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Putting it on thick 

I painted the porch last weekend. When I bought the house in Hillsborough five years ago, the porch looked great. The wood floor was a glossy burgundy, the same color as the kitchen floor. The banisters were a clean, bright white. Less than a year later, the paint started to peel.

The porch flooring has two distinct sections: The original is made up of narrow pine strips, while the other section is treated two-by-fours--more like an open deck. By the time I got around to the job, almost all of the paint was gone from both sections.

A friend with some painting experience told me that the previous owner must have just thrown down some paint on bare wood before he put the house up for sale. When you ask Craig for advice, you better have a paper and pencil nearby. He tends to give a lot of information in a short amount of time. Although I had done some painting before (I vaguely remember doing it professionally for a day), I needed to get the scoop, from start to finish. Three steno-pad pages later, I felt I knew all I needed to know about the mechanics of painting.

"You're gonna have to put some primer down," Craig began. "That wood will soak it right up. But first, you're gonna have to scrape the *&#&$ out of it."

We walked over to the deck portion, which receives a lot of direct sunlight.

"Use a wire brush on this part. Use the five-in-one on the pine." A five-in-one is a tool that painters use to scrape wood and wring out paint rollers. (I'm only aware of two of its five official functions.)

I dutifully used the wire brush on the two-by-fours, and began with the five-in-one on the pine strips. Things went well until I scraped up a splinter. I couldn't just leave it, so I started to pull. Wrong decision. I was left with a huge cavity that I'd later try to fill in with pools of primer and paint.

After two half-days spent scraping that floor, I remembered why I dropped my painting gig for a job selling suits at Carl's department store in Schenectady all those years ago. My neighbors, Don and Dot, enjoyed the sight of me doing some work outside. Dot especially got a kick out of it when I could barely straighten up to say hello to her.

"See how old John's getting, Luke," she told her grandson with a smile.

When I'd finally finished, I pulled up the masking tape I'd put down and found various insects sticking to it, still alive. Some of the bugs came off easily--their backs were stuck to the sticky tape. Others were attached by their legs and/or antennae. To free them, I had to brace myself in a chair.

After ministering to all the bugs I could, I looked up and surveyed the finished porch. It was then I realized I should have asked Craig's opinion on color choice.

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