News from June 2008

Repainting the Outside of an Old House

Occurred June 09, 2008 (Permalink)
Before and After
Before and After

After nearly 100 years, it was time for the old paint on my house to go. Despite my attempts to keep the green tidy, there were so many layers of (lead) paint on the wood that the bottom layers of paint were peeling off the wood, leading first to the ugly alligator look and later to massive paint damage and eventual wood rot. Solution: remove old paint, apply new paint. Regrettably, this is _expensive_ as heck--preparing the site for possible lead contamination and scraping the old paint have to happen before priming, sanding, and spraying on the new coats of paint. When I bid out this project, there were not many takers--most painting firms in the Portland area refused to tackle the removal part, and the industrial paint removal firms charge an arm and a leg. Yuck. But it was time to repaint my house from scratch.

The oracle of Angie's List (offsite) put me on to a company in Hillsboro called Shades of Rose Painting (offsite). Their estimate was fairly costly (15k) in terms of raw dollars, but adding up the amount of square footage on my house I came up with about 2,000 square feet of wall space on the outside of the house. Not really all that bad, considering that they promised safe removal tactics and two coats of Miller paint. After my month of reviewing cars, I called them up and they arranged to start work two weeks later. Sweet.

The first step of removal is to get the old paint off the house. In the old days people have used bad techniques such as pressure washers (spraying a large quantity of water at your house strips the grain and erodes the bond with the new paint), torches (burning the paint releases lead into the air), heat guns (slow) and sanding (releases lead particles all over the ground). Shades of Rose employed infrared lights, which soften the paint to the point where it can be scraped off the house in large pieces. Every morning they would lay out big tarps to catch the paint scraps, and every afternoon they would carefully bag them up and vacuum the work area to minimize the lead spread. The scraping technique, incidentally, is not 100% successful at getting the paint off, but it comes quite close. In many places one could see wood grain that hasn't been exposed to light in a century. The exposure did not last long, however--almost as soon as they finished stripping a section, they would roll some primer over the area so that the wood would not absorb too much moisture.

At the same time, I hired a carpenter to come to the house and fix various things that were wrong with my house. The back of the garage had ugly vertical LP siding (and the back porch had plywood), which I replaced with siding to match that of the house. This was rather tricky, as 2.5" siding is no longer made. He had to buy regular 4" siding and rip it to the correct lengths, but it looks awesome. He also tore out and replaced all the rotten parts of the front porch and replaced the ugly metal handrails with wooden ones that match the railing on the front porch. He also fixed the stairs that had rotted away.

After two weeks of listening to scraping and squeaking noises, the painters were done! They came back with big cans of gray-blue primer and sprayed it all over the house. The primer dried for a day, then Amish Green was sprayed on in two coats. Next, the window and door trim; fascia boards; porch trim were hand-painted with Plum Island; and accents on the windows and the brackets were painted a straight white. After several days' rain delay, the porch floors and stairs were painted Codman Claret and covered with an enamel. The house looks awesome! It only took three weeks! As an aside, I'm painting the inside, though it'll be a while before I finish. I still have two rooms to paint, trim to repair, picture rail to install, and window sashes to paint.

Repainting the Inside of an Old House

Occurred June 18, 2008 (Permalink)
Living Room
Living Room

After months and months of work, my house is fully repainted, outside and inside! The story of the exterior was told in the previous entry; this time I shall detail the interior work. Before I start, there are pictures of all the newly colored rooms! No more landlord white on the main level!

Some readers may recall that I started painting the house back in March. At that time I knew that I wanted a warm, cozy red for the dining room, and I figured that I could make the kitchen warmer by replacing the white with a sprightly yellow. I didn't really know _why_ those colors appealed to me so strongly, but I went with them anyway. I hadn't consulted any books on color theory, thought of a color wheel as a sort of odd way to represent a linear frequency spectrum, and the whole notion of integrated color schemes was but a foreign concept to me. However, I bought the red and yellow from Rodda, double-coated both rooms, and with relatively good results. Rodda paints are decently good, but they're not particularly thick; indeed, after two coats the dining room has a sort of odd flowly unevenness to it. Fortunately, this look gives the color texture, so I wasn't tempted to redo it during the second phase.

