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Painting our dark weatherboards – progress!

Painting dark weatherboards | Saltbush Avenue

So I’m feeling a twinge of embarrassment about this post. How can we be so slow at painting weatherboards? Still: we’ve passed the halfway point, and each step forward looks GREAT. Here’s how that process has been going, what with lead paint being an issue and all. Our neighbours have been sweet and encouraging, but the finished walls look a whole lot better than the unfinished ones!

Painting weatherboards - before | Saltbush Avenue

Jamie and I knew our weatherboards needed a fresh coat of paint when we moved in, especially on the western aspects that cop it from sun, rain and wind. Most of the exterior paint was okay, but the western side had split and was peeling off in chunks. Yikes. We got about half of that side stripped and repainted last year, with Jamie planning to tackle the rest this year. Stripping paint with a heat gun, especially on a low setting, is very slow work.

Painting dark weatherboards | Saltbush Avenue

Painting dark weatherboards | Saltbush Avenue

The last house painting update covered the northwestern aspect of the house, the deck and back entrance. I had a self-defensive disclaimer in that post, and here’s another one: This is not a fast project. There’s only two of us, and it takes forever to strip paint off old boards when you’re doing it right and not spreading lead dust throughout the neighbourhood. I also like spending Saturdays with my friends, sue me.

(Don’t mind me, I’m just internalising unpleasant thoughts that don’t need to be there because I see other people, most of them with blogs, who can knock out a whole exterior paint job in a fraction of the time it’s taken us. That’s okay – it’s our house, not theirs.)

Painting dark weatherboards - progress | Saltbush Avenue

We were optimistic about the prospect. Why spend $15,000 on house painters when we can do it ourselves for under two? So young, so dumb. Case in point about the true cost of DIY: you might save a bundle of cash, but it could cost you a hell of a lot of weekends.

As I mentioned before, we have lead paint on our house, unfortunately. It’s not surprising; this house is built in 1947, and the general rule is that you can count on the presence of lead paint in Australian homes prior to 1970. We got a lead tester kit and followed the directive, “if it’s red it’s lead.” To my intense disappointment, the stick turned red all right.

Here’s what Jamie’s process has been like for stripping lead paint off the weatherboards:

  • Jamie has been using a heat gun to loosen and scrape paint. He throws on a respirator, sets down a tarp to catch the chips, bags and throws out the mess at the end of each session. The nozzle temperature is set at 370º C (700º F), well below the point of creating lead fumes. This job is painfully slow going, but we’re too far in to spring for an infrared paint remover, so.
  • After the paint is removed, Jamie gives the boards a quick sand with our random orbital sander, which has an extraction unit on the back. It’s not industrial-grade, but it helps. He says the stripping/sanding isn’t so bad when he’s got earmuffs on and the footy broadcast playing through a set of earbuds.
  • Jamie finishes off by hosing down the wall and he showers immediately afterwards. His paint-removal clothes stay in the laundry.
  • Work only happens on calm days, so the chips and dust don’t blow everywhere.

Adults are much less susceptible to lead accumulation in their bodies than children are, but we’re still trying to be careful (and I’d like to get a blood test at my next checkup, just to make sure). We don’t have children, nor do we have plans, but I’d like for our friends and neighbours to not worry about our house being a silent death trap. At least the new coat of paint will prevent the old coat from peeling or crumbling further.

(We’re still debating what to do about the soil on the western side of the house, which I’m betting has always had a degree of contamination. I want to lay pavers over it because it’s a narrow strip and I’m sick of grass and weeds. To be continued… but for now a HEPA-filtered shop vac will have to do.)

Here are some links about dealing with lead paint on your house. If anyone knows any particular legal guidelines that home renovators should be aware of in Australia, please let me know.

Lead In House Paint – Australian Department of the Environment
Lead Alert: The Six Step Guide to Painting Your Home
Lead poisoning: a silent epidemic
Is your yard lead-safe?
Managing Hobart Soil Contamination (2009)

Painting dark weatherboards - progress | Saltbush AvenuePainting dark weatherboards - caulking | Saltbush Avenue

Meanwhile, on the walls that don’t need to be stripped back in their entirety, Jamie scrapes off the peeling bits and gives the whole thing a very quick sand. These walls get a good wash, and then I go around and fill in the weatherboard gaps with sealant. The yellow thingy is for smoothing out each bead of caulk. The process is a lot less sticky and messy if you follow it up by dipping your hand in water as you go.

My understanding is that you want a house that ‘breathes’ in warm, humid climates, but in a place that gets brittle winter drafts, having those weatherboard gaps is less than ideal. My house is already cold enough, trust me.

Painting dark weatherboards - primer | Saltbush Avenue

Walls sanded, gaps filled, Prime time. Please forgive me if I’m repeating a bunch of information from my last painting-progress post, I just want to make sure everything gets covered (ha ha).

Primer will make or break this project, and we don’t want to do this level of paint prep again. Ever. So we’re splashing out on Zinsser 1-2-3 primer, in the hopes that it binds/seals the substrate and adheres well to the topcoat. It’s water-based and it manages to stick to anything, so you can go ahead and sign me up for the Zinsser fan club on that basis alone. I got the primer tinted as dark as possible, which helped the coverage a lot. (The varying shades on this wall come from two different cans, which weren’t identical. I also got a mini tin of Zinsser Smart Prime for the trims, their premium line. It’s adhered well to oil-based glossy trim, so I can’t complain.

