How to Paint a Really Old House

These past couple of weeks we have been quite busy painting the parlor floor in our house, and every day that I paint, I think that I should write down everything that I am learning so that I can remember to do it properly next time.  Here is what I have learned from my own trial and error and from a brief house-painting career in 2002. If you are painting for the first time (or the first time in a while), Manhattan Nest also provides a great guide. Please forgive my photos, most of them are taken on my phone and/or with my left hand.

1. Hold your paintbrush like this - it will make your hand steadier, your lines cleaner, and your coverage better.

 2. Carry a clean, damp rag.  This is for dust.  In old houses, and especially in ornate detailing, dust hides in every nook and cranny.  Dust is a painters nightmare.  If you blow on it or wipe it away, you risk it landing on your wet paint.  A wet cloth will allow you to wipe it up without getting it everywhere. This can also be used for hits - when you get paint on something that you didn't want to paint.

Dirty moldings.
3.  You will need a ladder, so invest in a painters step ladder. You may become distracted by all the fancy ladders that extend and retract, but they are expensive, heavy and can be a pain to use. You want something light enough that you can move it around frequently, and something with a tray on it where you can put your paint so that you don't have to keep climbing down for more paint. Alternatively, professional painters often hook their paint cans to the steps of their ladders.

Update!: I would advise against using a 5 gallon tub as a foot stool.  If you must do so, please make sure that it is closed properly or else this might happen to you...

4.  Take a step back.  All wet paint looks much better at a distance. 

5.  Know that if your house isn't perfect, your painting job won't look perfect.  Accept and embrace this.

This line (between the molding and the wall) is so bumpy that it will never be straight.
6.  Patch holes and dents, let dry and sand and clean before painting, but you don't have to go too crazy.  Its easy to get caught up trying to make everything look straight and perfect, but this stuff can take forever and be very costly, so just remember who you you are doing this for.  When it comes to perfecting you walls moldings and doors, chose your battles, remembering that you are probably the only one that will notice some of these defects (or at least the only one to care).  All of the moldings walls and doors in our house were severely banged up.  We could spend months, if not years, fixing them.  In some cases, we decided to put in the time and effort to completely repair, in others we patched, and in some cases we just painted right over the mess.  We do after all have a whole house to renovate, with limited time and funds.  And besides, these lumps and bumps are what give old homes their character. 

This door is actually covered with dents and bumps.  We filled in some cracks, sanded it down and painted it, and from two feet away you can hardly tell.

7.  Paint from top to bottom.  Paint drips downward. Using the image below as an example, if you paint the bottom molding before the wall above it, there is a good chance that the paint from your wall will drip on to the molding and you will have to redo the molding. If you paint the molding second, you can cover up any drips with your first coat.

8.  Invest in good paint brushes and rollers.  Cheap ones will drive you nuts.  Make sure the brush bristles are soft  - this will make them cover details much more easily. 

9.  Wash your brushes every night or when you are putting away your paint for an extended period of time.  This will add to their longevity and make them easier to use.  If you are just going for lunch you can wrap your brush tightly in a plastic bag, this will prevent them from drying up.

10.  Take it easy.  Painting is one of those tedious jobs where any effort to speed up will almost surely slow you down in the long run.  Painting long straight lines takes patience, as does covering a whole wall with a roller   Going too fast with a brush is likely to cause you to get paint all over the place and going too fast with a roller will cause your roller to spray tiny bits of paint everywhere.


How to Pull a 400 lb Bathtub Up the Stairs (please don't actually do this, its a terrible idea)

We've had a bit of bathtub drama over the past few weeks. First, our bathtub delivery was delayed because it was stuck in a snowstorm in Chicago, of all places. Then when it finally arrived it was damaged! Another bathtub was ordered and when the second bath tub arrived, a full 6 weeks after it was initially scheduled, it was ALSO DAMAGED.  And not damaged just enough for me to ask for a deal and take it, (which I tried) but dented, scratched, gauged to the point where it was not usable. By the time this happened yesterday, my contractor was about to internally combust, and I also was not far from loosing my mind. So, I marched down the plumbing store, picked myself a not-too-bad, in-stock second choice and had it delivered today.  This is what transpired afterward.

How to Pull a 400 lb Bathtub Up the Stairs 

1. Realize that the new 32", 400lb bathtub does not fit up out 30" stairs, and that delivery services do not include getting it up the stairs.

2.  Decide to put the tub on wooden skis, and pull it up the stairs.

3.  Cut the wall at the top of the stairs to accommodate tub size.

4.  Attach multiple ratchet straps to the house joists and then to the bathtub. 

5. Spend roughly 2 hours ratcheting the tub up  the stairs, making sure to tighten each of the straps, as they act as brakes making sure the tub doesn't rocket down the stairs killing everything in its path.

6. Celebrate!

Note: Please please please do not do this.  This was a really crazy, totally unsafe idea borne out of desperation.  It also was carried out by a contractor and two people with an abnormal level of comfort using ratchet straps.


