The pace has been a little different at the bungalow this summer. Eric has been working hard to prep the house for painting during the week, while I, of course, bring the bacon home from the cube farm. By the time the weekend rolls around, we both want a break. It’s summer after all, and we in the damp, gray Pacific Northwest cherish our summers, which traditionally begin on July 5th and sometimes, if we’re lucky, blaze gloriously into early October.

Who can blame us for packing in all the summer activities we can? It’s time for art fairs, ferry rides, farmers markets, architectural tours, dinner with a view. You may have noticed that I’ve slacked off on blog posts. No apologies! I’ve also, um, slacked off on my living room replastering project. What can I say? By the time I get home from work in the evening, plastering doesn’t sound appealing… and come the weekend, I want to play outdoors. And I don’t mean hunting crabgrass, either! Our crabgrass is alive and well!

Okay, break’s over. I have some gnarly before-and-durings for you (no afters, yet). A house does not get to be 103 years old without experiencing some decrepitude. Years of deferred maintenance cause spots and wrinkles, as surely as years without sunscreen cause spots and wrinkles on us. These photos are tantamount to a confession.

Eric started the prep work on the south side of our house, which bakes in the summer sun and soaks in the winter rain. I may have mentioned that whoever painted the trim back in 1995 never got around to trimming out the south side. That person should be thrashed!

In her defense, I recall our 2007 trip to New England, when we visited the Olson house in Cushing, Maine, inspiration for many of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings (most famously, Christina’s World). We were free to crawl all over its shabby, faded austerity—a religious experience for me. It made me think: If this house can stand on this windswept hill since the late 1700s with, apparently, no paint, then … what, me worry? But, I digress. That’s a topic for another travel blog.

It is with humility that I reveal to you … our bungalow’s south side. This is my bedroom closet window. (Craftsman houses often have windows in their tiny closets so that one might air out one’s few clothes.) The upper pane is cracked. The checked and peeling brown paint has a tenuous grip on the oversprayed trim boards. The window glazing is mottled but still there. That’s more than some windows can say. Eric used a combination of scraper, power washer, and heat gun to get all the paint off that would come off.

Here’s the south foyer window. Same condition. No hate mail, please.

Are you tired of looking at these depressing photos? I am. I’m sure you get the idea. But wait, there’s more!

Some places are going to be hard to paint, like this oddly shaped cubbyhole formed by a shed roof under the gable over the south foyer window, where pigeons like to roost. In the spring we can hear the chicks peeping and the adults cooing. Eric used the power washer to blast out the remnants of nest and lots of pigeon poop. Yes, he wore a face shield. Then he covered the area with net to keep the birds out. The net will be neatly attached to permanently deter the birds after we paint. Our bird-watching cats will be disappointed. (They do not catch pigeons.)

Small shed roof protects a window under a gable

A complicated construction

Pigeon poop is not the only hazardous waste Eric encountered. On the porch roof he discovered a disgusting pile of what we think was raccoon poop, loaded with cherry pits. You know what happens when you eat too many cherries … that raccoon must have had a bad bellyache.

A pile of raccoon poop on the roof


Back to the window frames … After Eric removed as much old paint as possible, all window frames got one or two coats of Zinsser Peel Stop, a treatment that soaks into punky, dry wood and dries hard as rock, at the same time bonding any remaining paint to the wood. Then, a coat of Kilz Klear, a primer that goes on translucent white and dries clear (I mean, klear), like Elmer’s Glue. The new paint won’t dare to come off.

Cans of Zinsser Peel Stop and Kilz Klear

Zinsser Peel Stop and Kilz Klear

In contrast to the south side, this is our east-facing attic stairwell window. Looks much better, right? But up close, its paint is also checked and brittle, not to mention filthy from pollution.

The most dramatic weather damage is on the parts you can’t see from the ground—the knee braces, for instance. What would your knees look like if they’d been propping up the eaves day in, day out, for 103 years? This is not a log on the beach. It’s the top of one of the knee braces.

Shockingly bad!

Shockingly bad!

You might be surprised to learn that rotten wood like this can be salvaged with good old Bondo. Yes, the same stuff used at body shops. Eric tells me it’s rather tricky to mix the two-part goop, race to the top of the ladder, and schmear it on while it’s still malleable. Bondo is a lot stronger than wood. Real restorers would replace all of these parts with new wood, of course … but we’re not doing that. Our goal is to stabilize the existing wood, paint it, and move on.

