I’ve been a blogging derelict of late. No frugal tips, no newspaper updates, not much help at all except for announcing five wonderful new entries to the Frugal Fiction library. And, why is that? I DIDN’T put down that paint brush – not for almost a month in fact.
Like many of you who allow the government to use save your money during the year, the ol’ refund arrived. What to do with it? Since it’s unlikely I could amass the same dollars to spend in one place during the year, it seemed like a windfall worthy of a noble endeavor. For us, that became Paint the House – Outside.
Now, if you’re a D-I-Y dynamo, you can skip this frugal lesson. If, like me, you had to find out what the acronym meant, (do-it-yourself) best to read on.
Frugal is often a two part decision – time vs money. Quotes for someone else to sweat, clean paint out of their hair and fingernails, and teeter atop a too-tall ladder made our time seem, well pretty darn valuable. We could do it. What’s the big deal? Pour the paint in a pan, stick that roller-thingie in the pan, and well, roll. How hard is that?
Here’s what I learned:
1) There’s this thing called ‘prep’ work. People forget to account for stuff like wood filler and elastomeric paint and caulk, which requires a gun… Before you paint, you have cracks to fill in the trim or the block or the stucco. That stuff ain’t cheap. And, it takes TIME to do. Our block house looked like one of those old data processing punch cards we had so many hairlines cracks to fill. (Block doesn’t crack, but trust me, it moves, and the stucco doesn’t.)
2) Wood should be painted more than say, once every eight years, at least out here in Arizona. It sucked up paint better than that Wet/Dry Vac I fought with Sears about ever sucked up anything.
3) Once you ‘visit’ your house, I mean take a really good look at it, more projects will show themselves. It’s like noticing that first cobweb on the ceiling. Then you see another, and oh, there’s that dirt over there, and uhm, probably ought to dust the plant shelves. Whatever you estimated for the job, add 20% at least for the other stuff you’ll end up doing. For us, that included painting the patio table, which, of course, meant buy new chair cushions, rebuilding the hot tub steps, fixing the pond skimmer, staining the hot tub… See what I mean? Stuff! Which takes TIME and MONEY.
Okay, so the place is prepped, and we buy the paint, which is supposed to cover 250 to 400 sf. per gallon. Maybe – if you have no gusts, breeze, or wind movement at all. (I guess you guys from Chicago can skip this post, too. ) And, you don’t drop any. And, your aim is perfect so that thin coat is equally thin at all points, and, well, you painted that trim maybe once or twice during the last eight years…
We rented a sprayer for the house. And, oh, if you’re doing the house, guess you should do the block fence, too, and those privacy walls, well they had cracks and needed paint. Original estimate? 25 gallons for the house. Actual usage – 37 gallons to date. Hubby is tackling the patio ceiling cracks for the #*^&! time. I’m hoping we don’t require another gallon to repaint it.
FRUGAL TIP: Buy more than you estimate. You’re not a professional. We bought during a rebate program. The extra 10 gallons didn’t come with the $20 rebate, costing us $40 more than if we’d bought it all at once. A second issue? When you buy all at once, the colors match better. If the paint store has to reload color it’s a new lot, and the machine may be working differently, and… The darker your color, the more noticable variances will be.
Trim paint? Estimate – 2 gallons. DUMB!! FOOLISH! Should have bought the 5 gallons for $69 with a $20 rebate instead of 2 gallons at $26 each, which led to 2 more gallons… Or, even better:
FRUGAL TIP: Check out the paint mistakes and buy those $5 gallons for the primer coat. We could have saved close to $100. That our nosey neighbor would have freaked as we brushed light pink, tan, and mint green on the trim would have been fun, too. So long as the colors are lighter than your actual trim color, you save big $.
Did I mention how smart we were on that sprayer? Yep, ran in at 8:59 pm so we could experience the full 24 rental hours. Up at daybreak, spraying our little hearts out. All day. Dark sets in. Scrub, clean, take a toothbrush to that sprayer ‘cuz there’s no way we’re going to pay the $100 cleaning fee. Returned at 8:45 pm. Great job! Except…
We weren’t done. Not even close. We needed it for another day – so $200 vs the $100 we estimated. Learning to use the darn thing (which is much more difficult than it seems during that 5 min. “let’s spray some water so you can see how easy it is” lesson you get at the store) took several hours.
In the end, we did the job for less than half the cheapest quote. However, it took us a month, on and off, to finish the job. Granted, we completed other jobs, and probably tackled the project with far greater attention to detail than the professional would have (I doubt he’d have loving addressed every wood crack as we did), but at what true cost?
FRUGAL TIP: We didn’t shop ads – actually, we didn’t shop much. We ate out, ALOT! Calculate this cost in your estimate.
FRUGAL TIP: Do not buy those cheap plastic drop cloths. Buy the paper instead to cover windows, and real drop cloths for the ground. The hours we wasted trying to manage fluttering cellophane can’t be counted. Papered windows (done in advance) and ground covering that didn’t require eight point pin downs every 12′ might have saved us day 2 of the sprayer. Maybe not, but it sure would have saved us lots of aggravation.
FRUGAL TIP: That fancy blue painter’s tape? Not necessary unless you’re doing inside walls (learned that from the Glidden guy after already using a couple of those expensive rolls.) It’s going in the garbage, folks. Plain ol’ masking tape works just fine.
FRUGAL TIP: If you don’t have the right equipment… Every tried to spray an 18′ wall from a 12′ ladder? Not safe and not efficient in either time or materials. Trees, rocks, us, the ladder, roof tiles – all probably had more paint on them than the area we were attempting to paint. In retrospect, we should have done the bottom portion and hired someone to do the upper portion, say, someone who had a 16′ ladder and no fear of heights. Hubby plastered flat on the roof, one arm hanging over the edge, trying to slap paint on trim he couldn’t see as I directed from the ground… Let’s just say, some of the language might remind you of the ‘best of’ from labor at ten centimer dialation. (Psst: painters are cheaper than divorce attorneys)
Another thing I learned:
Glue guns should start a new ad campaign: We’re more than just arts and crafts. This is a really neat tool! I attached the pond skimmer netting to the metal frame after the plastic that held it in place shattered. Savings: $15 or more for a new skimmer. Then, those little cracking plastic covers became one with the patio table legs. No more finding and reattaching to keep from scraping up the patio. Saved the glass door squeegee, too, with a little glue. That’s probably $10 or more I didn’t have to spend now, but it also kept ’em out of the landfill for awhile. Rebuilding and repairing save more than just $.
The best thing? I rebuilt the hot tub stairs. (These, also, I should probably stain a tad more often.) Anyhow, the steps were splitting, peeling, just plain unsafe. But, the underside? Perfect. Untouched by sun damage. For $7 in redwood screws, I turned the boards over and rebuilt the steps. New steps would have been a couple hundred dollars or more. The grandkids’ feet torn to shreds? Can’t put a price on their safety.
And, just to be really current, I tallied up where I stand on paying for the newspaper. Through May, after making that $130 investment in tree-killing, I’m $474 to the good, on target to make that expenditure return me 500% or better. Now, if I could do something about the 401k…
Remember: A Frugal Fiction book: $3.99. Reading to your child 15 minutes a day? Priceless!!