Man does it feel good to get primer on the wall!

Painting dark weatherboards - progress | Saltbush AvenuePainting dark weatherboards | Saltbush Avenue
Painting dark weatherboards | Saltbush Avenue

What’s even better than primer? Paint, obviously. The fun part, even if applying two coats takes all weekend. I’m still in love with dark houses, and seeing ours turn a dark grey-blue is still a total thrill. I’m hoping the dark colour will add a mod vibe to these old weatherboards. Thanks, midcentury ranch owners in the Pacific Northwest, you’ve been a huge inspiration (even if my house is leagues apart from anything on Dwell).

I chose Colorbond colours for simplicity’s sake, since they can be standardised across paint lines and many exterior accessories (roofing, guttering etc) are coloured to match. The walls are Ironstone while the trims are Surfmist, a very light grey that reads as white. Pure white trim felt too stark, while any yellow-toned white suddenly invoked a colonial feel.

This side of the house isn’t its best side – it’s seen replacement windows over the years (sigh) and the tiny laundry window with its stationary louvred panes just kills me. But it’s finished, and it’s one more wall off the list, and damn it feels good to have one more in the bag.

Painting dark weatherboards - progress | Saltbush AvenuePainting dark weatherboards | Saltbush Avenue

We’re just going keep at it, whenever the weather permits. Currently, Jamie is still stripping paint off the western side of the house, while I’m tackling the entryway. In that photo above, it still needs trim paint around the door and fuse box, and a second coat of wall paint. Not to mention new house numbers. Oh, it’s going to look so good! (And then I’ll want to re-tile because that peachy tile looks yucky. Shush, don’t kill my vibe.) My Huon pine in the cone planter will be so pleased.

Painting dark weatherboards - progress | Saltbush Avenue

Have you got any major house projects on the go? What do you think about the dark blue walls – yay or nay? Our house is currently two-tone and it looks bananas… but we’re over the halfway line, which is a relief.

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13 thoughts on “Painting our dark weatherboards – progress!”

  1. Love reading your updates on the exterior painting Steph, I live my dark house colour dreams vicariously through you! So much work, but a journey you’ll never forget, I’m sure.

    1. Thanks Ms Trixee! Who knows, maybe in the future I’ll be all like “it was no big deal” (brushes dirt off shoulder) and super glad we did this ourselves? You’re right, I don’t think we’ll forget this in a hurry!

  2. Oh that looks so good!!! I am impressed with your commitment do doing it yourselves and doing right. All it took was one weekend of scraping for us to throw in the towel and hire a pro.

  3. Wow. Reading about your efforts in dealing with the lead paint reminds me of when we encountered asbestos in our old 1950s home! It’s better to be safe than sorry and it sounds like you guys have the a good and safe system going on!

    Keep up the great work, the new colour looks great!

    1. Oh yikes, asbestos is nothing to mess with. We don’t have any fibro on our house (it helps when the house doesn’t have any eaves whatsoever) but there’s other places it could turn up. Thanks Jase, I’m glad our house has the mod seal of approval!

  4. Ha, when you are my age you will pay to have that stuff done. But by then you’ll have wrinkles. Everything is a series of trade-offs.

    That finished wall really does look perfect and I have to say, joking aside, workers would NOT do as well as you two are doing. They are much more slapdash and sometimes when we pay we wonder if we could not have done a better job ourselves. We paid for an exterior paint job last year and I had to go around with a paintbrush a couple of times to touch up spots they missed. We do know our limits, however. We generally do one-story paint jobs, cleaning, gardening, light bulb changing, etc.

    1. I already don’t want to do this sort of work ever again, haha. I’d love to make it rain on some contractors. But when enough time has passed, I think “what’s the harm” and want to dive in all over again…

      Part of this is due to our backgrounds, Jamie’s in particular – that hardscrabble making-do sort of life in the country. He’s been taught to do things himself (and to do them right) because that’s what had to be done. Contractors also cost serious $$$$ in Australia because of union protections and workplace regulations. I love that we have those protections! But it also makes me less willing to hire somebody to paint my house.

      Thanks so much for the encouragement! I’ve had to touch up a few of the painted weatherboard gaps, where they shrink/expand from summer to winter, but it’s only the first year and I have no idea how much future maintenance they’ll require. Hopefully having a decent primer to seal the boards will help prevent future cracking and peeling.

      I see you have a blog now – time to go have a read. 🙂

  5. we are planning grey house with white trim any tips on how you did your white frames… was it jus a lot of taping and cutting in.
    did you do the white first and then signature?
    your house looks fantastic and the website is very good too.

    1. Hi Josh, thanks heaps 🙂
      I primed the frames while painting the boards, then put the final coat on frames after painting the boards. I did it carefully with an angled brush, and instead of taping off the inside of the frames, I scraped any extra paint off the glass with a razor scraper. Hope that helps! Steph

      (and I apologise for having your comment in waiting, I was away – sorry!)

  6. Hi Steph. We’re having similar problems with paint removal from our weatherboards. You mentioned something about being too far into the paint removal to opt for an “infrared paint remover”. Could you please tell me more about this option, and which one you had in mind that is available here in Oz? Many thanks! Heather 🙂

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