Episode 1: A Stained Reputation Episode 1 A STAINED REPUTATION
When you’re a homeowner, there’s always something that needs fixing. If it isn’t the plumbing, it’s rooms that need to be repainted, or replacing stucco that falls off the ceiling every time someone slams the door, or a washing machine that works only when it feels like it, and so on. Most days, it seems like there’s always some problem or another to resolve. This day, the problem was the siding of my beautiful two-story, 2,500-square-foot, eighty-year-old cedar house—with the key word being cedar. It looked great until it was beaten up by the sun and wind. Its present fault lines and bare spots told me it was time for a face-lift.
It was a huge job to stain this monster, and not one I was eager to undertake, so I did what any prudent individual would have done and got a few estimates. But after I received the third quote, which was more than twice as much as the ones before it, I asked my wife to get the paddles ready for the “big one” I could feel coming on! I would have been ashamed to put to pen such outrageous numbers. I’d have to do the deed myself! Besides, I thought, it couldn’t be that bad. I already had the extension ladder, so I’d just need twenty gallons of stain, five cheap brushes, one can of paint thinner to clean the brushes, a bag of rags, four drop cloths, two hooks to hang the cans from the ladder, and a bottle each of Tylenol and fast-acting pain-relief cream (in preparation for the punishment my body was about to endure), and I would be ready to go. Nothing a few days and some elbow grease couldn’t accomplish.
I never considered myself a pro, but I did know enough not to stain a house on a windy day—which would be the equivalent of a child pissing into the wind. I also knew that, for the same reason, I couldn’t use a sprayer. I was in for seven long days of brush and bucket work. I waited as patiently as I could for the right day to arrive. But after biding my time for a few weeks, the clear, calm day I needed never came. With my to-do list growing by the day, I couldn’t wait any longer, so I was eventually forced to take my chances and begin with a slight hint of a breeze in the air.
With the ladder in place against the side of the house, I confirmed that all the necessary materials for the job were close at hand. As I began to climb up the two-story flight, I heard a creaking noise. At first, I thought it was the ladder but soon realized that it was my knees. It seemed to take forever to climb to the top. Looking down I felt like I was high enough to go skydiving. Then something dripped from my nose. I was relieved that it wasn’t blood—just buckets of sweat pouring from my forehead. I carefully hooked my can to the step of the ladder and set to work. With the second dip of the brush the can tilted sideways, and I watched helplessly as the handle of the can broke off. It dropped like a rock, bounced a few times across the lawn, spurting stain in all directions until it found its final resting place against my neighbor’s wrought iron fence. I was down the ladder faster than a fireman, grabbed a rag, and started frantically wiping the stain from his fence. I looked around for witnesses. None, thank goodness. No one would be the wiser. I’d deal with my brown grass at a later time.
I opened the second can, checked its handle carefully, gave it a good yank, and ascended the ladder. I worked meticulously, watching every movement of the brush. About an hour into the job it was time for a break. Back on the ground I admired my handiwork: I’d only done a small amount so far, and already the house looked new. Then something caught my eye. A closer inspection stopped me dead in my tracks. It looked like a flock of low-flying pigeons had machine-gunned their droppings all over my neighbor’s backyard. Every inch of his in-ground pool, the patio furniture, cement, and landscaping was splattered with a brown film. There were even clumps of stain dripping off the statues he had beside his pool. Here I was being so careful not to put too much stain on the brush as I lifted it out of the can so as not to risk the stain flying all over the place. I also made the brushstrokes slow and smooth to keep all the stain on the brush and not somewhere else. The white rag in my hand was even stain-free! I was quite proud of myself for thinking ahead and keeping things well under control to avoid any problems, so how the hell did the stain end up next door? Who would have ever thought that stain would drift so far with such a little breeze—amazing!
I couldn’t face the man. I was terrified! He was one of those neighbors who took such extreme pride in his backyard that his lawn was basically a putting green, which made this situation even worse. They don’t call it stain for nothing—this was going to take professionals to clean up. It wasn’t long before he stormed over, red-faced, and gave me an earful. I had to take it like a man! I nodded when he told me how we would proceed from here. I felt like a child being scolded for misbehaving.
It took about a week for the hired crew to clean up the mess I had made of my neighbor’s yard while I focused on staining the other side of my house. I could just see the cash register smoking as each day went by. It was the longest week I could remember! They did a bang-up job on my dime. A lesson learned for sure.
Estimated cost of job:
Actual cost of job: