Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Off The Rails

 A couple of things happened last week that caused my stay-cation to jump the tracks.  This is the second of those things, but I'm telling you about it first. 

See, I was out there Friday happily (well, sort of) scraping paint when a nice little old man stopped by and said, "I sure am glad you're getting rid of that yellow!"

"You don't like the yellow?"  I asked him.

"It's alright," he said, "but it's not the color it was in the first place."

Now, this little old man looked quite elderly, but not 125 years old, which is at least how old he'd have to be to know what the house looked like in the first place. 

He elaborated.  "When I was a little boy, I lived down the street.  The house was dove gray then with white trim and the windows were black like you've got them now."

By my estimate, said little old man is in his mid-80s, which would make his Little Boy Era circa the 1930s.  That was when Aub Kelly, a son of the man who built my house, lived here but before he turned it into two apartments.  I know from an old newspaper article that the house got a new coat of paint in 1906 and the house looks light with lighter trim in a photo taken around that same time.  (See poorly-reproduced 1906 photo at right sidebar.)  In the course of scraping paint, I've found pale gray on the house but thought maybe it was primer.  Now I think the little old man may indeed be right.

Here's where I make a full confession.  Pay attention, y'all, because this confession is important to everything that follows.  My confession is this:  I did not do a good job of prepping the house before I painted it.  Not a good job at all.  Paint might cover a multitude of sins, but it does not cover a very poor prep job.  I did not scrape off all the alligatored paint.  I did not heed the advice of a professional house painter that the house already had too many coats of paint on it.  I was more concerned with the immediate (sort of) gratification of a newly-painted house than I was about the future of that paint long-term. 

And now, I am paying for those mistakes.  Two years later, I have peeling paint.  A lot of peeling paint.  At first, I thought it was just a few spots here and there.  Then I thought it was just the east side of the house and convinced myself  it somehow got more weather than the rest of the house.  Then White Trash Bob came over and said, "Oh my God, you have to scrape that whole section of the house from top to bottom."  Then Charlie came over to help me paint and said grimly, "There's more peeling paint than you think there is."  It's not the fault of the paint--I'm using Valspar Duramax, which consistently gets good reviews.  It's the prep job, or lack thereof.  The "new" part of the house (added on in the 1930s or so) which has only a couple of coats of paint is not peeling at all, not anywhere.  The new trim pieces and porch posts are not peeling at all. Unfortunately, that's about one-fourth of the house exterior.  The rest of the house has peeling paint, in some places so bad that you can strip a whole clapboard with the end of a spoon.  (A fact which I discovered while dramatically demonstrating to Charlie how bad the situation is while eating yogurt.)

Friday when Charlie came over after work he found me sitting on the front porch steps, elbows on knees, forehead on arms.  I didn't look up when he sat down by me.  (The Very Bad Thing that happened earlier that week, and which he's directly responsible for, is partly--okay, mostly--the cause of my dejected state, but I'll tell you about that thing later.)  He hugged me and waited for me to explain myself.  "This little old man came by..." and then I told him the whole thing, everything that I've just told you, and he was quiet for a minute like he is when he's considering whether he ought to say out loud what he's thinking, and then he said, "Honey, I been thinkin that we just need to start all over with the paint on this house." 

So that's what we're going to do.  Down to the bare wood.  Start all over.  Pale gray with off-white trim.  (After approval of the paint chips by the Historic Preservation Commission, of course.)  We might have gone completely off the rails on this one, but I think it's the right thing to do for the house.  I think Mrs. Kelly would approve. 


  1. It will look great! And I love that he said, "we." Sounds like you might not have to climb any ladders! :)

  2. Aw rats ! It's kind of bummy to have to redo all your work, but at least this time you know you are doing it 100% legit and the results will show that! Also, it's super cool you know so much about the history of your house. Alls I know about mine is that there are apparently "loads" of animals buried in the front yard (thanks weirdo who walked by & shouted that tidbit at me), something buried in the basement (we found a bone under cement/dirt removal) and the house was bought in the 80's by a couple having an affair. Fun stuff, haha.

  3. Hope the bad thing is not too bad.

    A lot easier to do stuff when you're not doing it by yourself.

    I didn't do proper prep when I painted my house in California. I hosed it off and scraped loose paint off as I went :-) It did pretty well, except for the wall that got the direct sun.

    When you take the paint off, maybe you will find an even earlier color underneath.

  4. I've wondered but forgotten to ask before this, looking at the 1906 photo, is there a different shaped roof on the front-most part of the house, the part on the left with two windows in it?

    The shape looks different at the bottom, but I can't tell if it's shadow or what.

  5. Milah, I like the "we" too. :)

    Rachel, "Loads" of buried animals?!!? Ewww.

    Karen Anne, I've looked at that too, and I think it's shadows. BUT--I found ghost marks of posts next to that part you're talking about, so now I wonder if the roofline was different. The picture is really poor quality. I'm going to go to the library tomorrow, look through the microfilm, & see if I can print out a better photo. The roofline on the porch, however, is different. It was originally a hipped roof and was changed to a flat roof when the porch was replaced. I'd like to change it back someday.

  6. Am really hating on these "bad" things. (Even more after reading this post.) GO AWAY BAD THINGS! Leave Jayne alone. There. Done. ;-)