I originally wrote this in 2007. This morning, I made a couple of minor edits and here it is, my Father’s Day story.
Way back in the 1970s, when I lived in New Jersey, my boss would lay me off during summer months because he could get three school kids on break to work for what he was paying me. I was happy since I got time off to work outside painting residential and commercial buildings. Without a doubt, I took great pride in my work and made pretty good money, to boot. Satisfaction all the way around!
In those days, I preferred oil base or alkyds over latex because there was less of a chance of mold and mildew developing on the surface, mostly on shaded sides. Occasionally, my father would drop by my job sites to see me diligently at work. He’d always call me Rembrandt.
About fifteen years ago, now in Florida, he asked me if I’d be interested in painting his house. Sure, I said. I wasn’t going to charge him for my work, but I certainly wasn’t going to pay for the cost of preparation and materials.
Two of my friends were professional painters. Since I had been out of that field for many years, I wanted to know what, if anything, was new since the days of old. I said I preferred oils over latex. They were adamant in their reply, “No! Latex today is much better than it was back then. It has really good mold inhibitors now. Oil base paint will actually encourage mold, especially here in Florida.”
That was a real surprise, but the last time I painted anything was when I lived up north. In Florida, structures have to contend with incredible heat, the effects of the sun and torrential downpours. The sun, in particular, depletes and dulls the paint’s pigment.
“Make sure you have the house pressure washed and sealed before you do it. That is very important,” they both told me, “or the paint won’t stick. If you don’t, the paint will crack, peel, and bubble in a year or two.”
I passed that information on to my father and he said, “No, I just want it painted. Just that, nothing more.”
I went back to my friends and told them what he said.
“When you run your finger across the surface and that chalky stuff comes off, that’s dead paint. Try painting chalk and see if it sticks. Go ahead.” They’d had these problems before, obviously, with cheap customers wanting to save money. These would be the same customers that would run back to the painter to complain at the first sign of trouble. That’s my father. Is that what I wanted? No, so I told him I wouldn’t do it unless he prepped the house. Period.
“Knowing you,” I said, “you’ll run back to the paint store screaming about inferior paint and the first thing they’re going to ask is, did you pressure wash and seal it first? What are you going to tell them?” He relented and agreed. He had no choice if he wanted me to do the job. I asked him to get it washed and I would seal it. It was still going to be much cheaper than hiring a painter because labor wouldn’t be a factor.
The house is one story with a full attic. It’s constructed of cement blocks with the front and sides having a stucco finish The attic is wood, gabled with a 6/12 pitch. I made sure all wood trim was scraped, allowed to dry, and primed where necessary. I always apply two coats. When I began my prep work, I dug out the foundation all around, brushed off the dirt, and allowed it ample time to dry. In case of ground erosion, I didn’t want any areas exposed without paint. Then, I began, from top down …
I made sure to paint under window sills that had never seen a brush. For some reason, many contractors avoid finishing areas you don’t normally see and that exposes part of the building to the elements. Besides, suppose someone’s planting flowers around the house. They look up at the sill and see sloppy, unfinished work. Not good. After painting the entire house by using only brushes, I finished and filled the dirt back in at the foundation. (I told you I am meticulous. Fifteen years later, the house is still in very good shape.)
Several months after I completed my job, the people next door decided to paint their house. It was a classic case of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ While it looked nice, he didn’t listen to the painter or he got his pimple-faced nephew to do it because, about a year or two later, like clockwork, the paint began to crack, peel, and bubble, just like my painter friends said.
One afternoon, the neighbor came knocking on my father’s door. Very puzzled, he asked, “Why aren’t you having the problem, too?”
Ahhh… my father had a very knowledgeable answer. “Did you pressure wash and seal it before painting?”
“No…” the neighbor replied.
“I see,” he said, already primed with an expert and authoritative response. “Well, you should have asked me first. I would have gladly told you.”