February 16, 2007

Painting the house


I started this article not too long after I started my blog in July 2006. I was holding off posting it until the painting was finished and now I'm beginning to have my doubts about whether it ever will be!

When we first started painting the outside of the house last summer after months of washing and patching the concrete and caulking the windows, the weather was great, but then the rains came. Everyday, every afternoon, it would rain to one extent or another. One day it came on so suddenly that the paint was washed right off the wall. That was supposed to be the dry season.

Many days we could only get a half day of work done. We were under a lot of pressure to finish because rainy season was right around the corner. Once we finally had some dry weather, I worked 17 long days with only one day off and, boy, was I exhausted! Climbing ladders wears me out.

Long ago we hired a 'professional' painter for the inside of the house. He was a pretty good painter (he learned in the U.S.) but the problem was that he hardly ever came for more than a few hours and left his 15-year-old ayudantes (assistants) to do the work.

They didn't know the first thing about painting and generally just skipped all the preparation work like patching holes and cleaning dust off of the walls. I learned to paint from a real professional and I know that preparation is the most important part. Besides doing sloppy work, they also ruined two expensive leather chairs (that I had covered with plastic) and several other things.

Another thing that I found that all La Ceiba painters insist on doing, even when you buy the paint and tell them not to, is to mix one or two gallons of water in each 5 gallon bucket of paint! Why? I don't know! Of course it ruins the quality of the paint. Even after saying "No water!" twenty times, I still caught them doing that behind my back. I could never convince them that it was a bad thing to do.

When we found out that the painter was stealing our paint (in front of witnesses!) and then, we think, selling it back to us in other containers, that was the last straw. He had to go. I've seen some really bad paint jobs here, so to avoid the frustration with a new painter, I finished the inside myself and we just decided to do the outside ourselves.

El Jefe, Carlos, Yulissa, and I were doing the work. Over time on other projects we taught Carlos how to be a pretty good painter. Yulissa wanted to paint, too, so we let her have a go at it and she wasn't too bad. She was very fast but not so accurate, so Carlos and I did all the detail work. El Jefe, of course, came in at the end when all the preparation and detail work is done to save the day with the roller. For any given area, it seems that the prep work takes three days, the detail work two days, and the actual rolling on of paint about an hour.

What we didn't think about was that parts of our house are so tall that there is virtually no way to reach them, at least not for the preparation or detail work.
We have three ladders, 6 foot, 10 foot, and a 14 foot extension ladder (roughly 2 to 4 m.) that we had to use upside down (standing on the bottom round part of the rungs instead of the top flat part) because one leg is broken off shorter than the other. I wanted to cut off that leg to match the other so we could use it right-side up but it belongs to a neighbor so we couldn't.

Even with all those ladders, we couldn't come even close to reaching the tops of the walls.
El Jefe built a 7 foot (2 m.) tall andamio (scaffold) upon which we put the 14 foot (4 m.) ladder to reach the roof line. Then to do the second story windows (shown below) we stood on boards balanced between the window and the ladder steps. I did parts of the window frames by hanging out of the windows. It was scary but you do what you have to do.

One day the 14-foot crooked ladder which was on top of the andamio slipped sideways. The andamio fell but got jammed into the iron gate which prevented it from falling completely. The bottom of the ladder got jammed into the iron bars of the gate, too, which was the only thing that prevented El Jefe from falling about 16 feet (4.9 m.) to the cement driveway.

He fell about 8 feet (2.4 m.), luckily landing on this teja roof protrusion over the garage.
He was banged up but not too seriously. Of course we had paint everywhere! The paint fell the whole 16 feet (4.9 m.) and splattered everything.

Then we had the bad luck that Carlos quit, after 4 years! A couple of weeks later, Yulissa quit. So now it's just the two of us. I've told you that everything moves more slowly in Honduras, but I don't know if anything moves as slowly as this painting project! And we still have the entire muro (concrete fence) to go.

We quit completely during the rainy season and now we need to finish up all the last details. I also want to do something interesting on the columns like marbleizing them. That will be a big project as we have nine columns and some of them will be very hard − and dangerous − to reach.

I bought the paint a long time ago at Home Depot in the U.S. I wanted something different but I've been really worried about the wild tropical colors that I picked out since I couldn't buy a quart and take it home to try it out.

There are lots of tropical colored houses here, just not three tropical colors in the same house. Most of the well-to-do people have their houses painted sophisticated colors like cream or beige or white.

Our house is definitely one of a kind! I think that in Mexico, our house would fit right in, but here in Honduras, the colors look pretty unusual. We like it, though.

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