Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most

The maples look bare, but their buds are beginning to swell

Today felt much more like spring, at least for a while. The temperature climbed to 11 degrees C and it’s been raining—truly raining. The birds are singing again and the snow is retreating, but at a glacial pace (although these days that expression could mean anything). With the disappearance of the snow, some unpleasant things are returning to view. Besides the unmentionable signs of animals, there are piles of sawdust from late November outdoor table saw use; the garden hose, which we carelessly left on the lawn to freeze; a stack of those green plastic lawn chairs, which we had meant to donate to charity (assuming anyone wants them) last year, but didn't; the wooden skid that our tile was transported on; mats of wet leaves, crushed boxwood shrubs from our new hedge, which managed to get trodden on when it disappeared under the snow; hundreds of fallen twigs and branches from the sugar maples; a tangle of perennial stalks, piles of bird seed and sunflower shells like dark stains under the feeders, brown boughs that looked so lovely when they were first stuffed into hanging baskets and urns in December, the carnage left by the snowplow on our median strip of grass, peeling paint, and leaking eaves troughs. You get the ugly picture.

Just one of the discouraging scenes revealed by retreating snow

Spring is at once so welcome and so cruel. I can hardly wait for the lush green that will inevitably come, but right now the brighter light from a higher sun makes everything look impossibly dingy. The ground will be so wet from the snow this year that it may be quite a while before I can get out and take stock without permanently compacting our soil. Last year, by the last week of March, the snow had long since disappeared and I was out and cleaning things up. Except for ferocious bouts of snow shoveling, we have been indoors for four and a half months. Renovations prevented us from embracing the winter like we have other years (skiing and igloo building were past pursuits). I can’t wait to be outside again.

Current house colours (left), possible future colours (right)

This year we plan to paint the exterior of the house. Our house is painted brick (we bemoan this fact constantly, but can’t undo it) with a ton of wooden trim. When we first moved in we put aluminum storm windows on the second story and attic windows—I know, I know, ugly and non traditional—but we did it because of the danger and awkwardness involved in removing and replacing the heavy wooden storm windows every spring and fall, and because we don’t have air conditioning and so require screens. It was a practical decision, but not the best one aesthetically. Now that we’re going to repaint, we’ll have to figure out a way to paint aluminum windows, which are currently a creamy yellow and will become dark grey or brown.

Our front walk, in herringbone clay brick and square cut sandstone

Last year we had a painting company bid on painting the house and the estimate made our jaws drop. Though I won’t say what the actual amount was, let me just say that it amounted to nearly one fifth of our initial purchase price of the house. We said no and are trying to gear up to do the work ourselves. This will mean the purchase of scaffolding and who knows how many days of toil. I feel defeated just thinking about it.

The colour palette for the house will change substantially. Currently we have a new roof in a weathered wood colour, ivory painted brick, slightly darker cream window frames, a mid-brown neutral for porch, fence, gate, and window trim, bright yellow gable ends and soffits with a bright orangey-red accent. For the new paint colours, we hope to tone things down a bit, visually shrink the size of the house, and have the gables and soffits seem more a part of the whole. Our future palette constants are the roof and the mid-brown colour pictured above on the front steps. We want to paint the brick a medium neutral grey, the window frames a darker grey or brown, the soffits and gable ends a less intense brick colour (to pick up the brick and sandstone colours in the landscaping). We would love any feedback.


Jenni said...

Thank you for visiting ThirteenEleven. I love your header. So very creative. I look forward to reading more on Apropos of Nothing.

S & N said...

Thanks Jenni,
I think you're the first to comment on the header. I'm so glad to hear that you like it. I'll be back to your blog too.

iloveupstate.com said...

I painted my house last year. I got 3 bids. The first was $10,500. The second was $6000. The third was something like $3800. I could have gone cheaper if I called the cult (what? you don't have a cult that does home renovations in your town? we do!) but I opted to keep them off my property...

It's paint not surgery. I went with the $3800 dude. I made sure they scraped really well. At the end he needed $1500 or something more. Whatever, at least it wasn't $10,500!

S & N said...

No cult, but possibly a cartel. Aside from the terrifying student painters (hmm, maybe they're a cult--they certainly come knocking on our door and leaving pamphlets with high frequency), we can't seem to find anyone who wants to climb a ladder to paint our tall house (without the requisite five figure fee). If we could find a $3800 dude, even if we had to pay extra for thorough scraping, we would hire him on the spot.

dynochick (Jan) said...

I think the vast majority of painters overcharge. I'm gearing up to paint our house. The last large house I painted required the whole summer. I started in the front and systematically moved around the house moving ladders and scaffolding.

Needless to say, I had a very good tan that summer.

S & N said...

Jan, I think we'll be doing the same. I am going to collect some bids, but unless I'm happy with the price/quality balance, I guess I'll be doing it myself (with N's help). I'm curious about the scaffolding. Did you set it up and move it yourself, or have a company do it for you? Our house is very tall and I want to make sure everything is perfectly secure.