Kitchen
Kitchen

Following March's car accident, I had plenty of time to contemplate the next batch of colors. For one thing, I did not want to have to triple-coat any room that has dark colors. Later, this became a desire not to have to double-coat any room! It's fun to watch the color go up, but there's only one of me and I don't have quite the energy for it. What is more, there's a really evil thing that goes on with color choices--anybody that's been to the paint section of a Home Depot knows that you walk in front of the display case of color swatches and ... BAM. There are 1,500 colors or more for you to choose from! Fifty different varieties of yellow, one hundred blues, and so many variations on white that you want to run out of the store screaming.

Fortunately, Miller Paint (offsite) of Portland carries a brand, "Devine (offsite)", that just happen to address many of my complaints. Gone are the thousands of colors in a case; Gretchen Schauffler, the designer, provides 150 colors that she claims will work well together. I lack qualifications to verify this claim, though looking at the finished product I heartily opine that she's right. The 150 colors are separated into roughly fifteen color families of colors that complement each other quite pleasantly. This makes it much, much easier to choose a color scheme for one's house--instead of getting an arts degree, an actual artist has already figured this out herself. Woot. It also helps that the Devine paints are thick enough that in many cases one can get away with a single coat if one is careful to make it a thick coat.

Hallway
Hallway

I actually had been struggling with the Rodda greens, trying to get just the right dark sultry green color for the hallway. I think I might have laid down at least two or three different unsatisfactory ones before I bought the Devine packet. This packet contains 15 pages, one for each color category. Each page contains an actual solidified blob of paint, so that one can look at a real sample of dry paint to see how it works. Bravo, I say--I took one look at the Spruce color and that was the exact one that I wanted. From that moment, I was taken, and for the rest of the project I only went for Devine paint. The hallway got two coats of Spruce, after which I decided that double coating was probably overkill for such a thick paint.

Around this time, I decided to learn what a color wheel actually did, and how to use it for practical applications. I stumbled upon the Colour Lovers (offsite) blog, which was running a short feature on the history of the color wheel (offsite). To shorten the story, red, yellow and blue are primary colors; the primaries can be combined to produce the secondary colors green, violet, and orange. The tertiary colors are produced by combining a primary with an adjacent secondary. Colors directly across from each other on the wheel are complements, and colors next to each other analogous. Granted, I had picked up color wheels in the past and tried to examine their magic, but it was Colour Lovers that explained it in such a concise way that I could grasp it easily. So that was what all the art people learned in school that I never bothered to make time for. Sigh.

Rear Closet
Rear Closet

From this it was easy to form a plan for colors around the house--because the living room and dining room have very little separation, the living room had to be blue to oppose the red dining area. The central hallway has narrow doors to all other rooms in the house, so those rooms could all be painted with nearby colors--the yellow that was already in the kitchen, purple for the bathroom, and a lighter yellow for the staircase. The staircase was a really tricky deal--with dark green on the bottom and bright green and orange rooms upstairs, it was very, very hard to find a shade of anything that would look good in a staircase. I confess that the front entryway ended up tan as a calm, neutral buffer space between the outside and the inside. Oddly enough, the rear porch has no such buffer space--the bright interior and exterior colors abut, and the result is still pleasing to the eye. It was around this time that I realized why green, purple and red work so well outside--the three form an equilateral triangle on the color wheel, so they stand out from each other without clashing. I also couldn't decide which of two blues to paint the living room, so I chose both--the upper 10" of the walls are a dark blue cap, and the rest of the wall is a lighter blue. Careful readers will note that I have not yet fully specified a color scheme--no trim, no windows, and no bathroom. Those came later.

Bathroom
Bathroom

Despite that, I forged ahead with the colors that I was ready to commit to. For two weeks I scraped together every morsel of free time that I had so that I could push painting projects through. First I did the front entryway, then both staircases, then the living room, and finally the back closet. This done, I invited a few people in for a look, and they generally expressed a favorable reaction. However, I wasn't done yet--the bathroom had patches of color all over the place, the trim was still in tatters from the 2005 window replacement, and the sashes still had not been painted(!) The project was stalling, because I couldn't figure these three out. Well, I wish I could say that I made a careful evaluation of colors for the bathroom, which was very tricky because of the small patches of yellow sunlight, the intense but-not-as-yellow fluorescent light, and the white LEDs over the mirror. (See the next blog post about my lighting issues.) Unfortunately that's not what happened. Ann suggested stripes for the bathroom. It measured 351" around, which meant that I could create 39 stripes 9" wide. Or possibly an A-B-B pattern of 3 stripes for 13 groups. I applied some of the body blue paint that I'd used for the living room and started the light blue... only to realize that I'd be painting into next year if I kept this up. I'd started to go a little crazy by then, so I painted the entire room in the darker of the two bathroom blues. Nothing like a little mental instability to get things done.

