Painting my house (among other things)

I need a weekend from my weekend. ‘Course, it’s my fault for trying to do so much at once.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been preparing to paint my house. (The outside, that is.) I should have painted it last year, as my home inspector suggested, but I had a few things that kinda got in the way (moving into the house, my housewarming party, a wedding, and the CBC 50th Anniversary train). By the time I could have done it, the weather was too cold.

Once the roof was reshingled (an expensive but necessary repair), I set down to start painting. I didn’t have to strip all the paint off, but I did have to remove paint from around the windows and the front door. Most of it had disintegrated and really needed to be replaced. The rest I can paint over.

Weather and a few too many activities last week delayed my start, which I pegged as Saturday. However, I had forgotten about one little detail: I’d already promised to help my friends Fritz and Jin move into their new condo.

This, I might add, I was more than happy to do. Fritz had helped me move last year, so this was my turn. Luckily, Fritz didn’t have anything truly awkward (except maybe the futon), so it was just a matter of hauling things around. There were five of us actually moving things: Fritz, Doug, Adrian, Godfrey, and myself. Jin was still frantically packing when I arrived just after 9:00.

Fritz appeared minutes after me, carrying breakfast. (Had I known, I wouldn’t have hit Tim Horton’s before coming over.) Scarfing down a sausage McMuffin and a hashbrown, we proceeded to cart down boxes, tables, cabinets, beds (in pieces, of course), sheets of glass (from the tables), chairs, bags of who-knows-what, candlesticks (big ones), lights, paintings … we wouldn’t taken the doors, the toilet, and the kitchen sink if we could have gotten away with them.

The hardest part of moving is going out. Because everything is spread out, it’s hard to gauge how much room they’ll take in the truck. Although Fritz had rented a medium-sized U-Haul, it wasn’t immediately clear how well everything would fit. Having moved too many times for my own good, I was confident that we’d get everything there in one trip.

Slowly, but sure, the truck began to fill up. Godfrey had brought his pick-up truck, which would end up carrying a spare bed and a bicycle. Adrian’s Golf carried the TV and the computer. My Mini carried the glass from the tables. The truck was filled quite well, but far from capacity. We could have quite easily packed in many more things, but ultimately there was no need for such efficiency. Besides, Fritz and Jin don’t have that much stuff.

(In fact, that ended up being a debate: who had more stuff in their move? Tamara and myself, or Fritz and Jin? We couldn’t decide.)

The new condo is quite literally that — new. In fact, it’s still being finished. The condo was supposed to be ready last year. An accident set off one of the largest fires seen in Calgary, destroying most of the complex, and damaging a few units that had been finished years earlier. (Critical Mass’ HR director fled home when she found out to save her cat. Luckily, her unit was spared damage.)

The smell of fresh paint, carpet adhesive, and fresh-cut wood permeated the air. Banging could be heard from nearly every direction. (The crews have been working non-stop to finish the condos.) Our first obstacle was finding a place to park — the streets around Fritz and Jin’s condo were littered with construction vehicles. We ended up in a no-park zone.

Next obstacle: stairs. There were no ramps, no direct access to the lobby. The architects weren’t particularly bright on that point, in my opinion. Lucky, nothing was particularly heavy. All we had to do was reverse the process (significantly easier) and move everything into the condo.

Unpacking the trucks and cars would have taken less time than packing, were it not for the stairs and an elevator that were “in the way”. But even with that and Godfrey’s early departure, we still finished the move in about four hours. There was only one causality, a floor lamp that appeared to have had the threads stripped from one of its joints. (The lamp still works.)

The move over, Fritz returned the U-Haul, and we headed over to Fujiyama for a post-move meal. Adrian, Doug, Fritz and Jin would return to the condo to sort out the contents. I, however, had a house to paint. Or more specifically, needed to get supplies with which to paint.

Luckily, I knew what I wanted. Basic white paint, a can of green for accents, a couple of brushes, and a paint gun. Yeah, I know — what do I really need a paint gun for? Why not use brushes, right? Well, considering the amount of painting that I’ll need to do on a (semi-)regular basis, I think the cost of the paint gun will far outweigh the time I’d have to spend painting by hand. And it’ll save wrist strain.

One other thing that I needed to get, which I determined after an inability to borrow one from someone, was a power washer. Every single site I read and every person I talked to said that I had to wash my house before applying the paint, otherwise it wouldn’t stick as well. Trips to Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire revealed models running from $129 to over $800. I settled for a little 1200 PSI Karcher.

Rent? Oh yeah, I could have definitely rented both. But I’d have paid for it in the long run. The paint gun would have run me up quickly, to the point where I’d have paid more for renting than for owning. As for the power washer, the only rentals were gas-powered monsters that could strip not only the paint but probably some of the wood. (For the record, 1200 PSI is plenty for washing dirt, etc. from a house.)

Changing into my painting clothes, I set about to wash down the house and prepare to start painting the next day. For the next three or so hours, I proceeded to get very wet and very dirty. I had paint chips, dirt, insect carcases, water (of course), and Heaven-knows-what-else rain down on me as I removed all the gunk the house has been collecting since the last time someone took the time to do the job. I’m reasonably certain it wasn’t the last owner.

