Thursday, November 21, 2013

House Painting 2013 (Monday Morning Quarterback Edition)

How glad am I to be done with exterior painting for the year? Well, I don't dance because the Lutherans beat it out of me, but if it's possible for readers to picture a sort of football end zone celebration dance, but holding paint brushes......that gives you an idea. That's how I felt in my Protestant-repressed insides.

It's been so good to do almost anything else that even routine housework seems pleasant, a feeling I hope sticks around as long as possible.

My life has been crying out for baked goods.

I'd like to get crafty.

Things we did not take home for fear they'd get loose in the wild. Read about it here. 

Well. Not that crafty.

And it's time to start thinking of the holidays (though as per my usual, I resist doing anything about Christmas until after Thanksgiving.)

Monday morning quarterbacking is unavoidable when things don't turn out like you planned. So let's extend that sports metaphor (at least to the end of this sentence) and review the video, shall we?

The Goal: 
Paint the entire exterior of the house.

The Reality: 
I got one full side (the front side) painted, not including the front door and shutters. I got the ground level of the south side painted, but not the gable.

Here's what I learned:
I was unrealistic about my limitations/expectations.
Somehow I very glibly thought that I could single-handedly paint the entire exterior of my house while working full-time and rearing four children. Either I'm not very bright or have huge lady-balls. I started the summer thinking I had tons of the latter. Now I think it's the former. I'm grateful I had help along the way, and realized I was wrong without freaking out...Okay, only freaking out a little bit...Oh--kay. Only freaking out to my sister on Facebook chat all. the. time. Okay. And beer. Okay?

I am not good at estimating how long a big project will take. 
Part of that is not factoring in the unpredictable, which any do-it-yourselfer should know. I mean, I am the original author of the Dumb Crap Margin (trademark pending), which is all the stuff that happens that doesn't actually include doing the project--losing a tool, running to the hardware store, the weather. And on a project of this magnitude, the dumb crap margin can be enormous. Estimates of what you think you should be getting done on any given weekend need to be reduced by 50 percent to account for rain, stupidity on the part of the foreman (that would be me), and pesky children who need things like meals and clean laundry. Then there's the fact that in places, the siding was in much worse condition than I realized, slowing my work pace down.

Perfectionism can be paralyzing.
I started this project working carefully along every square inch of siding, terrified that if I did it wrong I would have massive peeling and blistering paint months from now, and I was pretty sure I didn't want to endure this project more than once a decade. But a carpenter who came by my house remarked, "you're not refinishing furniture, you know," and that got me moving along at a brisker pace. Dad, who also worked as a housepainter when he was young, followed that advice up as well. Believe me, I'm not actually normally hung up on painstaking perfection. It was just the fear of having to do it over again that was keeping me sanding, sanding, sanding. My mantra now is buy good paint, prep within reason, caulk well, and trust your product. I hope it's true!

Mother Nature doesn't recognize weekends. Or your discomfort.
The weather seemed perverse most of the summer. In the spring it was rainy and cold. By June it was so blisteringly hot that it was difficult to put in a full day of work. In July the weather would be perfect Monday through Friday while I worked at my desk job, and it would pour rain solidly all weekend. Instead of getting a break in the heat in September, it was even warmer. The aluminum ladders were too hot to touch without work gloves, and my Dad and I had to take what he called "combat naps" throughout the day to prevent heat exhaustion. I got my best weather in October, as I frantically worked to finish up. My last day painting was so windy I didn't feel like I was up that ladder painting so much as battening down the hatches on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

No matter how big the project, sometimes it still isn't a priority. 
I've said it before and I'll say it again. No matter what state this house is in, family life is still going to happen, and it really does need to come first, even if it seems counterintuitive, irresponsible, and courting chaos. My second son's first rock concert playing lead guitar is only going to happen once. My oldest son's first season of college rugby will never happen again. Yes, the combination of uncooperative weather and family responsibilities put me far behind on this project all season. However, I doubt that on my death bed I'll regret spending more time with a can of exterior grade latex.

Sometimes "last minute" is the way it gets done.
My last day painting was Sunday, Nov. 10. Enough said.

Progress is progress. 
Yes, it would have been lovely to get another side or two done. The shutters up. The window face frames painted and new storms installed. That didn't happen. But am I further along than when I started? Absolutely. I'll take it. While I don't think I'll exactly enjoy getting out the paint supplies for a second summer (and a third, because there's also the garage), I know that I'll get it. The north and west sides of the house aren't in such bad condition as the south and north side were, and the work will move along more quickly. I hope to have chances to paint shutters inside over the winter, so I can start right away in spring installing them, an instant curb appeal booster with little grunt work. By the end of this summer, the house looked a little better than before. By next summer, it will look better still. Progress is progress.

