Thursday, August 17, 2006

House Hunting Bug Continued...

Mindy and Jeannie have both posted about homes in their neighborhood that got their attention...and the prices of each of these homes have sparked some interesting discussions.

The price of homes in this area have gone crazy--and while we don't plan on going anywhere, I have often daydreamed of selling, buying a home with cash, and slowing down. But when it comes down to it we ain't goin' nowhere.

However, that doesn't stop me from cruising the pages of Historic Properties and dreaming... Lo and behold, what did I find while cruising the pages the other day??? The house across the street from me is for sale...

It is one of the nicest houses in our town--a landmark home with a small cottage on the property. The home and yard are spectacular.

You could be my neighbor for $2,499,000.

I honestly don't know how anyone is able to buy a home anymore...I worry about my children and their ability to live in California. Perhaps there will be a major correction to the real estate market--but that, in itself, could be devasting to many. In the past, California real estate has remained relatively "flat" during down times--only to go crazy when it spikes again...I don't know how long this can continue.

At some point, the slogan may be: "Move East, young man, move East."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Extreme Painting


Peter, over at Restoration on 7th, had some issues regarding nails bleeding through his primer. I promised a complete disertation on house painting (not colors, but technique)...With the caveat that I know I tend to go completely overboard when it comes to house painting...but I got this way after talking with a high-end painter of San Francisco Victorians (who charges upward of 50K for some of his jobs). And things have turned out pretty well. You may not want to go to such extremes, but perhaps you will find the information useful.

"Who knows more about wood, water, and weather than wooden boat owners?" my friend asked. "Treat her like a wooden boat and you can't go wrong." And that is what I have done with my home. So much of technique and many of the products come from the wooden boat industry.

These products are not cheap, nor are they readily available, but, if you are like me and don't want to paint your house more than you have to, they are worth the cost and trouble to procure.

Below, is a step by step process that I used in painting our home. Use it as you will.


The hardest part of painting isn't the painting part. It is the prep work. And to do it right, you need easy access to all parts of the house. You need to be able to stand comfortably and feel safe....Heck, you need to be safe.

Scaffolding allows you access to every nook and cranny of your house. It allows you to walk to the areas that you need to get to (instead of rrreeeachinggg because you don't want to get down and move the ladder.) You can stand, sit, or kneel comfortably for hours. Try that with a latter. And it far safer than a ladder.

Our scaffolding was a combination used metal scaffolding (purchased from a rental place) and home-constructed scaffolding made from 2X4s. Planking was made from 2X4's and OSB. I made enough to go all the way around the house...and wide enough to feel comfortable. This way, I could circle the entire place without having to move planks around.

Once you have access to the house, you can begin thinking about getting the house ready for paint. But first, it is important to keep a few guidelines in mind before you jump into the lovely job of stripping….


  1. Don't leave wood exposed for more than a couple of days
  2. Don't power wash (no need to introduce water into the wood)
  3. Once you have primed, plan on painting asap.
  4. Realize that the actual painting is the easy part (and the most fun)The old addage that painting is 90% prep is WRONG--It's more like 98%.If you do it right the first time, the paint will last longer, and the next time you do paint, it will be easier.


REPAIR/MOLDING REMOVAL: Where possible, I like to take down any molding that is loose, in poor shape, and which can be done easily. Doing this allows you to:

  1. Have easier access for complete paint removal (see below)
  2. Allows you to repair, epoxy (see below), prime (and back prime), and paint the molding while safely on the ground—this is especially helpful when the molding is different color than other areas…This allows a nice clean line when re-installed, and only requires some touch up when done.
  3. This also allows you to repair, epoxy, prime and paint BEHIND the molding (before it is re-installed).
  4. NOTE: Molding removal and repair can be done PRIOR to painting (kind of like making your dessert a couple of days in advance of the dinner party)…and then placed on the house at a latter date.

This would also be the time to make any necessary repairs to the building itself (For us, we had to replace the 1970’s aluminum windows with wood…we also had to replace siding and repair other areas…Our house was covered in Stucco and Asphalt—but that is another story).

It also became apparent that many of the old square cut nails in the siding just wasn’t cutting the mustard any more…The nails were rusting, popping through the siding, and the wood was “rotting” around the nails…I suspect this was happening in Peter’s case too. This is a recipe for disaster for a newly painted house…So now is the time to deal with it….

We took 8,000 stainless steel screws and counter sunk them into the siding….While doing this, the siding was strengthened and pulled back toward the studs, thus making the old nails “pop” out. Now we could go around and pull most of the old nails out…

While, the siding didn’t look too good with all the counter sunk holes in it, the siding was strengthened and the holes would be dealt with later (see below).

STRIPPING: Paint is like roofing--while you can add more layers, at some point it all has to come off. And, like that other form of stripping, watching someone strip might be enjoyable, but when you have to do it yourself, you feel dirty, tired, and degraded. Stripping is ugly business...something that I like to get over as soon as possible...That's why I used one of these...

The Metabo Paint Remover does a good job of taking the paint down to bare wood. It gets right up to the edge of materials and most nooks and crannies. It can do some serious damage to your wood, if you aren’t careful…so watch it. But the Metabo does a great (and fast) job of removing paint over large areas. Be forewarned…you are in for a workout.

You can also hook it up to a vacuum hose and keep the dust down—but dust will be a fact of life….soooo, make sure you use a good respirator, goggles, and other safety equipment. Take all the necessary precautions when dealing with lead paint.
Although the Metabo does a good job of removing paint, it doesn’t like nails, so be on the lookout for any nails you may have missed earlier.

