The Cross House

What Price Beauty?

The previous owner of the Cross House stripped the exterior of paint. This was a factor which weighed heavily in my buying the house.

As I continue painting the Great North Wall, I find that there is more old paint than I encountered on the Great West Wall. This paint is like old scabs on the house. I could just paint over these blemishes, and OMG this would make my life easier. Most of these scabs are several stories up in the air, and are difficult if not impossible to even see from the ground.

But I know they are there.

I wish I wasn’t like this. But I am. I wrote a previous post about this nuttiness of mine, and the following two images from that post convey the Before and After of my nuttiness:

 

This is the top of the center window in 2014. It looks kinda cruddy, right? But, it is THREE STORIES UP IN THE AIR and nobody can see crudiness THREE STORIES UP IN THE AIR.
BEFORE. This window trim is three stories in the air. You can see all the scabs in this close-up image, but not from the ground. But I know they are there.

 

Yet, even though nobody can see crudiness THREE STORIES UP IN THE AIR, and even though I know this, I still could not restrain myself from making this trim...right. For, no matter that NOBODY can see that this small section of trim in 2014 has been restored to its 1894 appearance, I will know. I will know. And this matters to me. Sometimes I wish such stuff did not matter, and my life would be a whole lot easier. Still, I smile looking at these before/after images. And I am satisfied.
AFTER. Even though nobody can see crudiness THREE STORIES UP IN THE AIR, and even though I know this, I still could not restrain myself from making this trim…right. For, no matter that NOBODY can see that this small section of trim in 2014 has been restored to its 1894 appearance, I will know. I will know. And this matters to me. Sometimes I wish such stuff did not matter, and my life would be a whole lot easier. Still, I smile looking at these before/after images. And am satisfied.

 

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Now, I am working on The Great North Wall. I have finished painting the Great North Gable, and have moved down to the area under the big curved cornice, and above the porch. See the triple-arched windows? Everything surrounding the windows painted white is tin.

 

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The surrounding tin though is — EEK!!!!!!!! — covered in scabs! EEK!!!!!!!!

 

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EEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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So, I have no choice, no choice, but to grind off all the scabs.

 

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And I have no choice, no choice, but to grind away at the scabs on the huge curved cornice.

 

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I painted the section to the right last month.

 

A grinder is essential for doing all this.

But it is HORRIBLE work. Really, basically torture. It is really fast and really effective but creates a cloud of dangerous dust.

I protect myself by encasing my whole body in a Tyvek suit. I buy these in boxes of six. The suits offer protection, yes, but they do not breath. Yesterday, after removing the suit, all my clothes were soaked through with sweat, in but 74-degeee weather. WHAT will I do when it is 90+ degrees? I pale thinking about it.

I also wear a quality half-face respirator.

And tight safety goggles. But these fog up when the weather is warm, and this, more than anything, is incredibly irritating. So today I purchased a welding face mask, sorta like this. The hood of the Tyvek suit pulls over the face mask, and the mask DOES NOT FOG UP! Whoee!

Under all this work I place a plastic tarp to catch all the paint bits, and carefully dispose of this.

 

BUY WHY, DAHLING?

There is a payoff for all this.

I enjoy doing good work. When I do bad work, I feel depleted at the end of the day. But doing good work, no matter how difficult, energizes me. I feel, well, proud.

And the payoff HUGELY increases when the work is completed. Rather than look at new paint over old scabs, the work is smooth and looks like it would have 122-years ago. This makes me burst with satisfaction.

I also cannot help but think the following. It is just, well, there.

There is a lot wrong with the world, and I can do little about making things right globally. But in Emporia, on my house, I find it oddly nourishing that in a tiny tiny tiny way, something is better. Something has been made right.

 

 

12 Responses to What Price Beauty?

  1. And I love you for doing it right, Ross – I mean it. It matters so much to me. Way to go, in a world gone mad.

    When I was hanging off the ladder two stories in the air, scraping my house’s clapboards and trim, feeling like I was making little to no progress as the hours/days/weeks/months/years ticked by, I kept telling myself to knock it off!! and leave the odd “old scabs” that were up so high that no one could ever see them, if only for sanity’s sake – but – I also could not. Would not. I kept thinking even more of the craftsmen who built my home in 1906, and who hand mitered every single piece of clapboard on every corner on the house, and I wanted to honor them and their commitment to doing things right all those years ago; so I did my best.

    Well done, Ross. Well done.

    • Sandra, you wrote:

      “I wanted to honor them and their commitment to doing things right all those years ago; so I did my best.”

      You are a kindred spirit.

  2. Thank you, Ross, for not only taking care of your house but yourself and your neighbors. And as Sandra said, honoring the work of those craftsmen before you. Gorgeous. The house!, not…,well, you too.

  3. I find that being a perfectionist is at once a punishment and a reward. The punishment comes from taking the time and making the effort to do things right, even on tasks so small no one will see the effort or understand its cost. The reward is the satisfaction you get from knowing your efforts made a difference, even if others don’t.

    Well done, Ross. Well done.

  4. I shivered the word grinder. But alas you used what I call my sander. What does an old lady know!!

    Yes, please protect your self, suit up and give the neighbor kids something. They may think you are a ZOT is. But you are really showing them real work pays off. . .a work ethic and a true dedication to the past. To history of their community.

    You impress me with each posting. You have set the bar for all of us with century homes. Great job Ross. Please continue…

  5. It’s got to feel good…..the satisfaction of your version of “making things right” and all this praise from your dedicated followers. Great job Ross!

  6. Is it hard to get the grinder in the curved parts of the window header moulding? I’ve never used a grinder like you linked to.
    I would like to do this on my house. It’s a year younger than yours. 🙂

  7. I’m right there with you! The scabby look of pieces of old accumulated paint bothers me too. I’m quite fond of my PaintShaver for cleaning down to fresh wood, although it takes quite a bit of sanding to smooth out the rough surface it leaves behind.

    There’s a part of me that’s strangely proud of having personally sanded every square inch of the exterior, though (well, 75% as of now). My complements to you for doing the same, especially since you have many times more square inches than I do, and all those lovely, complicated curves and details!

  8. “There is a lot wrong with the world, and I can do little about making things right globally.”

    On the contrary, it is by individual change, by awakening and exercising our consciences, that we will eventually change the world. It does take time and effort.

  9. When Harvey filled my house with nearly 6 feet of water for 10+ days, I had to wear the same getup. Hooded Tyvek suit, goggles, P-100 respirator, gloves, boots… in 95 degree heat and equal humidity. You really can’t hydrate enough before putting on all that gear, and 45 minutes was about all I could stand before ripping it off and downing a half gallon of water. It would have been bearable had I been doing something that brought the same satisfaction you get from making something broken beautiful again and knowing that it will last decades and delight all who see it. Ah, but your journey with Cross House is a balm to my soul!

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