1, The "Tudor Brown" is a shade too dark and will have to be sanded down to the stone and redone.

    Number 2, Everyone knows that you never use "Providence Olive" on a country house, but you always use "Provincetown Puce" to enhance its gay resale value.

    Sadly that too will have to be redone.

    Why are you reading this? Get to work.

  8. Great old house–with inboard gutters? You need to trim those trees back from your roof, though. They'll eat those shingles alive, and is that metal roof painted or copper?

    Keep those young'uns working. My Old Dad worked our butts off–I kinda like it. Our neighbor once asked him why he worked us boys so hard, and he said, "so they'll be tired." I finally understood what he meant when I had kids, and thanked him because there wasn't much around the house that I couldn't do myself

  9. On my screen it looks like a lovely pale yellow trim.
    May you have continuing fair weather until that side is complete.

  10. Now a lot of people know what the lowest boards on the siding are called, effectively ending your monopoly. And as John Steinbeck once said (sort of), "Only the wealthy can afford to dress so poorly."
    Beautiful house in a beautiful place.

  11. Hello Julie- Always nice to see your smiling face(s) in the comments.
    The color scheme was chosen as late Victorian-appropriate, but the house was originally was white with a green roof and green shutters, I think.

    My wife and I refer to the blue color as "The Battleship Potemkin."

    Hi Sam- Paint's too expensive to waste on your clothes.

    Hi Sixty- Good luck and much happiness in your new place.

    Hi SamArt- When I shave, it says: "Painters in mirror are funnier than they appear."

    Hi Cameron- He's a champion hunter. He was feral and my wife tamed him. Sorta.

    Deborah- That's a very smart way to care for a house.

    Hi Gerard- Provincetown Puce was the worst pro wrestler I can recall.

    Hi Old Dad- The picture is after I trimmed the limbs. They were all over the place before that. There are no gutters on my house, or anywhere in Maine, really. It's customary to have a few feet of metal roofing at the eaves. I painted the metal roofing with the Tudor Brown color.

    Hi Jean- Yes, that's about right. The sunshine on the leaves reflects on the wall and gives it a yellowish-green cast, too. The last picture is late in the day and you can see the colors are a little cooler than in broad daylight.

    BTW, we finished at 6:30 on Saturday. One day wonders.

  12. Hi Kenneth- Thanks for reading and commenting.

    Rumford Falls is fairly gritty and down at the heels, but it has its charms, and we love it here. Places are what you make of them.

  13. I am jealous. I had a 1901 Victorian once, and my children and I were doing exactly what you're doing–repairing and painting as we went, only our color scheme was dove gray and pale gray, with dark gray and barn red as accents. We had finished the back of the house and were working our way up one side when my husband was transferred. After I got the news, I went out to look at the one piece of gingerbread that I had managed to paint, and I cried.

    We had to repaint the house its original Confederate blue and white in order to sell it (and we lost a bundle on the sale.) At least I have photos of the gingerbread.

  14. I guess there's no such color as "bile blue."

    Thanks for two things: 1)Inspiration to paint my house this summer, and 2)"execrate", which I will use. Heck, I'll probably run it into the ground.

    Your house is outstanding, and I love the colors you chose.

  15. I still like my ceiling fans, because I like moving air and can't get it any other way here, but every time I read something like this I want to move next door to your family. I salute you!

  16. Thanks, Mr. Sippican – you have been an inspiration and given me good guidance with my new old house. I appreciate it.

    I am thinking about moving tomorrow – the fence is almost finished, the paint may be dry by then and it is time to go.

    The list of tasks that remain to be done at both houses is daunting, but one must remain dauntless in the face of challenges. Kind of like painting in one's good clothing.

  17. My dream house has always been a light, pale yellow with white trim and a green shingled roof. But yours looks much better.
    When my father sold his parent's home, they changed the white to dark grey. It was ugly. The bottom half of the house is all stone, and only a small part of the house is wood. The white sort of helped the house to stand out, since the stones were all grey, too.

  18. I see Ben More Linen White, a favorite of former Sippican employees. You are also the best dressed "work around the house" guy I've ever seen. Joe D.

  19. We made painting the exterior of our house a family project for spring break. My teens weren't thrilled, but they got paid, and they did good work.

    Your house–1901, did you say?–looks like a lot more fun to paint than my 1977 tract house.

  20. Hi Megan- Thanks for reading and commenting.

    Hard to say what a person will remember fondly many years hence. I'd kill ten innocent men to rake the lawn with my father one more time.

    I was told that the house was built in 1901, but I am a forensic carpenter, a bit. The entire house is sheathed in newspaper. It's like ancient Tyvek. I had to fix the roof and dormer on the back of the house when we first moved in, because the roof had holes in it big enough to climb through. Under the sidewall shingles on the dormer, I read the local and Boston papers from spring of 1910, still perfectly legible. Either the dormer was added after a decade,(quite possible) or the house is mis-dated.

    BTW, the cedar shingles on the dormer walls I replaced had lasted a century with absolutely no maintenance, exposed to the full fury of a southern exposure on a roof in Western Maine. And I only replaced them because I was fixing the roof.

    But I'm told vinyl siding is permanent.

  21. We had five minutes of hail recently here in SW Ohio. All around you see battered vinyl. OTH,the shake shingles on our house, built in I'm told 1948, bounced off the hail without a mark. Paul

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