Monday, August 21, 2006

This Little, Old House

When we first bought our little house, I hated the exterior paint with an intensity rivaled only by my hatred of country music and NASCAR. We knew that it would either cost us an arm and a leg or the love of our family to paint the house with a contractor ("You paid HOW MUCH to have your house painted?? We could have done it for FREE!"), so we waited until we had the time and money to do it ourselves. We had originally wanted to wait until the garage and kitchen were rebuilt/remodeled so all the paint would match, but it became the habit of everyone entering our house to pick off loose paint from the wall next to the front door, leaving a huge, gaping bare patch of siding, so we either needed to paint or get some mangy dogs and broken down cars in the yard to complete the picture of the perfect white-trash shanty. My parents have painted their house twice by themselves, my in-laws painted their house themselves and Chris and Angie painted theirs, and all of these well-meaning and completely insane people offered to help, so we decided that we would take time off and prep and paint in one week. Heh. Heeeeeeeeh heh. Heeee.

My parents had spent the previous week helping build a deck at my sister's house, so they were in town to move on to the next stage of back-breaking manual labor that would remind them of why they had never moved to Seattle to be nearer to us. We started last Sunday by power washing the house, which was not only fun but satisfying on a deep and profound level as the house was filthy. Only pigs could live in such a dirty home. Some of the loose paint was blown off by the water, and, as we washed, we walked around the house to get a good look at the condition of the existing paint and gauge how much work would need to be done. The whole east side of the house was a nightmare. It was peeling and flaking and the many layers of paint from the first to the last coat had never been removed, just lightly sanded and painted over, so there were patches that looked like an example of sedimentary rock in a science class film about erosion. We knew beforehand that we would have to strip some of the house, so we sent away for the Silent Paint Remover, which turned out to be worth its weight in gold. We turned the SPR onto the worst parts of the paint (which turned out to be pretty much the lower half of the entire house) and it was like a peely miracle. The thickest paint would bubble and come off in huge sheets with a deft flick of the $1 scraper we all fought over, leaving only pinkish, pleasant smelling cedar siding exposed. I had no idea that stripping paint would appeal so strongly to my sickening obsession. I could have used that sucker on the entire house if I had had enough time. I should have purchased it instead of renting it. I could have walked around the neighborhood with a really long extension cord trailing behind me looking for paint to peel on my neighbors' homes.

For the first two days, we scraped and scraped and Christian went to work and came home and we were still scraping and I started to think that we just might not get this whole job done in a week. I got very upset and had one of those embarrassing breakdowns one only has with ones parents as one feels that she is twelve and being told that she can't wear those jeans out of the house as they are too tight and one has to cry and lock herself in the bathroom to regain her composure.

The inlaws joined us on Tuesday, God love 'em, and Christian had the whole day off, so we made some extensive progress with so many hands. I had to leave and go to the opera where I, of course, injured myself. I think it was a parting shot from the Levaquin. I had been on ladders and scaffolding all day and was so exhausted that I biffed it twice in my costume shoes and heard a pop in my ankle. By the next morning, the bone was the size of a golf ball and it hurt to glance at it out of the corner of my eye. I was relegated to errand runner and meal cooker that day. Guilt. Guilty, guilty, guilt guilt guilt.

The week before we started prepping, Christian cut back all of the climbing plants on the front of our house, and our porch let out an audible groan when the wisteria was removed as the plant was the only thing holding up that half-assed set of toothpicks. The more we looked at the bare porch, the more we wanted to rip it down with our bare hands, so we called the contractor who had built Tina's deck and hired him to start construction at the same time we were painting. We had the grand task of prying off the hateful decking that was screwed to our porch instead of actual contiguous material that would prevent my heel from catching every time I walked up the stairs. To save on labor costs, we bought $1,700 worth of wood ourselves, of which my sneaky mother in law bought a good portion and wouldn't let me pay her back. Guilt. Eeeeee with the guilt.

As the week wore on, more people who I thought would rather be doing anything other than the vile work we had cornered ourselves into, showed up. Angie stripped windowsills and sanded and taped and generally was a rock star. It did seem, though, that the prep would never end. There was always so much more to do. The bottom half of the house was done, but the top was flaking at me in defiance of my wishes to be finished in time to take a nap Sunday afternoon. Lynn and Sal had to leave Friday afternoon and my parents had to leave Saturday as Jayden's birthday party was in the middle of the afternoon. We would be all alone, and we only had one side of the house primered. Mom put in an amazing day of work on Friday and single-handedly scraped, sanded and primed the back of the house by the bathroom. But they were leaving!

And then the second shift showed up.

Chris and Rich came over after work on Friday and bolstered us up. They sanded and scraped and Angie taped and we primered the rest of the front of the house. They moved the scaffolding and Chris held Christian up while he scaled the peak of the kitchen to sand the eaves, wearing javelin spikes for traction. Thank God I was at the opera and didn't have to witness that.

So, as of today, three quarters of the house is primed and half the windows are painted trim-wise. The kitchen wall has to be sanded and the ceiling of the porch needs to be scraped, but we'll be done by this weekend. And our friends are coming back. I don't know what on earth we did to deserve all these wonderful people, but there it is.

And if anyone ever tells me that I should do any more house projects myself, I'm going to brain them with a paint can.

Pictures in the next post.


Chris said...

Y'know...we felt exactly the same way when we got to the end of our death march (which wouldn't have been reached without your assistance). But three years out we're actually discussing what we'll do differently next time we paint the exterior. Who'd have thunk it?

Christian said...

I woulda. I'm still a little nervous about the brick red color. (maybe a nice lemon yellow instead?) But Lee's positive feedback has buoyed my confidence. It's inevitable I think. I just want to slap the paint on at this point and be done with it. AND take the %*&# plastic off the windows so we can see out again.

Das Klaun said...

Just to be fair, I didn't join the party until saturday, slacker bastard that I am.