A Big Project: Staining Wooden Siding (what have I gotten myself into?!)

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I got myself into a bit of a mess of a project, and there is nothing to be done except somehow complete it.  😀  With luck there will be enough dry and warm days to do so.

Our house has wooden siding.  The newest section was a kitchen addition/expansion off the back, and there is plenty of life left in the stain on it.  However, the rest of the back is only passable, and the front is weathered badly.  Many spots are silvered wood instead of stain, and somebody was too aggressive with a power washer before we bought the place.  Time to stain!

Foolishly and optimistically I decided to DIY.  Last week I power washed and even lugged the washer up onto the roof to get the worst sections cleaned up there.  So far (and I’ve only put in about five hours, really,) it isn’t awful, but I am pretty sure already that next time this will be a pay-a-professional sort of job.  😀  Honestly, it has been perfectly pleasant so far, but realistically I expect severe regret to hit at some point in the next week or two.  I’ve only finished one section completely and a few boards in another.  The going is slow.  I’m also waiting for a 32′ ladder that will not arrive until next Wednesday.  Drat!  I have no way to transport one, so I went with Amazon for the quickest shipping and best total price, but this Prime item required more than the usual two days… and I’d not counted on that fact.  It really sucks, because this week until Saturday is the best weather for staining.  I can only hope more dry groups of days will be in the forecast.

Once it became clear that I’d really be tackling this project my husband asked me “what colour?”

It was an easy choice to go with the current stain colour.  The previous owners had left us a handy reference can, and I always thought that the colour was pretty great.  I’d describe it as a red: a rusty-orangish-terracotta-slightly-brownish-red sure… but basically a red.  It perfectly fits the house which is a 1960 “contemporary,” according to the real estate listing.  With a large grid of windows, some brick; too many front steps, stone, and masonry “features” in the front; and two major additions that transformed it from some sort of mundane ranch to something less easily categorised: the interesting but somehow neutral brown-red worked.  To the eye the siding colour and brick melded attractively, and nothing competed for attention except for the sad expanse of foundation  lifting the structure above the hillside.  (The cinderblock steps and front foundation were enhanced with a parge coat and topped with bluestone.  It looked gorgeous but wasn’t done properly, and now is it spalling and crumbling apart most hideously.)

Why change such a well chosen colour?

We like to take walks around the neighbourhood and judge discuss what we like and don’t like about the houses and landscaping that we pass by.  Sometimes there is a detail that I’d like to copy, and sometimes we laugh that you just cannot account for personal tastes.  Near us there is a stunning home.  It’s a stuccoed Tudor style probably built in the ’30s, and it is painted a vibrant red.  The area has quite a few similarly styled homes, but the colour makes it shine like a jewel set in the towering dark pines of their yard.  It is cheerful.  Even on cloudy days it seems there is more sunlight there, and we both love the red.  So, when I went to the local hardware store to have some Arborcoat mixed up, the old can’s tint formula in hand, I hesitated.  Instead of having the lady there send me on my  way with a few cans of the terracotta hue I said to her “you know, I had planned on keeping this the same, but I think my husband would really like a brighter red, but I don’t know…”  She replied that men usually do seem to prefer louder colours and eventually she sent me home with a couple of sample jars: Redwood and Barn Red.

Immediately I liked the old terracotta when I brushed a fresh swatch of it near the front door.  The barn red seemed… really red.  Wow.  Okay… Lastly, redwood struck me as far too orange without a second thought.  Later L. came home and didn’t hesitate to exclaim that the red was awesome, and that barn red it would be.

Oh.  Uh…  I wasn’t so sure.  His selection caused me a lot of angst over the next day or two.  I brushed more samples in other areas.  I sent photos to my mother for her coworkers to vote on.  It was driving me crazy.  For the record, my mother was also leaning toward the terracotta, but all the votes were enthusiastically for the barn red.  I went back and purchased a few gallons mixed as barn red, and the guy who mixed it responded that it was a nice colour and “welcome to 1950” when I expressed concern at the change and brightness.  That night I actually had bad dreams about the decision!  On Sunday we went sailing with some friends, and at some point I asked their opinions as I related the dilemma.  After seeing photos they voted barn red, and I was glad when they began to tell us about a really stunning red house up the block… the same one we’d been so fond of too.

So, I began staining on Tuesday.

I haven’t gotten terribly far yet, but I’ll admit that it does look quite nice after all on the end of the kitchen with French doors that I did complete.  I’m really enjoying the Arborcoat solid stain and how well it goes on.  It is my first time using a Benjamin Moore product, but I always appreciate a stain or paint that is a pleasure to work with, and luckily the Aborcoat is very nice indeed.

Now I have to get back to work on it.  I’ll report back with progress (or when I’m done,) and about other things that I am working on.  I’ve also been fixing up our windows with fresh paint, re-glazing, pretty new sash locks, and re-furbishing/removing the old storm windows.  Any days that aren’t suitable for staining have plenty of other work to fill them. Oh, and I did a temporary facelift on that crumbly, ugly front foundation and steps.  That isn’t complete but already looks much better.  I just don’t know if it will last until spring or whenever we can have a professional repair it solidly.  For that I cleaned the crumble, patched with Quickcrete (until I ran out,) and rolled on a coat of Behr foundation paint.  I still have to finish the patching, paint the edges and corners, and roll another coat, but it looks so much better.  The best part is getting rid of the pale, bluish paint that clashed jarringly with the rest of the place.  The clay taupe-grey that I selected in-store worked out great.  I took a risk in grabbing two gallons without seeing a colour chip at home, so I a pleased it worked out.

Here are a couple of shots that show how nicely the terracotta matched the reddish slate stepping stones:

And here is a reference photo of the front of our place from the street.  It was taken last fall:

front-photo-from-last-fall-2015

And then the masonry mess:

And a bit after with the paint.  I think the darker shade is far better:

 

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