Spending Time Painting A House I Don’t Live In


Three years ago, Mark and I bought a five-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath house on a whim. The neighbor around the corner was selling it cheap, because he suddenly needed to be out by the end of the year. “We can rent it out as extra income,” we said to ourselves, and closed on Dec. 23, 2012.

So far, that “extra income” has amounted to a total of $2,000. Amortized over the life of the property, that’s about $2 a day, even though our renters pay $1,000 per month.

“Why, Debbie?” you ask. “That hardly seems possible.”

Oh, it’s possible.

In the first place, we needed to insure the place against, well, renters. In the second place, the Boston Tea Party aside, there are taxes.

In the third, fourth, fifth and sixth places, something always needs fixing or improving over there.

I knew I was in trouble last week when Mark said, “We really need to paint the rental.”

“Aw, come on,” I said. “We’ve already done the kitchen, the dining room, two bedrooms and all the woodwork!”

“I mean the outside,” he replied.
Deep breath. “OK,” I frowned.

Then again, I have always hated the color of that house.

Of course, when Mark says “we” need to paint something, he really means “you” — as in “I.”

He’s not lazy, he just knows that I have much more stamina for painting things then he does. He hates everything about the job, especially the ladders. I think he has a fear of heights, whereas I, catlike, enjoy the occasional view from above.

So, last weekend, we gathered up our ladders, tools and stamina, and headed on over there.

It’s a big house.

Of course, we are not painting it yet. Oh, no. Painting a large house simply means spraying it with color. It takes about a day. But we are in the dreaded “prep” stage, where every inch of said house (which seems bigger by the hour) is inspected, scraped, sanded, possibly caulked, and then primed. “Prep” takes several weekends.

Not only that, but some of these inches are not reachable when standing on terra firma. Some are under the eaves, around the chimney or low to the ground. If you want to skip the gym this month, paint your house. The pain is the same, and you have something nice when you’re finished.

But I have only completed the first weekend. The minute I get all the primer spatters out of my hair and ears, it will be time to go back there and do the other two sides of the house.

Once all the prep is complete, Mark will rent a cherry picker and zoom around the house in a few hours, radically changing its appearance and enjoying the oohs, ahhs and grateful applause of the neighbors. Once everyone goes home, including Mark, I will step in with my 3-inch paintbrush and the trim color.

They will find me, probably on Tuesday, collapsed under the bushes. I will have suffered heatstroke, bee stings, mosquito bites and, quite possibly, a broken leg.

But it will be worth it — the house I don’t live in will look great. Estimated cost of the job: $2,000 and my sanity.