Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Anatomy of a Project

We've done quite a few projects on the house now, but we almost never take pictures of the reason for the project or the process itself, because that would mean taking pictures of things that look crappy to us, and we're all about the "real estate photos" that carefully avoid showing the crappy. This time I thought I'd provide before, during and after photos of my current project:  Repainting the Porch Stairs.

It's important to note that the reason we do these projects in the first place is that something is wrong enough to require a project to correct it. Where the outside projects are concerned, the big raised bed is covering a ginormous sinkhole. The brick flower beds are making up for the fact that you can't dig in the yard because there's a house pushed into its own basement about three inches below the surface. The patio replaced a shady, sloping yard that grew clover, weeds and wild violets like crazy, but wouldn't grow grass.

Almost all of the actual house projects seem to involve paint. The red door replaced an atrocious black paint job. All the woodwork in the remodeled room upstairs had been painted and was a mess, as were the plaster walls. Like all the projects we do, we generally uncover whatever it was the last people were covering up with whatever we're removing somewhere along the line, and this project is no different.

First you notice that the peeling paint has gotten REALLY bad.
It starts out simple enough. The paint is peeling off in strips and you can pick it off with your fingers. It's gotten worse every year, and the weather is very nice this spring, so you figure it ought to be easy to scrape it off and get it to a paintable state and this would be a great time to do it.

Under the peeling part  you find the older, crackled paint. 
But this is a 115 year old house, so what ought to be isn't always. In this case, it appears that the original paint job was a good one, with the right kind of paint over concrete sealer and primer. Unfortunately, when it aged and cracked, the half-ass touch-up job was done with latex paint over the cracked paint, and only the latex comes off easily, which is obviously why they did it that way in the first place.

tap ... tap ... yep, it's hollow all the way from top to bottom
Damnit!  There's a mystery!  While scraping, I discovered some kind of repair I haven't quite figured out. The three other banisters are solid poured cement, but this whole section is hollow under that crack, which runs the length of the banister and seems to be a layer of concrete veneer of some sort. And the paint is REALLY falling off this one banister, so now I'm motivated to keep going and get it off.

These are the things you only find out after you've started something you can't un-start. We aren't restoration nazis, but when the options are to slap another half-ass touch-up over it or try to do it better so it will last awhile, I'd rather opt for last awhile if I can.

So that's where I am now.  Dalmation spotted stairs.  Luckily, I have acquired an amazing collection of scraping tools in the past three years and the stairs aren't going anywhere, and the weather is still coolish.

I'm beginning to think that removing old paint and replacing it with new paint is some kind of metaphor for life.


Ron Day said...

I fear I'm the one who'd be scraping off the paint and trying to encourage moss to grow over all of it. :-)

Kwach said...

We bought two concrete planters to sit on the pillars when I get these painted, and I've been trying to decide how I want to paint them, or IF I want to paint them. The idea of moss had occurred to me. : )

Tim said...

Hmmm... Perhaps the original bannister was cracked/chipped/otherwise screwed up and they did apply a veneer to fix it?

I would probably be more prone to scraping, sealing the crack(s) and then repainting. Years ago, I had a friend who does both concrete and plaster work tell me that since I can decorate cakes I should be able to work with concrete and plaster - it's the same sort of process.

I didn't believe him then and am less likely to believe him now.