Skip to content

ToolBox TomGirl paints the porch

July 1, 2010

My client wanted her porch painted. Simple, right? Well, my lesson was simple, too: Never think something is simple just because it looks simple.

Of course, this was not the first time I’ve painted. But it just happened to be the first time I painted using deck color. It’s really not the same as painting a porch. It’s more like staining a porch. Painting a porch railing white and staining a porch deck blue are two completely different tasks, requiring a totally different process and plan.

First faux pas: My team had painted the railings the day before I showed up to “paint” the deck. Did you know that deck stain will not cover up little drops of white paint? Well, of course, it makes sense now that I’ve told you, but really, who’da thunk. I found myself on my hands and knees scrubbing white splats with sandpaper. I broke a nail. Whine.

Second faux pas: I begin to put a coat of stain on the deck of the porch and instantly heard, “SUUUUCCCKKKK, slurp, slurp.” Yes, indeed, the deck boards were sucking up stain so fast that I could actually hear the noise. After my first coat, the deck looked like I had not even touched it. After the second coat, the deck looked like I had not even touched it. After the third coat, I picked up the deck stain container and read: You may need several coats. Darn it. I didn’t plan for 16 coats of deck stain. No, I had planned for one, maybe two coats and then a day at the pool putting some nice color on myself. I applied five coats of that stain. Five. Whine.

Third faux pas: I worked on that little porch for hours. When I was finished, I looked like an overgrown Smurf. But I wasn’t a Smurf. No, Smurfs are nice, easygoing, gentle. I was a mean, frustrated Smurf. Frustrated at myself for not knowing what I didn’t know. That was the essence of my third faux pas. Not acknowledging that mistakes are part of a repairperson’s world. Certainly, part of a DIYer’s world. And that means they will be a part of your world too.

Now as someone who does repairs for a living and takes great pride in a job done well and a happy client, I can tell you that I always do whatever it takes to get the work done on time, on budget and without mistakes. That doesn’t mean mistakes don’t happen, they do (reference my Smurf-like skin). But it’s my and my team’s responsibility to fix them. We don’t walk away from a project. But you could. You could get so frustrated that you throw in the paint roller and head for the pool, leaving the mess for someone else to clean up. Whine.

This is not what we ToolBox TomGirls do. I want you to stay committed in the face of utter disaster, ask for help when you need it and not expect to know how to do something before you know how to do it. Most of all, I want every DIY job you take to teach you as much about yourself and life in general as my “simple” porch job taught me. Wax on. Wax off.

Here’s what I gleaned in between coats four and five:
1.Tap Into Your Inner Girl Scout. Be prepared. Read instructions first. Research. Call me. Set yourself up so that you have the best chance of earning your deck staining badge first time out. But at the same time —

2.Count on hidden surprises. Just assume something will happen, appear or fall off, that just wasn’t supposed to. Dealing with surprises with grace is easier if you simply expect that they will happen.

3.Know that nothing you could possibly paint, stain, fix or install is worth a nail broken out of frustration, a fight with your significant other or an emotional breakdown because your skin has somehow managed to take on a blue hue. Instead, take your time, take a breath and take the opportunity to laugh at yourself.

As I write this, my Smurfdom is slowly fading away and soon I will no longer have the physical reminder of my porch job gone awry. What I will have though is the memory of my customer beaming ear to ear as she surveyed her blue porch with the white railing and thanked me for doing such a fabulous job.

Comments are closed.