This weekend I put in my yearly couple of days of attending to the outside of the house. Some years it's building wraparound stairs to a porch, or ripping out a bunch of rot and rebuilding walls and siding. This year is was repainting about a third of the house and attending to the small pockets of rot that this process uncovered.
My process is unsophisticated but effective enough. Scrape any loose paint. Probe any rotted areas, rip out only what seems truly soggy, stabilize the rest with wood hardener applied with a syringe, patch with wood filler if necessary and paint that sucker.
The nice thing about paint is that it allows a house to age gracefully. It always amazes me how the gnarliest section of rot, if treated this way, can be completely inconspicuous, unnoticeable against the view of the house as a cohesive whole.
Now don't get me wrong: if a board is totally rotten, I think it's a good idea to rip it out and replace it. But sometimes now is not the appropriate time to rip it out and fix it properly. In which case, this quick fix that takes five minutes is miles better than doing nothing at all.
The thing is, we all need a way to age gracefully. I used to groan at having to paint the house, swearing that I would never live in a white house with a white picket fence (I grew up with both). So much painting! But what I failed to appreciate was the way that paint allows you to tolerate imperfection for awhile longer, and then awhile longer still. Failings can be covered up, forgotten. Repairs can be blended in with the original, creating one joint effort between me and everyone who ever built or worked on this house.
I am a man of quick fixes. I don't bite off more than I can chew in these couple of days of house repair each year. I am not interested in living in a construction zone for months while I slowly piece together the parts of some complicated renovation. Paint is the ultimate arbiter for someone like me. Do the best you can, paint it and move on. Paint is temporary. Paint is powerful. Paint is life.
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