With the house dripping wet, there was nothing I could do until the next morning. Tired from a day of moving and cleaning, I opted for a steak dinner. On my way to the store, I felt the need to obtain a cold beverage with which to relax. Imagine my shock and delight when, wedged next to Sleeman’s Honey Brown, I found the long-missed lime-green packaging of Steam Whistle Pilsner. Life was definitely getting better.

Originally planning to rise at 8:00, I evicted myself from bed around 9:00, opting for an extra hour of rest. Saturday still had me worn out, and I had a long day ahead of me.

Task #1: Read the instructions for the paint gun. The last thing I want to do is screw the thing up. With the early morning, it was an ideal time to try and paint a portion of the house not easily seen — the north cupola (containing the bathroom) wall. This requires me to climb onto the roof on my fancy-schmancy ladder. (It bends in three places to help me do just what I was trying to do.)

This is when I found out just how steep my roof is, and how there was no way I would have been able to reshingle the roof on my own. In fact, the roof is so steep that I couldn’t even climb off the ladder (which bent onto the roof) and climb up on my own. The shingles don’t help — they’re flat so there’s no grit on which to gain a foothold. I only managed to paint part of the small wall. As it was more a test than a task, I didn’t mind too much.

As a result of my resounding non-success, I realized that I needed a paint roller to reach the more inaccessible areas. Either that, or mountaineering gear so I could climb up the side of my roof. Either, I resolved to paint the rest later.

The rising sun prevented me from tackling the rear or east walls. (I’m leaving the west wall for sometime later, when there’s less pressure. You can’t see it unless you go into my neighbour’s yard, anyway.) I wasn’t too keen on doing the front of the house until I had a little more practice with the gun. I decided to give the stripped windows their first shot of green paint.

About 11:30, I broke for a shower. Nana had invited me to the grand opening of her condo complex in the north end of town, and I wasn’t about to show up looking like I’d just done battle against a flock of birds with the runs.

Nana lives in a retirement complex. Basically, an apartment building for people with not as much mobility as they once had. The amenities include a cafeteria (with pretty decent food, I’m told), nice views of a small man-made lake, exercise room, library, theatre (and a darn nice one, at that), and a wonderful little courtyard. The complex is next to a new strip-mall that has an IGA, various little shops, and 17 food service establishments.

Nana fed me lunch. It was supposed to be a BLT, but I don’t like raw T. In fact, I can’t stand ’em. I can eat T any other way, just not raw. So I had a BLC (cheese). It was still yummy.

The party started around 13:00, and we hung around for about 45 minutes. It seemed to be little more than just a gathering. There seemed to be no official announcements, or greetings, or ceremony of any kind. Nana opted to give me the guided tour of the facilities in lieu of waiting around for something that didn’t seem to be happening.

We ended up at the balcony at the end of her hallway, just down from her apartment. The balcony looks north across the lake. It’s a wonderful view, even if it is towards another complex being built on the north side of the lake. We sat and talked for almost an hour before I took my leave to resume my house painting.

But I didn’t go right home — I made a stop by Revy to pick up the paint roller, tray, and an extension so I could reach those hard-to-reach places. I didn’t even get in the main entrance when my cell phone rang. It was my friend (and realtor) Robyn. Robyn has taken it upon herself (bless the woman) to be a matchmaker, and I’m her latest project.

It was a set-up. I knew it was. Just like Thursday night, when we’d met for drinks down at the Barley Mill. Unlike that time, however, plans were fairly definite: a movie at 19:05 where I’d meet Robyn’s mysterious woman. (We have talked on the phone — an impromptu Robyn set-up, when we were at the pub.) Although it was a movie I’d already seen, I figured that I’d like to meet this woman, I could stand to get out for a while, and besides — “Pirates of the Caribbean” is actually a pretty good movie.

Back at the ranch, I unpacked my newly-gotten booty, and got on with the show. The east wall was now in the shade, leaving me to start painting. I opted for the middle third of the wall, which is the section the cupola runs off of. The rollers helped me get the very top, which even my rather-long step ladder can’t reach. Of course, I got almost as much paint on me as I did on the wall and overhang.

Reaching the level, it was time for me to change and prepare for the movie. (Note: I do not use the word “date”. It was a group event, as to remove any pressure.) Just as I was about to walk out the door for the trip up, my phone rang. It was Robyn. It appeared that my mystery woman had developed car trouble, and had decided not to go. This pretty much eliminated my desire to go out, since I could finish more painting.

When I explained to Robyn that I’d rather paint, she was disappointed. But when I mentioned that I’d already seen the movie, she squealed in delight. I was willing to go see a movie I’d already seen just so I could meet a girl! I suddenly felt like I was in high school again. (Of course, this sort of thing never happened to me in high school.)

Back into my painting gear, I tackled the rest of the east wall, and slid around to the east side of the south wall. I shut down the paint gun for the night after that. Although very fast, it’s quiet noisy and would probably bother my neighbours. I opted to give the windows a second coat of green, and apply a first coat to the window sills on the east wall.

The sunlight gone along with the remainder of my energy, I went for a late dinner. I already knew that today was going to be rough. My arms are sore (from holding a fully-extended paint roller at a distance), my feet are killing me (standing on ladders), and I’ve got paint edged under every fingernail.

And I’ve still got about 3/4 of a house to paint.