Gable roof with three knee braces

Tired old knees

In all, Eric replaced eight window panes and reglazed several more. Both of our bathroom windows had cracked panes, so we took the opportunity to replace the clear glass (which we had covered with patterned adhesive privacy film) with new, obscure glass. Wow, what a difference in the bathroom—almost too bright. I can see my own spots and wrinkles too well.

Yesterday, after our spate of too-hot-and-windy-to-paint weather ended, Eric and I applied two coats of “haint blue” paint (Valspar “Gossamer Sky”) to the front porch ceiling. Here’s a teaser for my next post: Woo-hoo—it’s time for COLOR!

Porch ceiling with robin's egg blue paint

The painting begins!

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

22 thoughts on “Preppin’

  1. Angela

    All of our bathroomwindows look just like it, you guys are not the only ones 😉 And last night I thought my summerkitchen window looks rather strange – for the same reason 😊 Our home is a mediterranean house built in the early ’80’s , overlooking la Costa Blanca in Spain and maintenance goes on all year round. Sea climates are hard on houses! A tip I “invented” which works and so I like to share: since we mix our paints – outside – with a anti mold and mildew agent, we never had any growth again on our painted surfaces! Its like one liter of that stuff in 10 liters of paint.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Great tip, Angela! Despite our damp winter climate, we don’t seem to have trouble with moldy paint …I think it’s because exterior paint already has mold-preventive built in. Some brands are rated better than others, of course. Paint quality has come a long way!


    As someone who’s repairing the damage of the previous owner’s love affair with bondo, please, please use something made for wood restoration, like Abatron. And I’m jealous that you could use a pressure washer for prep. If I did that my interior would get soaked lol…

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Thanks for jogging my memory, Meg. I had heard of Abatron but couldn’t recall the name. The Bondo product we are using is an epoxy like Abatron, and it is recommended for wood repair. I wonder if there is much difference between the two. The Peel Stop seems similar to the liquid Abatron, as well. What kind of damage did Bondo do to your house? Was it the Bondo itself or the way it was applied?

  3. Nine Dark Moons

    ya, good to know about the kilz klear (lol), the peel stop and the bondo trick. wow! little by little it will all get done – sounds like eric has made great strides already! love your pics of the farmers market and ferry and mt rainier – wow!!! and your porch roof is totally awesome.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Thanks, Alison! Right now I am feeling like Eric does ALL the work and I just write the blog. I’m looking forward to getting in there to do my share of painting … soon.

  4. Tom and Judy

    Don’t envy the hard work on the windows, but obviously well worth the effort. I love the color of the porch ceiling. Keep up the good work.

  5. curt

    Looks great D’Arcy! Isn’t this fun? Just think of all that history with every stroke of the putty knife. All that wood rot that has taken years to create the antique patina everyone envys. Why – just clear coat that stuff and tell everyone it’s shabby chic.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Curt, I know you’d be rebuilding the knee braces and the window trim from scratch. A friend of mine did comment that people who don’t own old houses think they are cool, but people who do own them know they are a lot of work!

      1. curt

        Ha, ha – that’s is so funny and true! I have the same conversation- people seem to love these old houses and say “I’m gonna find me one” I tell them either have a pile of money and know a lot of contractors or be prepared to work on it for the rest of your life – or possibly both.We’ll both get it done.

  6. Cathy Lee

    Bondo? That is an great idea I will use for my deck repair. I am enjoying your renovation as you problem-solve your way through and share your choices (love the haint blue) – you and Eric are a great team.

  7. Karen B.

    I love these posts because we are such amateur diy-ers that we wouldn’t have known about some of these tricks of the trade. What a huge undertaking, but you guys never cease to amaze me with your quality work. Mr. B. has been working on a patio overhang that has similar issues as your knee braces. He’s used bondo and more to patch and spackle the damaged places in the support beams. Will bondo reduce the look of wrinkles? 🙂

  8. D'Arcy H Post author

    Karen, maybe we should test the Bondo on our faces–you go first! 🙂 Good luck with your patio overhang. Hope you’re having a great summer and that the heat isn’t too bad down in CA.

  9. Jo

    I’m so simpatico with your experiences. When I get home from work I’m almost in a coma and the last thing I want to do is a “project”. The weekends are precious. Hopefully the very last of our outside painting will get finished this fall. Kudos to both of you for keeping the century old beauty cosmetically lovely. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Thanks, Jo! Painting takes forever when you’re DIYing, doesn’t it? Our hot weather and windy days have been delaying it. I’m sure we’ll be working on trim well into fall. Good weather might hold into Oct (I hope)!

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      It is slow going, that’s for sure. Eric hopes to be applying field paint on Wednesday. Then it’ll be time for me to pitch in. Breezy hot days haven’t helped, either.


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