Transform your Smile from Grey to Yellow

Sorry for the confusion! Despite numerous requests, we’re still not a Dental Hygiene blog. Yup, still just blabbering on about fixing up my spooky old house. Specifically, the SMILE of my house, which is the front door. Is your home’s smile bright, cheerful and welcoming? Or brittle, grey, cracked and scary?

Loyal readers know that I’ve never been happy with the “face” of the Babushka House. I’ve written several letters to Google requesting retakes for our StreetView™. It was captured in early December – peak season for bare trees and dead grass; the sun a burnt-out bulb flickering on for just a few hours a day…

3436-W-ParkerAfter this photo was taken (and seen by friends and family who wanted to know how much we paid for the house), I freshened things up by replacing the address plate and painting the mailbox bright yellow. The house now looked like people lived there again:

IMG_5976But still, so much GREY.  And then fall came and the plants died, and our home’s spooky grey smile frowned at every passerby, scowling, “Get off my lawn! Only melancholy and decay are welcome here!”

The  day after Halloween hit 75 degrees (F), sparking a home-improvement mania deep inside me. The clock was ticking on projects that required fresh air and the use of nasty, fumey, Hazards-Known-to-the-State-of-California chemicals like paint stripper. Projects like…. repainting the front door!

Open wide and let’s have a look. It’s not just that our door needed brightening, it needed a full-on root canal: Multiple layers of cracked, warped, chipping lead paint:

IMG_6591IMG_6584It all had to go, and it had to go now, before the sun died again.

STEP ONE – STRIPPING IN PUBLIC:  Remove the patient from its hinges and lay it flat on the operating table, in this case the picnic table that for some reason is still in our front yard.

Pour some stripper into a glass or metal container. Try not to place your jar of toxic stripper next to your jar of iced coffee, because as I always say, “Wrong Sips Remove Lips!”


… And definitely don’t put your jar down next to a bowl of tortilla chips!

Use a brush you don’t care about ruining to slather the stripper over a small area. Don’t be stingy – pour it on good AND thick (not just good OR thick). Then pour on some more. Let it marinate for 15 minutes, or whatever the can says.

And please don’t follow my fashion example – shorts are certainly NOT the best costume for stripping.  The resulting chemical burns on my legs reminded me of my first home perm.*  In fact, this whole process reminds me a lot of a home perm – just waiting around for nasty chemicals to help you meet the beauty standards of the day, be it curly hair or yellow doors:

seperated at birth

Separated at birth?

Just as I applied the first coat of stripper, my neighbor Rachel** and her baby stopped by with a plate of fresh-baked oatmeal cookies. We got to yapping, as ladies do, and suddenly 20 minutes had passed on my 15 minute-stripper.***  If stripped properly, the paint slides off the door like whipped cream off a lemon meringue pie. Instead, mine re-dried and turned rubbery and stubborn like a Skittle in your filling.  To prolong the stripper’s drying time, cover the stripping area with plastic wrap:


Then just slide a plastic scraper along the paint to remove layer after satisfying layer of grey sludge. Compulsive scab pickers and zit poppers will find this step to be incredibly satisfying. Look at how big this one is! It’s like, two feet long!!

IMG_6607PRO-TIP: If you find yourself stripping in your front yard, be prepared to accept unsolicited admiration, advice and criticism from dozens of passersby, almost all older men:***** A heat gun would work better on that!….Don’t get that stripper into your eyes!… Why don’t you just sand it off?….Ouch, that’s gonna HURT!

And of course the always-drunk guy on the next block who passed me no fewer than 5 times, giving strange, slurred advice at each visit, as if it were the first. “I know just whatchoo need for that… it’s like a thing.. like a triangle thing. Yes, it’s defelley shaped like a triangle….”

If anyone has information on the magic triangle-shaped thing, please let me know.

STEP TWO – SAND: As I patiently explained to the dozens of know-it-alls on the sidewalk,  I couldn’t remove the paint with a sander or heat gun because it is clearly LEADED.The only safe way to remove lead paint is by chemical stripping (no heat fumes or dust). However, after most of the paint has been stripped, you are now free to hit the big panels with an electric sander (medium-grit paper) and then go over the nooks and crannies by hand.

