Sippican Cottage

Close this search box.
painting the house
Picture of sippicancottage


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

Looks Like We Made It

There’s a limited window of opportunity to paint the exterior of your house here in western Maine. The winters start early and end late. The days get very short very fast. Back when I lived in Massachusetts, I used to figure that once Halloween rolled around, you can’t work effectively outside anymore. In Maine, you can forget about the first 30 days of October, too.

So anytime I get a chance, with good weather, not too many bugs, not too much direct sun, not too much chance of rain, and no way to make up an excuse to avoid it for no good reason, I paint stuff outside. I had a one-day window to paint a portion of the house that really needed it, and I took it.

When we first moved here, this is what the area in question looked like:

There’s a fifteen-foot drop to your death off that platform. There was once a catwalk that stretched over to the door, but it decided it wanted to see Australia before it died, and headed in that direction. The platform was a bad idea even before that. The valley made by the two rooflines above dumps a lot of water right there, and plenty of snow in the winter. There is a flight of concrete stairs buried in the ground on the right. They built a wall and filled it in with this and that when they decided they needed a parking space more than stairs to the basement. There’s a pull chain light fixture with a broken bulb in the socket on the wall, if you need a jolt to get going in the morning.

Here’s the view looking down from a second floor window. As you can see, there’s a railing where you don’t need it, and it stops when you do. Plenty of cable TV wires, on the roof, though. Every one of the screws they used to run them along the metal roofing leaked until I fixed them. Rain indoors is a small price to pay for Family Feud reruns, I guess.

I dangerproofed the railing right away when we moved in. Just posts and the top and bottom rail, because lumber is expensive, and too much safety around the house makes dull children. But this summer, I found myself with some 2x4s hanging around and put in some crossbucks. I painted the whole thing Montgomery White when I was done, to match the house trim.

The platform was another matter. Buried under the rotting wood and indoor/outdoor carpet, I found two concrete steps. They’d come out hard if I tried to demolish them, so I decided to work with them. We made a little garden spot for pots:

Victorians liked pierced fence and railing slats like these. They’re pretty simple to make and lend a little interest to a drab spot. The plants turned in to mini-jungle pretty quick, and covered the steps almost completely.

All that was in the summer. With the days getting shorter, we have to limit the real estate we’re renovating to stay in our one-day window of opportunity. We’ll paint this corner:

It was in need of a lot of attention. That metal apparatus is the pellet stove exhaust. I’ve removed the candy cane portion of vertical pipe to get at the wall. Burning wood pellets is pretty clean, compared to firewood, but eventually the soffit and eave above got pretty dirty looking. Burn fifty tons of anything, and you’ll get soot.

The scraping was pretty easy, all in all. Just a little elbow grease. People make all sorts of mistakes diagnosing peeling paint. I could ask for opinions from internet wags and “pro” painters alike why this paint is peeling, and they’d all get it wrong. The paint peeled because the roof leaked. I showed you the metal roof above, peppered with holes from the ghosts of cable TV past. Ice dams formed in the valley, water backed up behind it, and the water got behind the siding. In the spring, it wanted to go outside, same as we did. It pushed the paint off on the way out.

If you hire a “pro” painter, they’ll probably tell you that you need to pressure-wash the house first. This involves injecting hundreds of gallons of water in to your siding under the guise of washing it. It will want to get back out in the spring too, and take the paint off on the way, so you can start the process all over again. So wash your siding with a long-handled brush in a bucket of water with a little detergent, and rinse it off with a hose and you’ll be fine. I did.

We’ve re-roofed, and I filled in at least 70-percent of the little holes, and I have a roof rake that helps avoid ice dams. I doubt I’ll have any more problems here. About half the house could use a fresh coat of paint, but this is the worst spot, so we’ll put it first in line.

This is me falling off a ladder, or having a coughing fit, or sleeping, or something similar. Before I paint, I caulk all the seams and putty the odd nailhole. Preparation is all the work. Painting is easy and fast.

That’s late afternoon sun, and I’m finishing up. Whew. I guess we made it.

[I’m painting the laundry room today. Tune in tomorrow to see if I screwed it up]

One Response

  1. In the old house painting and filling in the odd hole or cracks was my Bay State version of Zen.
    That place burned down and the insurance allowed us to rebuild with vinyl shakes that look like shingles.
    In my seventies I really appreciate it. When I remember the time I used to have to put in and the up and down the ladder. Yuck!
    Best of luck.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Thanks for commenting! Everyone's first comment is held for moderation.