Beacon Hill Charming Craftsman Total Exterior Paint Restoration

Finished results of total exterior paint restoration

fourteen coats of paint removed, one coat of primer and two coats of paint added

Client: Jamie A. & Leslie H.

City: Seattle

Neighborhood: Beacon Hill

Date Completed: August, 2005

Date of photo: October, 2009

Products: Back to Nature brand Ultra Strip architectural paint stripper. Pratt & Lambert brand Accolade premium exterior paint.

Methods: This was among the first times Step Up Painting stripped an entire house down to bare wood (well, all but the north-facing side). So we learned a lot about paint stripping in a short period of time on this job. Most importantly, when removing up to 14 coats of paint, repeat applications of the paint stripper are necessary and paint stripper is very expensive. It costs about twice as much per gallon as most premium quality paints and it is applied at least four times as thickly as paint. So a house that would take 10 gallons of paint will require at least 40 gallons of paint stripper. Also, some paint products used 80 years ago do not dissolve “cooperatively”. It can be beneficial to leave the stripper soaking on the painted surface for as long as 48 hours to achieve the desired effect. Unfortunately, most strippers incorporate liquid components that tend to evaporate if not covered with painters’ plastic or paper. Then there is the issue of containing the lead-based paint that’s being removed from the house. The really excellent thing about chemically stripping paint is that very little sanding is required, meaning that very little lead ever becomes airborne. Sanding is only used to smooth out the slivers and gouges that remain after the dissolved paint is scraped from the house. From there the dissolved paint falls onto strategically-placed plastic sheeting where it can be safely sequestered into thick plastic bags and disposed of safely. But still a time-consuming and expensive process!

By the time we had removed all the paint from three sides of this house, before applying the first drop of primer or paint, we had already exceeded our materials budget by 50% and our labor budget by a similar percentage. By the time the project was complete, we had more than doubled our budgeted materials and labor costs. It has always been Step Up Painting’s policy to NEVER charge a client more than we bid unless we encounter bona-fide unforeseen circumstances that are beyond our control. So I had no intention whatsoever of approaching the clients for more money. Fortunately for us, our clients on this job had surmised how badly we were “getting killed” on the job and magnanimously insisted on helping make up the difference. In the end, we lost a lot of money on the job, but the clients were absolutely thrilled with the finished results. That, and the invaluable lessons we learned about stripping paint, bidding large strip jobs, and making sure jobs sites stay totally free of lead contamination, made the whole thing worth while.

We knew from the beginning that our client was very concerned about the dangers of lead poisoning to her unborn baby (she was “with-child” at the time). What we did not know was that she had had her blood lead levels tested a few months before hiring us. She had her lead levels tested again shortly after we finished work. Her levels (already very low) were even slightly lower than before we worked for her family. Her baby was born several months later, totally lead free. I guess all’s well that ends well!

contemporary three-color scheme on this Beacon Hill craftsman

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. . .

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