20151103_121743Suck up all the dust with a shop-vac, and then wipe everything down with a ball of steel wool saturated in paint thinner to “clean up” whatever cooties were left behind by the stripper.

(I really hope to never use that last phrase in a non-home improvement context.)

STEP THREE – PRIME:  Here at Projectophile, we always, always prime before we paint. In fact, I’m still taking suggestions for my pro-priming Public Service Announcement:  Beat the Grime if you Prime!It’s a Crime Not to Prime!When you Prime, the Results are Sublime!

I taped off the windows and hardware, gave it one coat of sticky, oil-based primer, then let it dry overnight.

20151103_165231STEP FOUR – PAINT:  Give your primed door a light sanding, paying special attention to those stray leaves and bugs that fell on your door when it was drying outside. Wipe down with a damp rag and let dry.

Because this door would be exposed to the elements, I chose oil-based paint, which may be upsetting to more sensitive readers. More importantly, I wanted to use the exact same paint as the mailbox, and that can was still half full!  That is, until I tried to open the can with an old chopstick, causing me to lose control and splatter yellow paint all over my neck, chest, arms, legs, floor, fridge, and stove. Who knew a paint thinner sponge bath could be so refreshing?!

20151103_135657I slinked back to the hardware store and instead of buying another medium can of paint, I bought two little ones. Perhaps they would be easier to control.

20151105_105830Pour one little can of paint in a disposable container, then stir in a couple tablespoons of Penetrol oil paint conditioner, which extends the drying time of the paint. Oil paint dries really fast, and is awfully judgmental. It leaves terrible brush marks as it dries, especially if, like me, you use a super cheap disposable brush made out of old wigs and possum hair. Think of it as covering your tracks.

In fact, oil paint is a such a diva that it dries both too fast AND too slow, requiring 24 hours of rest between coats. Be prepared to leave your door off, or open, for up to 48 hours.  If you do have to leave the house or go to sleep, be sure to scatter some broken toys and rusty tools in the yard, just in case someone thinks you have something worth stealing.

And then when you come home, you will be greeted by… a bright yellow smile!

20151106_08495420151106_085008  —————————————————
* I got my first home perm around the same time as I was “taught” how to put on pantyhose.
** Not to be confused with my other neighbor Rachel who gave me the idea for the white shag rug. Though I’m sure she also makes wonderful cookies.
*** 15-minute stripper also works for a Bachelor Party on a Budget. Or in a hurry.
**** As women who dabble in home improvement already know, older gentleman need to explain things to us. Last week at the hardware store, one of their species tried to convince me that I was buying the wrong toilet plunger.  And here I though that managing and containing human defecation was women’s work!


10 thoughts on “Transform your Smile from Grey to Yellow

  1. Oh, MUCH better! And at least you didn’t ruin your glasses with paint splatter. Been there, done that :-(. Do you think the mystery triangle thingy was one of those teeny scrapers designed to get into molding?


  2. I have known proffesional contractors who buy the paint with the primer in it, just so they don’t have to work as hard, I guess? But walls soak up that expensive stuff so fast! Definetly in favor of primer first.


  3. That will definitely cheer things up for the grey, slooshy days to come!
    My absolute favorite part of this post:
    “…then wipe everything down with a ball of steel wool saturated in paint thinner to “clean up” whatever cooties were left behind by the stripper.

    (I really hope to never use that last phrase in a non-home improvement context.)”
    I feel compelled to find a way to casually work that phrase into a conversation with some of my more uptight extended family members just to see the look on their face. There’s a really good reason why they consider me to be the black sheep of the family! LOL!


    • I really restrained myself when it came to the stripper jokes in this post. At least at home I got to make them, “Honey, I’m going out in the front yard to strip for a couple of hours.”… “Has anyone seen my stripping gloves?” …. “I’m a little lightheaded from stripping all day…”

      I wonder if “stripper” is the same word in other forms of English (UK, Australian, etc) — if it means both a chemical for removing paint and also a person who removes his/her clothes for money?

      Anyone? Australia? Zimbabwe? Andorra?


  4. Pingback: Transform your Smile from Grey to Yellow | I am Dangerousfrank

  5. Home improvement shopping while female… I was asked 3 times if I was sure the staples I bought for my gun were the ones I actually needed. On a brighter note, your door and mailbox combo is beautiful. You chose perfectly.


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