Monday, June 12, 2006

The Ten Foot Rule

It is always a struggle to balance necessity, want, finances, and time. When restoring my house I’m constantly confronted with questions like: How far do I go? How far can I go? How far should I go? When working on an old house sometimes these questions answer themselves and other times they don’t. My basic philosophy is to never go too far. Never get rid of something just because I’m not able at this time to restore it completely. It is better to live with something that is less than perfect than to get rid of it and replace it with new. That is easy to say but it’s not always easy to live with.

A friend of mine is painting his house as well this summer. Well, actually, he has a guy that has been stripping paint off the gingerbread detail and priming. I think later this summer he will bring in a crew to do the real painting. He has a lot more money than I do. He’s not nearly as obsessed with restoration as I am. And he is no where near as neurotic about these things as I am.

He complained to me one day that the guy he had stripping paint off the gingerbread was taking too much time. He went on to explain to me The Ten Foot Rule. It’s very simple, really. The rule basically states that if something looks fine 10 feet away than it’s good enough. It’s a good rule, I guess, when dealing with old house exteriors. Especially an old Victorian with all the gingerbread and detail. Unless you have the big bucks to have an army of people come in and spend weeks or even months stripping every last piece of trim back to bare wood you really have to compromise at times.

Still, at the time, I scoffed at my fiend’s Ten Foot Rule. Damn it, I thought, it should look the same whether your 10 feet or 10 inches away. I didn’t say this to him at the time, but that’s what I was thinking. Then I started working on the porch. Oy! Specifically, the little zigzag blocks just above the porch brackets. Oy! Suddenly The Ten Foot Rule started to make a little more sense. I would never apply it to interior work but I’m faced with a situation here that would require much more time to do it right than I’m will to give to one project at this time.

I think my best case scenario had me painting the house until October. Realistically, to do the porch right and strip all the paint off the gingerbread would require another 3 to 4 weeks. That would have me painting in November when we normally get enough rain fall to make even Noah flinch. It’s just not doable at this time.

So I’m applying The Ten Foot Rule to the upper areas of the porch. I did scrape off some of the more obvious globules but for the most part I sanded, primed, and slapped on another coat of paint. It’s not something I’m proud of, but really, from 10 feet away it doesn’t look too bad.

Tomorrow I’ll post pictures and you can judge for yourselves.

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