Hallway update!

The progression of the hallway.
Among the renovations that we are doing at the house, we are adding a powder room and closet to the parlor floor.  To do so, we needed doors. We could have bought some at Home Depot, but I wanted to use whatever material we could from the house, and was afraid that anything less 95" doors that matched the kitchen entrance (left) would look a little dinky next to their giant counterpart.  I hatched a plan to take the living room doors off of their hinges, trim them down to 28" and hang them in the powder room and closet.  My father - who would be doing the work - was skeptical. Doors so big required him to make custom frames, add extra strong hinges,  and to shave roughly 4 inches off of each of the doors, which were already in rough shape. Nevertheless, he did it, and they look fantastic -they look like they have always been a part of the house. Please forgive the pictures! The mots recent ones I took last night in the dark because I was too excited to wait, and the older ones were taken on my phone when we first bought the house.

The living room doors before being removed, repaired and rehung. 


3 Days, 3 States and 3 Mountains

Dave hiking Mary's Nipple, Grand Targhee Resort, Alta, Wyoming.
We just completed an epic road trip - 3 days, 3 states (Idaho, Montana and Wyoming), 3 mountains (Sun Valley, Big Sky and Grand Targhee).

Yesterday we had a nice day of skiing at Big Sky and decided to head down to Grand Targhee where we heard they were supposed to be receiving anywhere from 5-10 inches of snow. The 4 hour drive through Yellowstone and Targhee National Forests was beautiful. We were enjoying the scenery until we hit a blizzard, which was a bit scary as we were forced to drive 10 mph with our hazards on.

Luckily we reached our final destination - the Super 8 in Driggs, Idaho - without incident.

The calm before the storm. Yellowstone National Park.
This morning started off with a bit of a hitch - I left the headlights on overnight and needed to get the car jump started - but we ended up having an amazing day of skiing at Grand Targhee.

Grand Targhee, located in Alta, WY, is known to be a great place for skiers seeking powder. It is in the snow belt and receives over 500 inches of snow each year. Also, being pretty out of the way allows skiers who can get there on a powder day to have their pick of fresh tracks all day.

Our first run was right off the main lift and despite being a good 30 minutes after the lifts opened to the public we got to lay down some fresh tracks. As we got back on the chairlift we were joined by a Targhee employee named Scott who had just finished working in the terrain park. After chatting with Scott on the ride up, he asked if we wanted to ski a run with him. One run turned into 3 hours involving hikes up Mary's Nipple and Peaked, a view of Grand Teton, and some first tracks in fresh powder with nobody in sight.

Catee Hiking Mary's Nipple.
After an epic day of skiing we hopped back into the car and completed our road trip with some beef jerky and a 4 and a half hour drive back to Sun Valley.

You know you are in Idaho when...

It's nice to finish a road trip and still be on vacation - we have three more days in Sun Valley before we head home.

No explanation needed.


Driggs, Idaho

Big Southern Butte, Snake River Plain, Idaho.
After a lovely dinner with Jenn at Montana Aleworks, a great day of skiing at Big Sky in Montana, and  hours of driving listening to This American Life and the Current, we have arrived in the Super 8 (my favorite- I love motels!) in Driggs.  Now we're unwinding watching Forrest Gump, getting ready for another day of skiing.

Somewhere in Idaho!
Yellowstone National Park, Montana.
Arco, Idaho.
Arco, Idaho
Arco, Idaho.
Near Big Sky, Montana



Overexposed mountains, Idaho

Craters of the Moon Tourist Shop, Idaho
Craters of the Moon National Park, Idaho
Big Sky, Montana
Big Sky, Montana
Lewis and Clark Motel, Bozeman, Montana


Road Trip!

Ever since I moved to the US I have been telling Dave that I need to know this country more than I do.  I need to travel, and what better way than by road?  Tomorrow we are finally doing it. We leave Sun Valley Idaho for Bozeman, Montana in the morning because A) we can, B) its fun and new, C) our good friend Jenn Bain just moved there. It doesn't hurt that we are also following the snow - if all goes as planned we will get some freshies at Big Sky, Montana and Grand Targhee, Wyoming.

More pics to come...


R&R in Sun Valley

We are currently on vacation in Sun Valley, Idaho. You may say that is an interesting choice considering we are in the middle of a massive renovation project and we need to move into our new home by the end of the month. If you were thinking that you would be right, but we are here nonetheless.

To be fair, we actually planned this trip before we bought the house, so we have that as an excuse.
What is keeping us from freaking out and canceling our trip is that we have some pretty amazing parents. Catee's parents are back in Brooklyn camping out at the house overseeing renovations, while my parents are taking care of Saydie - and they were the one's who gave us this trip in the first place as a present after winning the house in a Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) silent auction.

So thanks to Germain, Ron, Colleen and Pauline, we get to enjoy some R&R and spring skiing for the next week.