Adventures in Homeownership: Examining the Layers of a House

Learning about the best ways to prep and paint your home, a new homeowners perspective.

I have been meaning to paint my house for the last four months. Originally, I needed to have my gutters replaced before I could start; but after my new gutters were up, it was just my utter laziness that kept me procrastinating. But, with Labor Day approaching, I knew I could delay no longer.

With painting, as with so many other projects, the key to a successful job is all in the preparation. That meant the dreaded “S” word….scraping. In my mind, the prep work would take no time at all. I thought I would get home from work and do an hour here and an hour there, and viola – prepped house. The first night I got out my putty knife and my wire brush and began to work. I continued scraping and brushing, and scraping and brushing, and after an hour I lifted my head – all proud of my hard work and dedication – and backed up to see my progress. Lo and behold, it looked like the same old house, with barely any change that I could see. The next night I tried again with my trusty putty knife and wire brush. Again, not much visible progress. In my frustration, I called my dad, and he laughed at me. He suggested that we power wash the house, which can remove all the dirt and loose paint much more quickly.

The trick with pressure washing, however, is that a tool that’s too powerful can damage your siding or trim. You also have to be prepared for the paint chips that will be blown off. Especially if you have an older house, you need to make sure that the falling paint will be captured on a tarp, so you can dispose of them and avoid any lead-based paint contamination. Here are some helpful hints from the EPA http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovaterightbrochure.pdf

Sure enough, that pressure washer did an amazing job! My house, built in 1906, had several layers of paint on it, and most of them had been applied over non-prepped surfaces. I was able to peel the paint off in some places like ribbons! We had to dispose of what felt like 100 lbs. of paint chips, but in the end we had a blank slate to paint.

Of course, the next issue was paint color. I found a really fun and addictive website to help with the decision, http://www.behr.com ; you can paint things virtually to get a feel for your options, great afternoon break. We decided to keep our house white but jazz it up by accenting the foundation with blue, Inlet Harbor to be precise. For the past five days Dave, Dad and I have been painting for an hour or so after work. It’s coming along great, and we should be done by the end of the weekend.  Looking back, why did I wait so long?

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