In a few of our posts, we’ve mentioned our multi-year battle with painting our crazy old house. When we drop the fact that we’ve been painting the exterior of our house for two years into light conversation, people usually give us a look of mixed pitty and something that resembles the way you look at a kid who’s trying too hard to be an adult (like aww, isn’t he special, he sucks so bad at what he’s doing, but he really seems like he’s trying).
There are actually many reasons to explain why it’s taken us so incredibly long, but the major factor is simple: scraping paint is awful. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever taken on. It takes a lot of muscle, but also required finesse or you’ll damage your siding. The scraper blade has to touch every inch of your house. It is unforgiving. It’s hot outside. Netflix has unlimited streaming. Beer tastes good. I could continue, but I think you get the point.
If you’re thinking of painting your house, there are a few things you need to consider before you take on the job of scraping. First, the big question: does the paint need to be scraped? If it doesn’t, just paint following the directions on the can and you’re good. If your paint looks like the two photos above and below this paragraph, you need to scrape. In the photograph above, the paint is chipping and you can see some bare wood. Every single chip must be removed or the new paint will not hold for very long. Unless there is an absolutely seamless bond between your paint and the siding, air and moisture will get under the paint and it’ll bubble, chip, and break. All of those are bad. Properly prepping the wood is by far the most important step in painting. Everybody likes moving the paint brush, but that’s not all that’s included in a painting job. It’s actually the smallest part.
In the photo above, you can see a board that isn’t chipping, but still looks completely awful. This leads me to the second question you need to ask yourself before you take on a scraping job: Do I want to scrape it all off? If you only remove the paint that is chipping, you’ll leave behind quite a bit of paint that is still intact and firmly bonded to the wood. If you paint over these partially scraped surfaces, the new paint will hold just fine, but it’ll look like the photo above. You can see where some of the old paint was removed by a lazy painter. Every surface of our house that wasn’t chipping looked like this. It makes my eyes hurt. I’m not kidding. Physical pain to my eyeballs.
If you’ve decided that you do indeed want to scrape, there are several tools you can use. I’ve tried almost all of the tools of the scraping variety and I’ve found the one in the next two photos to be the best, by far. It has a carbide blade that holds its edge pretty well. The blade is also double-sided so you get two uses out of it before you’ve got to replace it. The major downside to this tool is that it’s kind of expensive to use. Its original cost at Lowe’s is around 14 bucks, but the blades are 9 bucks per blade (two cutting edges). Home Depot doesn’t carry this tool. I’ve only found it at Lowe’s. The time between replacing blades depends on how you use it and how many nails you clip while scraping. Nails damage the blade pretty easily, so be careful.
It’s actually an incredibly simple device. It works exactly the same way shaving works. You take an incredibly sharp blade and move it across a surface, cutting away anything that isn’t flush with the surface. It’s a bit different than shaving in practice. Chin hairs release a whole lot more easily than does old paint. There are a few major things to keep in mind when scraping: It’ll take practice before you can do this with any skill (ask my friend David). Keep the blade parallel with the wood surface or you’ll gouge the wood – Remember, it’s very sharp. Move the scraper only with a pulling motion – pushing will dull the blade. When you get tired, take a break. It’s really hard work. WEAR A RESPIRATOR! If your house is old, that paint is most likely lead-based. Don’t breath the dust. Purchase a nice respirator, not those cheap paper masks.
After you’ve decided that scraping needs to happen, there is still another thing to consider: costs. If you’re hiring a professional painter, they will usually only scrape off chipping paint. If you want it scraped to the wood, it’ll cost much much more. For our small house, combined with the four color paint scheme, it would have cost us around ten grand to hire out the work. The three years of work has been worth that cost to us. It might not be worth it to you. Get some estimates and consider your time before you tackle this job – it sucks.
I’m including our first DIY video with this post. We bought a camera that straps to your head for skiing and biking and stuff, but I figured it would work nicely as a tutorial camera for a first person perspective on work around the house. I’m hoping to include videos with many of our future posts if it’s appropriate. I didn’t get the angle just right in this video, so I’m looking to adjust that in the future.
If you’ve got any questions or suggestions, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. Thanks for reading. -Robby