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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!

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.

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.)

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:

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)

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.

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!


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.

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.

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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