Can I Paint Today? Can I? Can I, Please?

Here in Kansas it is possible to paint the exterior of your house all through to the end of December. CAVEAT: just not every day. It becomes kinda hit or miss these two months. Once I had 70 degree weather between Christmas and New Years. So, I removed the exterior wall in my kitchen — sure, why not? — and rebuilt it. The wall went from having one tiny south-facing window to having a beveled-glass door, and two matching beveled-glass sidelights, opening onto a new deck (which I built in the spring).

The whole wall was new, and I managed to get it finished, insulated, and with the new exterior siding having a coat of primer, before the temperature dropped to like 12 degrees on January 3.

Kansas is like that.



I am trying to get the main facade of the Cross House painted before January. As such, I am now paying daily attention to the weather. Breathlessly, I begin each day at the computer clicking on WeatherUnderground and waiting for the results. Does the ten-day forecast show any days above 50 dregrees — the threshold for painting?

Today is Thankgiving. The high was 46. Too cold to paint. Sensibly, I stayed home and enjoyed the traditions of the holiday, including having not one but two pieces of pumpkin cheesecake with whip cream. However, had the temperature been above 50, traditions be damned! I would have been up on scaffolding with paint brush in one hand (and, likely, a piece of pumpkin cheesecake in the other).

Tomorrow however are TWO predicted days of — I am agog — over 60 degrees. Whoee!!!!!!!! Over 60!!!!!!!! Whoee!!!!!!!!



The main facade of the Cross House, November 2014. The round tower is 99% painted. The dormer is painted. I am now concentrating on the octagon tower.



A close-up of the octagon tower.



A close-up of the octagon tower, before I extended the scaffolding to the left. Now, see where the tower meets the roof? All looks well in the image, but when I extended the scaffolding to the left, and could for the first time get intimate where the tower meets roof, I was a bit startled.


The wall shingles are original. They are in pretty good shape, particular considering that they are 120-years-old. The main roof also — stunningly — retains its original wood shingles, but these are buried under the circa-1940 diamond-tile roofing tiles. The tiles are not particularly attractive but a retired roofer gave me good advice. He says that people regularly tear off these style tiles but later regret it. This is because such tiles last forever. “And I mean forever,” he emphasized. This is because the tiles are made of, gulp, asbestos. Of course, as long as I do not disturb the tiles they pose no health risk. And they will long outlive me.

Anyway, at the junction of where octagon tower meets roof the 1940s roofing guys simply laid the new tiles upon the old roof. Under the old roof is also the original flashing where tower meets roof. This means that since the 1940s, when rain hits that section of the octagon tower, it falls down the wall, bypassing the 1940s roofing tiles, wets the 1894 wood roofing, and then is directed by 120-year-old flashing into the built-in gutter.

This is so not good.

And the whole 1940s roof is like this. Sorry for my language but the only proper response is: Fuck

However, in all the instances so far encountered where the 1940s roofing buts up against a tower/dormer/chimney the clearance is quite thin, and a good caulk bead offers adequate protection. Until the caulk needs to be redone.

This was not the case where octagon tower met roof. There was a gap of almost two-inches between the wall shingles and the 1940s roofing. Geez.



My butt is sitting on the 1940s roofing tiles. My back is to the center dormer. I am looking at (and so are you) the side of the octagon tower where it meets roof. I had to install new flashing at this junction, and in order to do so I had to remove the wall shingles. While they were in good shape (amazing!) they were highly reluctant to be removed and protested mightily. But I am stronger. So they all, rather passive-aggressivly, IMO, snapped in half.



New western red cedar shingles to the rescue! [NOTE: The nail heads on the upper-most row of shingles will get covered by a temporarily removed trim piece.]

For reasons I cannot explain, even though this junction of roof/tower should have rotted out because of the condition described above, there is no evidence inside the house of any water damage in this area.

That said, let us rejoin an image:



You see the black wall section, second-floor, and just to the left of the octagon tower? That is tar paper. I put it up after realizing that all the shingles in this location were pretty punky. I could have simply painted over them and they would have lasted perhaps another decade. But, well, how could I?


There is no other place on the exterior where I have found punky shingles. Just this location. I pondered the WHY of the punkiness but could find no obvious cause. When I removed the shingles, their backs were even moist. Hey, I thought, this can’t be good.

Months later, when my butt was sitting on the roof above the punky wall, I realized that perhaps the WIDE spacing between the octagon tower and the 1940s roofing is what caused the shingles below to decay. So, the 120-year-old flashing managed to keep water from getting inside of the house but not from migrating behind the exterior shingles. Or at least this is what I think happened.

If the weather Gods allow, by Saturday late afternoon I will have finished painting the octagon tower now shrouded in scaffolding. Then the scaffolding will be moved over to the right to paint the next section of the octagon.

You see, I have another potential weather window later in the week:





It is now Sunday morning. The two days of nice weather have vanished. It is cold and windy. Brrrrrrrrrrrr!

However, I finished my painting. Whoee!









  1. Betsy on November 30, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    This is so interesting. No really !

    • Ross on November 30, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      Betsy, you are obviously a kindred spirit!

  2. Denali Dragonfly "Grace" on January 12, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Brilliant! I LOVE your persistence, integrity and dedication to detail. G:-)

    • Ross on January 12, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      It is just insanity. Pure insanity!

      • Denali Dragonfly "Grace" on January 12, 2015 at 6:40 pm

        LOL! I can only imagine. I have my own insanity simply dealing with the mid-century ranch-style house you were hoping to find when LIFE had others plans. Fortunately for The Cross House (and now you) It is built on flat ground. I’m on the side of a hill which presents all kinds of other insanely challenging and expensive issues, but then I have to hire most of the work done. G:-)

  3. Sandra G. McNichol on February 19, 2015 at 2:20 am

    Your punky shake hypothesis makes sense to me. Wow. Good thing you found the gap, figured it out, and fixed it!

  4. Michael Bazikos on March 6, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Ross, What are the colors you are painting your house? Are they from a historic color collection or are they simply computer-matched to paint samples? I really like the original colors. Also, do you plan to install slate shingles on the roof? My house, a ca.1900 Victorian, has a Peach Bottom slate roof. The shingles are hard and in excellent shape. And did you find evidence of the original décor? My house was wallpapered everywhere- including all the ceilings. I only found slivers of the original paper, as every room was redecorated over the years. The original papers were ornate. Thanks, Michael

    • Ross on March 6, 2016 at 8:06 am

      I found traces of the original colors, and had these computer-matched.

      The main roof is 1920s cement tiles. I plan to keep these as they will last till the end of time. All the secondary roofing is being replaced this year with asphalt shingles. I did several posts on this later.

      I did found evidence of the original decor, and posted about this, too!

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