A Paint Story

Paint, that luscious, liquid velvety substance that can transform something old and dead into something sparkling and graceful. Here’s a short story about an amateur painters’ transformation to competency.

“So what is there to painting?” I thought when contemplating my brand-new 1951 house which was occupied by a former mental patient (really!) and had not been maintained at all for at least 20 years. The foundation was broken, there were cracks in the sheetrock everywhere, the inside was dirty beyond belief and the water had not been on for years. In addition, my 1951 beauty needed every inch of it painted. Many places on the house did not have any paint left at all which saved the bother of stripping. My new neighbors looked at me in amazement when I said that I was not going to demolish the house, that I was going to fix it.

With very little money.

Up to that point in my life, all I knew about paint was: primer is good, use a brush on doors and a foam brush is good for cabinet doors. That’s it. I wouldn’t have known a good paint job if it bit me.

I interviewed some painters. I could not afford them. So I went down to the local labor pool and hired day laborers and we got down to business. We washed the house inside and out from top to bottom for the first of what would be 3 times, it was that dirty. Then taped, floated, obtained some mid-range primer and paint then went at it.

My wife tried to recruit friends to help paint. Bad idea. We had passed the time in our lives where some pizza and beer was all that was needed to get people to come over and use a brush. No one except my teenage niece and her friends came over. They ended up having a paint fight. This was no good.

The house ended up with an adequate paint job, and from what it was before it was splendid. However, you could see brush strokes on the doors and cabinets, there was stray paint on most of the doorknobs, contributing to just a little bit of a slovenly look. I wasn’t entirely satisfied but it was educational and the price was right.

Then my first house flip came along. This was not a low-end job. It was a big, horribly designed home in an expensive neighborhood. I bought it on foreclosure with a huge amount of padding built into my budget because this was my first time. It turned out that I needed it.

I made some amateur mistakes on this one, painting it piecemeal at first as we made architectural changes to it. One day my carpenter noted: “You know, you should have just waited to the end and painted it all at once.” He was right, but I did not have the confidence at the time to do that.

I knew that the buyer would be high-end clients so I cherry-picked a painter from a new home that was being built on the same block. He turned out to be the most phenomenal painter I have ever seen. A former automobile painter, he had techniques that crossed over from that demanding environment. It was like watching a ballet how quickly and beautifully him and his crew worked. Everything sanded to perfection, everything masked off and sprayed with the highest quality paint. The door jambs and trim became flawlessly smooth to the eye and touch. I watched, marveled and envied. I now knew what a good paint job was.

After much anxiety, the job was done and the house sold for a good price. I wanted to try out the new techniques myself. My victim was an old bookshelf I had painted myself when I was 13 years old. My wife and I stripped it and sanded it carefully. We bought top of the line enamel paint. Then I got out my automotive paint gun and went to work. The result: a baby’s behind finish that feels as good as it looks. I had finally arrived.

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