What project did you do that took all summer? Did you finish?

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Grew Some Great Grass

The house painting project made me neglect the yard pretty much all summer. It was on its own, like an unsupervised wild child. We mowed. Kinda. I was glad for the perennial border.

So I didn't really appreciate the gas company deciding this was the year to dig up my street easement to monkey with the gas line. My property was already looking shabby enough without their extra help, thank-you-very-much.

Last year, my street was torn up while the city replaced the curbs. Then they tore up the street again to resurface the asphalt. It all looked very nice when (finally) done.

This spring, the gas company decided, after all that earthwork had been put back in place and the street resurfaced, that they really needed to dig it all back up again to bury the gas line deeper. Because they didn't check that while they had the ground open last year. Of course.

It's sorta why I'd like to hand the gas utility the 2013 Ass Backwards Award. Keep your acceptance speech under 30 seconds, and in keeping with the theme please come to the podium before I've opened the big white envelope. 

When they were done, sometime in late April, they threw some rye grass seed down on the fresh dirt and promised me sod. Fine. That sounded more than fair, and so I expected some-- soon. Grass growing season is early spring, when the temperature is still cool and there is some rain. 

Weeks later, in June, at the beginning of what was a long jag of super-hot, super-dry weather, I come home to find that someone has slapped down already-half-dead sod on my easement, and had also inexplicably tilled up a square in my front yard and sodded that too, for no reason anyone could explain to me. 

While I watered with a good will, it already wasn't healthy, the ground wasn't prepared properly, and I wasn't home to babysit it through 90+ degree weather. Pretty soon it looked like this: 


Things were already looking pretty down-market with patchy bare siding and ladder scaffolding

So, ah, no. It didn't help. But with a droughty summer, doing anything about it was pointless. I cringed every time I drove up to my own house, but ignored it until the weather got cooler. 

In late September I tore up the dead sod, threw a couple of bags of purchased topsoil on the area to make it even with the rest of the turf, raked it smooth, and seeded it. It wasn't hard, but I was grouchy. If it had been filmed it would have been 30 minutes of me grumbling under my breath and pitching yard tools about. 

It only took a couple of weeks and some regular appointments with garden hose to have lovely little grass babies sprouting up all over. 

Right now, the same patch looks like this: 

The line between old turf and new is roughly diagonal through the photo from upper left to lower right, and also shows how nicely (thank goodness) everything recovered from the drought conditions this summer. 

I left the easement strip undone however, and it will be waiting for me next spring. Since it is next to the driveway where I put my garbage can, I'm considering some pavers and gravel bedding instead of grass to make it better for high traffic. 

Unless of course, we have more trenching to be done. It's always possible. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Finished? No. Done? Totally.

<taps mic>

Is this thing on?

Hi. I'm back. Actually, I never left, I just walked away from the computer monitor for awhile and picked up the paint scraper and.....well. I have an announcement to make:

I'm not finished painting. But I'm done. Done for the season. Done for the year. Stick a fork in me, I'm done. Overdone. DONE.

When I last left the blog I was still lamenting the rather crappy condition of clapboards on the south side of my house:

I was still scraping away like crazy while the weather got colder, and wetter, and colder, and wetter....

And while the rugby matches scrummed forth:

Courtesy of ISU Men's Rugby Club

And while birthday cakes were baked: 

Noah wants Kit-Kats on a chocolate cake. Every year. 

While Death and Batman stormed through the 'hood: 

Meanwhile, back at the cape cod (this doesn't have quite the ring as "back at the ranch") I was getting up against it. 

Grant came home the first Sunday in November to pitch in sanding some rough spots: 

And then finally some paint went on the building. I worked as fast as I could before the temperature and daylight both gave out on me, but I still came up short on one little patch: 

If I haven't mentioned it before, I have issues with symmetry. I wasn't going to be able to look at this all winter. 

So on Friday we had a lovely sunny day for November, and I finished this little area up:

I ran out of time to even begin work on the gable. The windows still need work, but I consider them a separate project to coincide with storm window replacement. 

I swept up paint scrapings and washed out my brush literally minutes before starting this blog post. I've neglected the inside of the household since June. My children are sick of sandwiches and deli pizza for supper and even my dust is dusty. 

I'll regroup in another post soon, but right now I'm going to shower, and have a glass of wine--or three. And forget where I put the paint scraper until April.