Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Seeing Green…..Again

Months back when I started painting the house I speculated about the original house colors. I won’t go in to it all again, but there was some debate – internal debate – as to whether the house was originally green or originally white. I settled on green at first because I had found traces of what I thought was green paint on the siding in places where some of the gingerbread had been removed. Later I decided I was delusional and in the original color was in fact white.

All evidence pointed to white, and any evidence of the green paint had long since been sanded away when I restored the missing gingerbread. Well, today I was working on the Intimate Little Corner on the side of the house. This is the corner I was supposed to be painting today, but as it is now I think I’m may be two days away from even starting to put primer on. Yes, that corner. Anyway, all of the pieces of siding were loose at one end. It was as if there were no nails holding the siding on at that corner. The corner board was nailed to the siding but everything was sort of hanging away from the house an inch or so. I feared I may have a rotten corner so I removed the corner trim to inspect.

Much to my surprise the siding under the corner board had that same green paint on it that I had seen 3 or 4 years ago under the missing gingerbread. Here’s a picture.

That is green, my friends. As green as the nose on my face. Ha! So I’m not crazy. Well, maybe I am, but I’m not crazy about seeing green paint under the missing gingerbread. I have been vindicated. Now the question is, why does it only appear under trim pieces. The answer I’ve come up with is that maybe it isn’t really paint. Maybe it’s just boiled linseed oil, or something else, that has greened over the years. I don’t know if BLO does that, but it is interesting that this only shows up on the siding under the trim.

A broader question is, would they have painted the house after they put the siding on, but before putting all the trim on? It doesn’t seem likely. A good way to ruin a perfectly good paint job is to have a bunch of carpenters with grubby hands leaning against a nice pristine paint job while they apply trim.

A more logical explanation is that it is some type of oil or preservative that is applied to the siding while the house is waiting for a paint job. Given the amount of exterior detail it seems it could have been months from the time the siding was put on, until when all the trim was finished and the house was ready for paint. Given our moist, foggy climate, and the abundance of rain, you could have a problem if the freshly milled siding gets wet and it raised the grain.

So, to recap, my theory is that the siding was put on and as they finished a section they oiled the wood to protect it. After the house was completely trimmed out the house was painted white. This unpainted but oiled siding that ended up under the trim turned a shade of green over the intervening years, only to be discovered by me. It then set me in a tizzy about what the original colors were.

Yes, the house tried to put on over on me, but I’m too smart for it. It’s not going to get me, no sir-ee. And I’m not crazy! I saw I green! You’re all a witness. I saw it! I did. I swear. I’m not crazy.

Oh, and there was no rot in the corner. The nails just rusted away to nothing. End of story.


derek said...

I think most houses were painted after all the siding and trim is on. Now on quality jobs, and because the wood isn't as good, the wood is back primed. What colour does redwood turn when exposed to the elements? I know cedar turns grey.

Greg said...

Redwood turns grey as well. In a way it wasn't really exposed to the elements because it was behind the casing. Still, I think the wood must have been treated with something.

Kristin said...

I've noticed that a lot of our old wood looks greenish underneath the paint, yet the green doesn't quite look like paint.

Melissia said...

I am currently reading your blog from the start and may have an answer. I don't know if you get old comments, but in case you do, here in a possible one. I have an old house. A 1902 Victorian built in Glen Rose Texas. Anyway I am not sure where I learned this but I know that it was common to treat wood in that time with a boric acid solution in order to make it rot and bug resistant. That and lead paint two of the additional reasons that old growth lumber are still around. I am currently restoring the siding on my house and plan to treat my salvaged tongue and siding with the same solution if I can find the recipe.

Greg said...

That sounds about right. Borax is still used today in a lot of wood treatment products. One that I know of is called Tim-Bore (clever). The good thing about borax is that it is not really all that toxic to people and pets. It doesn't kill the insects, but instead it sterilizes them, so the colony dies out.

Does it turn wood green over time? I can't say, but I can now say for sure that the house was originally white. I found a dated image from 1896 and the house was white.