Visible Progress

Ten years of DIY has taught me a lot of things, but the longest running lesson is how to keep myself going when I’m feeling discouraged with how much I’m getting done, and how much there is left to do. Here’s my trick: visible progress.

Every once in a while I need to spend some time working on a project that, when I finish it, will be up in my face reminding me that yes, I am in fact getting shit done.

Which is how I ended up looking like this over the weekend…

I might have taken the “up in my face” portion of that statement too literally. Also, that’s not blood. It’s paint.

Here’s what happened… you know this fun little view?


It’s the side of the garage that faces the back yard. If you’ve been hanging around here long enough you know that it used to look… ah… not so good.


The first summer I lived here the bank was holding me hostage for a long list of projects that were at least half-ridiculous, and one of the things I needed to get done was fix the siding on the garage.


This was a big effing deal.

It was one of those projects that weighed on me constantly because– as much as I hate to admit it– I couldn’t do it by myself. My uncle sent a couple of his guys up to help me one weekend, and we knocked out the two critical sides of the barn. (It would have made more sense to do the whole barn at once, but I couldn’t swing it financially at the time, and the bank didn’t care that the other two sides were ugly, just that they had siding.)

Somewhere in the back of my head I intended to paint the barn not long after the siding was up, but that project quickly fell to the bottom of the priority list, and I really haven’t thought much about it in the two years since.

Well, until I decided I needed a big dose of visible progress, and the next thing you know? This…


Actually, first I had to go back and correctly nail all of the siding on. Back when we put it up I used the minimal amount of nails because I was trying to move quickly through a lot of work while I had my free labor.

So the first four hours of Saturday was getting set up, hauling the compressor around, trying to figure out why the compressor wasn’t working, swearing a lot, and then, finally, a lot of climbing up and down the ladder with the nailer.

As you can imagine, I was super excited to get to the painting part. I actually snipped a small piece of the metal siding on the donkey barn and had Lowe’s match a solid stain to the color. There are probably a couple of things to discuss here.

First, I went with a solid stain for two reasons. 1.) I used it back when I was painting all that gorgeous wavy-edged cedar siding (that we painstakingly hand nailed in place) and I really liked the way it went on. And, 2.) Stain fades, where as paint flakes. It doesn’t provide as much protection, but as it fades I can just roll another coat on over it without worrying about scraping off any old, flaking paint. Solid stain is also great if you want color but also want to keep the wood grain of your siding, which was a big deal to me at my last house, but far less important with the T1-11 on the side of the barn.


The other decision I made was to roll the paint on instead of hauling out my sprayer. It’s possible that the sprayer would have been much quicker and easier, but it also would have meant messing around with a lot of shit I wasn’t in the mood for– namely taping things off, wearing a respirator, and cleaning the 150 tiny little parts in the sprayer. I’d rather just throw my roller away at the end of the day and be done with it.


This is 3.5 gallons, and two days in to the project. And just as I was finishing up this side, there was some ominous rumbling…

By the time the storm cleared it was too late to finish up, but as far as visible progress goes… this is pretty badass.

With the propane fence, the weeds gone, and this side almost finished? Major improvement over where I was a couple of weeks ago.


However, my days of looking like I’m bleeding from the head are not over yet. This side still needs a light second coat. And then there’s this…


Oh, look. A whole other side of the garage that needs to be painted. The fun never ends.

I also have to make a decision about the rest of the garage. It’s ugly, no doubt. And not entirely weather-tight.


I wanted to re-side the rest of it this summer, but I’m also budgeting for one of these babies (and the kitchen renovation that will ensue because of it) which is making me rethink some of my summer priorities. I could just let it go for another winter and it will drive me nuts, but won’t be the end of the world. I could also suck it up, pay someone to reside it, and postpone some of the kitchen work…

Or I could split the difference and do what I can to pretty it up (repaint the front, patch the sides around the garage door) and then plan to overhaul the remaining two sides along with replacing some of the doors and windows, soffits, and trimming everything out sometime next year.

Decisions, decisions.

13 Responses

  1. When I was in the girl scouts, for like 5 minutes back in the 60’s, we learned that when faced with cleaning your trashed room…do the biggest thing first for the biggest visual impact.

    It looks mahvelous! Dinking with the sprayer vs. major arm workout…just think of the time saved at the gym.

    Make the garage weather tight(just the missing siding?)…..buying the woodstove is much more important than how the garage *looks*.

  2. Badass! Do a bit to make it better but you live in the house with that kitchen, so at least some of that has to get done.

  3. That is a very unique building, it was nice to see all 4 sides in one post, that always looked like 2-3 different buildings depending on where you took the picture from! Great job so far, good advice on the stain vs paint.

  4. You did change it dramatically with some stain, trim paint and enclosing the LP tank.
    Visable progress indeed. When spraying, usually the prep work and cleaning takes longer than the actual applying the paint and w/o a tyvek or similar suit and no wind,one can get real close to their work as well.
    It looks great and totally different than b4.

  5. My first thought was “why didn’t she spray that!?”.

    But then you explained it very logically, cleaning the sprayer takes twice as long as actually using it!

    You have made some great progress!

  6. Am chuckling…the pictures of the storm clouds and the red barn (for whatever reason) made me think of the Wizard of Oz! Dorothy with a two machetes, a necklace of garlic and work boots!

    That “little stove” is supposed to save you quite a bit in heating costs through the cold season…money you could use next Spring/Summer to finish some other projects, yes? I’d say be sure to get that stove and work around that on whatever you want to do to the barn.

    1. ::Nod::Nod:: Definitely. The money you can save on heating makes getting the stove in pretty high on the priority list. I would go for that first even if you just have to prep the floor only right under it, or even just lay some cheap tile loose under it as a temporary measure.

      Of course, on the other hand, if you go to the work of patching the barn for weather, you may want to do just that section with the right stuff that you will re-side with later. No sense doing the work twice.

  7. A word about the wood stove…We built a box with 2 x 12 with a recessed top that I tiled with some Italian tile I schlepped around for years and it has served us well in two different locations and 3 different wood stoves….the box raises the woodstove off the ground and that makes a world of difference to your back while loading said stove, unless, of course, you are lucky enough to have one of those amazing soapstone models where the door is at the perfect height. Also you might want to take a look at how you want the door to open…we had one that opened like an oven door (downward) and it wasn’t the easiest to use.

    and the barn looks great! Yeah, I vote for lowering heating costs as that leaves more $$ for everything else.

  8. I also thought the stain fades, paint peels thing. Then after my house was stained with a solid stain, a Sherwin-Williams guy told me solid stains peel. The house was stained about seven years ago, and indeed is peeling.

  9. I primed my whole (new) house last winter, walls and ceilings ~7000sq ft drywall, the whole process including clean up took 4 hours. I only primed with the sprayer cuz that’s all the ceiling was going to get and I was going to use different colors in all the rooms. If you really insist on rolling you should check out the 18″ers. Those are really nice for big jobs.

    Tip: spray really heavy relatively close to windows/doors then roll in closer, no masking. You can also buy a 2′-3′ masking knife, the ones with forks that hold disposable cardboard are best.

    For cleaning the sprayer (oil based) buy a few gallons of mineral spirits, dump in 5 gal bucket and run it through the sprayer. For latex you can hook a garden hose directly to the intake on the sprayer. The first minute or so of flushing you recapture the paint (same with oil) then when it thins out to water just dump on ground until all clear.

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