This post starts a new series of posts I am calling “I have lost my mind:” These will be the stories of the projects that even I can’t believe I have gotten myself into.
A salesman once told me the 3 most dangerous words for a homeowner are “might as well”, as in “while we are replacing the bathroom faucet we might as well gut the whole room and retile.” I disagree. I think the 3 most dangerous words for any DIYer are:
“That looks easy!”
So with that in mind, I will tell you about my latest adventure. I am painting the outside of my house. The whole thing. Without professionals.
I have never liked the harvest gold (with hunter green trim) color of my house but it was put off so I could make messes in other parts of the house. Once I realized the south side of the house was peeling like it hadn’t worn sunblock on spring break I knew it would have to be done before the winter. I started planning this project while I was still working at a desk in NYC while business was slow. That meant all I did was research which gave me a sense of confidence. I had lists and plans all written out.
The basic issues were:
1. My house is covered in cement fiber board shingle that contains asbestos. It sounds scary but it’s really only harmful if you breath in the asbestos fibers. These fibers are currently inside cement then covered in multiple layers of paint. Fine if I leave them alone but this means I can’t sand anything.
2. Time – I thought I would be leaving my job in early July. I didn’t leave until mid August and then it rained all of September. So I would now be starting this project in October.
3. Just because I think I am big and strong and tough doesn’t mean it’s actually true. I am 5 feet tall. My arms will give out way before the sun goes down.
4. There is beautiful original woodwork. It also has peeling paint which means I need to strip it off. There are windows, doors and 3 sun rooms (don’t ask) that all need trim redone. Very time consuming.
5. I am, once again, not tall. Like I have been given nicknames all my life focusing on how small I am. And I have a very high peak in the front of my house I have no idea how I will reach.
So the first step in the process was a good wash down to get all of the dirt off so the paint will stick. In my research I had read it wasn’t recommended to power wash my lovely siding in case it was too powerful and broke the shingle. I thought that was probably a bit cautious but the worse case scenario was enough in my mind to stop me. What if I did use the power washer and broke the shingles? What if this caused a domino effect with other shingles it was attached to? What if the boyfriend came home to a large hole in the side of the house because the shingles all fell off and the 80 year old clapboard under it fell into dust? How could I still say my garden was organic when the still blooming tomatoes have a layer of crunchy asbestos on them?
So I got a scrub brush with a long handle, a ladder, a bucket, a hose and some Dr. Bronner’s soap (which is good for apparently everything, just read their label). And I gave it a good once over. Luckily its warm so the fact that I was soaking wet wasn’t a big deal. The fact that my feet were in wet flip flops hanging off the side of the ladder while standing on the step marked “do not stand on this step” probably was a bigger deal.
It all ended up just fine. The house is clean(er) and is ready for primer. Now all I need is a beer to wash the handful of advil down and I will be ready for the next phase: Part 2 – Primer.