Monday, July 20, 2009
Ever wondered why it can take years to get to a particular house chore? I certainly have.
Maybe it has to do with change.
I live in a 100-year-old building, and many things need updating, the windowsill next to my kitchen sink, for instance. Covered in layers and layers of paint, it was chipped. Ugly. Stained. Every time I went to pour a glass of water, rinse a plate, or wash a pint of strawberries, I saw that caked up windowsill. I’d been looking at it for eleven years.
Yes. Eleven years!
It needed to be scraped and re-painted, but I had a lot of reasons why I didn’t want to start with all that. For one, I knew I needed to use paint remover and paint removers scare me. They have warnings about noxious fumes and chemicals that remind me of nasty and predatory things from my past.
(Maybe it’s even scarier how I let the past control me. )
Thirty years ago, I used paint remover to strip an old, wooden desk. Following instructions on the back of the container, I wore gloves. I kept the windows open for proper ventilation. I think I wore a mask--all to protect against those list of ingredients on the can that said they could lead to bodily harm.
Not long after that little project, I found out I had a serious blood disease (Aplastic anemia). I don’t believe I got the disease from that paint remover, but I've never been able to completely rule out the possibility. The connection gripped my mind.
Meanwhile, 30 years later, this windowsill was really bugging me.
Nowadays, we have non-toxic alternatives. A short trip to my local hardware store, and I found a paint remover that was "green". It cost $20.00 for a pint-sized container--pricey--but I decided to go for it.
This time around, the gluey goop didn’t have that stinging, suffocating odor like the one I used before—more like a mild, sweet smell that I remembered from elementary school art classes.
The old paint on the sill was inches thick (okay, slight exaggeration, maybe half an inch thick); I had to reapply the goop three times. As each layer gave way to another, I wondered: who painted this color and why? How long did each layer last? How many more layers are there? Why did someone choose mustard yellow, blue or green? After several hours, I scraped that sill down to the original wood, then I let the sill dry out for a few days.
Next, I applied two coats of primer and two coats of semi-gloss white. I’m planning to put a final, glossy white finish on it, but I’m going to let the sill rest for a bit.
Let the windowsill rest? How come?
I think I’ve asked a lot of this windowsill, stripping away 100 years of history in two days. It’s been relieved of all those dried up protective layers, but if someone did that to me, I’d need some time to recover, too.
Got a house-related chore you've put off for years? Tell me why...
Posted by Jessica Keener at 7:42 AM