I suggest stripping only one side of the building at a time…This way the wood isn’t exposed any longer than necessary.

Use a heat gun for those areas that the Metabo cannot get to (we used the heat gun on the corbels, some trim etc.)

DIGGING OUT THE ROTTED/PUNKY WOOD: After taking off the paint, it is time to remove any wood that is rotted or “punky.” We took a Dremel tool and removed the soft/rotted wood where all the old nail holes existed…as well as any other areas that needed it. Soft/rotted wood is going to make your paint fail, so it is better to deal with it now.

CONGRATULATIONS—YOU’VE HIT BOTTOM: At this point, your home will look about as bad as it ever will—you’ve got missing molding, holes in your siding, rotten wood removed, etc. It will look bad—real bad, but from this point forward, it should start to get better.

The first step is to sand everything using one of a ROS and handsanding (or use a Fein multi sander to reach other areas). I used 60 grit to take out the marks left by the Metabo, and finished with 100 grit to make the siding as smooth as a baby’s butt.

Once everything has been sanded, it is time to start applying the liquid….But first, blow off all the dust and/or wipe down the area with tack cloths—do not introduce water into the wood or use a power washer…big mistake.

SEALING/PRIMING STAGE--PENETRATING EPOXY: Penetrating epoxy is a product used extensively in the wooden boat industry. It is a two-part mixture, that is extremely thin, very smelly, and ridiculously expensive—costing about $50.00 to $60.00 per gallon…BUT, boy does it do what it is supposed to do…Which is to soak deep into the wood, bind the wood fibers, protect against water, and provide an excellent substrate for filling in all those holes in your siding, as well as a “grippy” surface for your primer (which will come in time). One other benefit, for those of us on the west coast, is that the CPES will help stop the tannins in the wood from bleeding through—a common problem for redwood siding.

I used Smith and Company’s Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer (CPES). This stuff is sooo thin, that it is hard to deal with… Make sure you have everything below covered, because it will drip. But it is this very thinness that allows the liquid to soak into the wood.

I used a roller (where possible) and a brush…Keep feeding the liquid into the wood until it won’t take any more…especially on end grain. You will be amazed how it soaks into the wood. This product will do wonders in protecting your wood, solidifying it, and keeping future rot at bay. If you want more information you can get it here.

For the molding that you have taken off, you can completely submerge in the CPES, or at the very least, soak the ends in the product and “paint” on the rest.

I used CPES on all wood on the house—including any “new” wood that I added back on to the house (many missing details were milled and added back onto the home).

FILLING IN THE HOLES: Once the penetrating epoxy has dried (usually the next day) It is time to fill in the holes and re-shape any damaged wood with an epoxy filler. I used Smith and Company’s Fill-it Epoxy.

This is a two part mixture that has the consistency of peanut butter when mixed together. I made a mixing paddle out of ¼ inch plywood (with a hole for my thumb) and used a small putty knife to mix together and apply to the wood.

The great thing about the filler epoxy is that it doesn’t shrink or sag, stays where you put it (like over your head), grips to the wood (CPES) like crazy, sands like a dream, and takes paint well. Wood putty and spackle are so inferior to this product…Beware—again it is expensive and harder to work with, But, it will far outlast any other product, and you can shape and mold any missing features that have been rotted out or fallen off your home.

You apply this product slightly “proud” of the wood surface, let it dry (usually overnight), and then sand down smooth. For those areas that need a lot of filler, you can apply in several coats (after drying in between) until you get it to the thickness you need.

After sanding down the filler, dust everything off again, and get ready for the primer.….

HEY, IT’S FINALLY TIME TO START APPLYING PAINT—SORT OF: Now that the siding has been prepped, it is time to start applying paint—well actually primer. We used Zinnser Cover-All Oil based primer. One coat over the CPES was sufficient. It is important to do this once the CPES has dried, but don’t wait days—try to do this as soon as possible, because the primer will grip to the CPES best when it is fresh….Also, the CPES, like all epoxies will start degrading in the sun…so get it covered asap…

Once the primer has dried, you can apply a good polyurethane caulk where needed. (Note, caulk is not a method for repair—and should be used sparingly). I like Sika-Flex or PL Polyurethane caulk—again harder to work with than water based caulks, but they stick and hold better too.

AHHHHH, PAINT! Now you can start painting—again do it as soon as the caulk dries. Read the fine print on most primers and it suggests topping with paint within 48 hours. I like to do the next day after applying caulk.

After the oil based primer, you can use latex—but use a high quality paint. I used Pratt and Lambert Accolade….and highly recommend it. But I’ve also heard good things about Benjamin Moore and California Paints, but don’t have any experience with them. P&L has done well for me in the past.

Apply the paint with good quality brushes (I like Purdy) and create your masterpiece. This is the fun part—instant gratification with each stroke…After all the work prepping, you will enjoy this part—and the neighbors will start to notice.

After the first coat of latex reinstall the molding (already CPES’d, primed, and painted) and come back and do a second coat of latex and touch up any nail holes etc in the molding.
Then sit back and enjoy your work for the next few years…And the next time you paint, you won’t have to go to this level of prep, because the surface with be in much, much better shape (with the CPES and Filler)….In all likelihood, it will be a matter of some sanding, perhaps some priming, and painting. But don’t think of that now…you’ve got a freshly painted house that you can be proud of…enjoy.