Saturday, August 13, 2005

To Pressure Wash, or Not to Pressure Wash?

Or: What I Did on My Summer Vacation.

Those of you who actually know me doubtless recall my unbounded contempt for the previous owner of my house. Her sins and idiocy are legion, and include:
  • Foregoing euthanasia for her kidney-diseased cat, allowing it instead to spend its last days at home spraying bloody urine all over the east end of the living room. (Mmm. Humane!)
  • Living for 10 years with blood-and-urine-soaked carpet, the funk of which could, on humid days, be smelled outside the house.
  • In the kitchen, installing a new subfloor and vinyl flooring ON TOP OF the cat urine.
  • Never, in 22 years in the house, looking to see what was above the drop ceiling.
  • Never, in 22 years in the house, removing the wadded-up plugs of kleenex the owner before her had stuffed in the cracks between the baseboards and the paneling.
  • Not cleaning the kitchen when vacating the house.
  • Paying a plumber over $120 to fix the float on a 40-year-old toilet. (For those of you unfamiliar with the joys of homeownership, a decent toilet can be had in toto for about 86 bucks. And fixing a float ain't rocket science. And anyone who lives with that much bloody cat urine is not entitled to get sqeamish about fixing the fucking toilet.)
To this list I now add:
  • Painting over weathered wood and dry rot on the south side of the house.
From what I can tell, the 12" cedar bevel siding was entirely unpainted from 1958 until 2001. Then, without scraping, without sanding, without doing any surface prep whatsoever, the previous owner slapped on a coat of primer and a coat of paint. Which is now falling off, especially around the knot holes and cracks where the dry rot had set in.

I've torn out the rotted areas, and since the siding was nailed up on top of tar-impregnated construction felt, the wood behind the siding is sound. My plan is to take off the paint, sand a bit, use an epoxy consolidant to firm up any soft/weathered areas, use epoxy putty to patch the rot, put on a penetrating/sealing alkyd primer, and then paint the bastard again.* But: how to take off the paint?

I was thinking I'd just scrape/sand it off, but I started today and concluded it will take forever. So now I'm thinking about pressure washing. On the one hand, pressure washing could probably blast most of the paint off (and the first layer of wood, which would normally be a problem, but not here). On the other hand, I'm concerned about driving water up under the siding. That will be disastrous if it doesn't dry out before I paint (or ever...). On yet another hand, it's the hottest, driest month of the year here. I also need to renail a lot of the siding, which tempts me to nail it down as tight as I can, then pressure wash, then loosen it and let it dry out for a few weeks, then nail it down tight before I paint. But (on what is it, the fourth hand?) my friend T at (my former) work said he pressure washed his house and had problems with it not drying before he painted. (Thus, paint falling off in sheets.) Hmm. I wonder if Home Depot rents a moisture meter?

*This is just my plan for the bottom of the house. The top half of the house is some kind of tongue-and-groove siding running vertically, and I'm going to nail up cedar shingles there. That plan has the benefit of requiring no surface prep AND giving me an excuse to purchase more pneumatic tools...


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