Doing It Ourselves

We come home from our jobs and then the real work begins. Putting our own labor into the house is important to us, and it was kind of part of the deal when we decided to buy such a tremendous project. Our combined skill set is sizable and growing by the day. Anything that we have the knowledge and ability to do, we do ourselves. When this house is finished, it will be filled with our blood, our sweat, and probably more of my tears than I would care to admit. And it will be undeniably ours.

The first big task was painting the house, which falls into the category of things we can do.

First came the power washing, which was immediately halted by the discovery of hundreds of very angry wasps who had made homes in various corners of the outer structure. For several hours one terrible day Cory sprayed down a great many wasp nests wearing a bright yellow rain suit turned "wasp-proof" by duct-taping closed all possible openings. Passing neighbors were frightened that we had uncovered something truly terrible in the house since he resembled a member of a hazmat crew. His panicked sprints across the yard to avoid being stung likely did not calm their fears. It saddens me to tell you that I have no pictures of Cory in all of this glory.

Once the area was safe to inhabit again sans wasp suit, we washed the outside of the house, cleaning away the dirt and knocking down the vines that had begun to crawl up the walls. Peeling layers of paint revealed that the stucco was originally colored red and then painted a sad shade of yellow before the house realized its true identity as a white house.

The house was unquestionably meant to be white. White brings it to life between the trees. White is like a light shining on top of the hill. White is perhaps the most difficult paint color to choose, especially when you are choosing it to cover several hundred square feet. When we bought the house it was clad in a chalky, grey white that felt cold and drab. I poured over the Sherwin-Williams fan deck, what seemed like hundreds of slightly varied shades of white before me, searching for the perfect one. Bauhaus Buff, Steamed Milk, Patience--how appropriate. I tried to imagine each tiny square of color multiplied by about a million. A handful of samples painted on the house and a lot of staring at them later, I picked Pure White, a beautiful true white that would add the warmth that our home was lacking. Armed with a fancy paint sprayer, Cory both primed and painted the entire exterior of our house himself. As the detail man on the job, I then took on the painting of the trim.

Those beautiful columns at the entry had been going through a serious identity crisis over the years, carrying the weight of dozens of layers of paint, a variety of colors piled on top of one another. In order to smooth their surface and prepare them for a new paint job, a heavy duty paint stripper was required. A really scary one with warning labels plastered all over it. Cory painted the thick gel on the columns, and I awkwardly slapped plastic sheeting overtop it whilst trying to protect my skin from being eaten by chemicals. We let the compound work its magic overnight and prepared to be amazed the next morning. We were not disappointed.

The architecture screams for a contrasting trim color. The columns at the entry, the little pointed roof of the turret shown below, and all of the decorative crossbars that cover the house are all cast out of cement. The molds they used to create all of this detail had to be incredible. I decided on the color Peppercorn--a dark true grey--to make these elements pop against the bright white stucco. Our home was beginning to look a bit more polished and a bit less forgotten.

One job down. About 1,000 more to go.