Light blue stripes, going horizontally around the room. About chair rail height. Bingo, I'd come up with a plan for the bathroom that I didn't totally hate. So it went with the masking tape. Miller sells blue painter tape in quantities of several hundred feet, so I figured that I had plenty to blow. So I went around the room twice, intending to make a light blue "chair rail" 39-42" off the ground. Once the masking was in for that, I realized that it would look way cool to have not one big stripe, but two smaller ones going all the way around. With 1" tape, I could stick it right in the middle, and have everything come out. So I did.

Dormer Window
Dormer Window

Now, on to the windows. I decided that repainting the trim did not sound like a good idea. What is more, the white trim, now that it wasn't abutting white walls, actually looked quite elegant next to the multicolored drywall. I bought the closest match of white that I could find, and repaired all the holes in the trim that had been wrought by pets, the 2005 window installfest, and my own general abuse. What sort of color scheme would I choose for the still unpainted window sashes? This was a tricky one to figure out--either one comes up with a different sash color for each room, or one finds a semi-neutral color and ties the whole house together by painting every sash that same color. I chose the second option, and ventured a guess that black sashes might look good. Then I purchased some black construction paper and went around soliciting both my own opinion and other peoples'. The consensus? It would work. I set to work masking the windows, bought a can of black paint, and got to work. It took 2 days to paint 15 sashes as carefully as I could, let them dry (with a whirlwind of air blowing through the house!) and reinstalling each window. I think I have to say, the black next to the white looks awesome. Better yet, I was done!

I just looked at an old picture of the bathroom before the paint, and compared it to the one after the paint. It looks so different, I can barely believe it's the same house. Looks awesome. I love that blue color you used.

Thanks.

Those floor lamps behind your sofa in the living room... where did those come from? I need new lighting fixtures for my bedroom to match the new furniture I have, and those or something like them would probably work quite well. Must investigate...

Tar-jay.

Oh, and I must also say... I am blown away by how great those black window sashes look. They add so much to the house... really help to bring out the paint colors in the individual rooms, too.

Have you incorporated any other LED fixtures? I'm thinking they may be a good investment in the place that Maddy and I are about to move to. I've been doing some research but was wondering if you had any tips...

Nope. In general, the LED lights that I could find are useful either as small point lights (such as the bathroom ones) or have to be these huge sunflower-like contraptions in order to produce sufficient amounts of light. Scanning around the internet _today_, it would appear that there are bright and small LED lights. However, note one downside to LEDs--the white ones produce high color temperature (6000k) lights, not the warmer yellowish (2700k) light that we're accustomed to seeing. Same criticism as early fluorescent bulbs, but even those come in "warm yellow" varieties now.

Light Fixtures

Occurred June 21, 2008 (Permalink)
Dining Room Chandelier
Dining Room Chandelier

I wasn't quite done with the decorating. For years the dining room has been very dark and unwelcoming due to a huge brass umbrella of a light fixture that shines only down. Since the light has a dimmer switch, CF bulbs won't work with it, which meant that it was a light that reflects all the light and heat downwards into a big image of a circle on the floor. Not so good for dinner parties. The kitchen and bathroom were also suffering from hideous donut-tube fluorescent bulbs. Those all had to go, so I tore out the donut lights and bought new fixtures. The dining room got a dark brass chandelier with five upward-pointing lights with a metal leaf motif curling up the frosted glass shades. The old dining room lamp was moved over to a space directly above the countertops, and I had Jason order me a remote-control light switch since there was no existing wall switch for that electrical box. I also bought some dark brass fixtures for the ceilings in the bathroom and as a main light in the kitchen. These look way better than the ugly donut tubes! At last I can take the outdoor furniture that I got months ago and put them outside for some relaxation!

I have to say, I am quite a fan of the new light fixture in the dining room. It looks great. However, the two ceiling fixtures in the kitchen clash. They should both be black... or both be brass. This is my opinion.

They're both brass, just different versions of it.

Website Facelift

Occurred June 28, 2008 (Permalink)

Because it's 100 degrees today, I gave my website a bit of a facelift. Headings and navigation links are now in the Futura font. Body text is now in the Baskerville font, and the banner atop each page is now redone with embossed Futura and a backdrop of the panorama taken from the top of Steens Mountain.

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