Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ordeal by Paint Sprayer

We finally got the white picket fence repainted. All clean and sparkling white again.

My husband and I finally got around to doing something that we have dreaded: repainting our white picket fence.

Background: We replaced the fence back in 2011 because the old one was rotting and falling apart (it was made of cheap wood that was unsuited to being outside, and pieces would simply break off if you pulled on them -- horrible!). The fence company installed our new fence in summer 2011 and told us to wait until the following spring to paint it, to let the resins in the fresh wood age so that the paint would adhere better.

So in March 2012, my husband and I painted it for the first time, using a paint sprayer I bought from (I researched it carefully and it had the best reviews for the price). I knew that with several outbuildings plus this fence, the investment of several hundred dollars would pay off in terms of saved labor.

The Graco Magnum X5 Stand Airless Paint Sprayer.
It doesn't have a cup attached to the spray gun, which
makes it lighter to use, but it's a complex machine,
with lots of knobs, as well as parts that can CLOG.

And the sprayer is indeed fast and efficient -- when we can make it work, that is. Since we only use it once every year or so, we have trouble remembering exactly how to put it together and the steps for setting it up.

  • In 2012, it was a great challenge to assemble it the first time when we painted the fence. 
  • In 2013, we painted the exterior of our garden shed and had even more trouble getting it to work (we had to call the company that time). 
  • In 2014, we used it to paint the interior of the garden shed, although that didn't go too badly as I recall.

But we were still dreading the difficulty this year. The first paint had started wearing off the fence and we should have repainted it last year but never got around to it, so we knew there was no avoiding it this spring:

You can see in this photo from mid-March that the fence really did need to be repainted . This would have been a good time to paint it too, before the foliage grew up in front of the fence. However, our laziness and dread of using the paint sprayer caused us to delay until last week.

We overcame our dread and this time re-watched the instructional video again before starting and remembered to avoid some of the difficulties we'd had in the past, so the setup wasn't too bad and we got started fairly painlessly.

But there always has to be some kind of problem: after using the rest of a five-gallon can of leftover paint, we switched to the new can I bought, which apparently wasn't exactly the right kind of paint (it wasn't the plain white paint, but a kind meant to be tinted a color, which was too thick to go through the sprayer without the added tints). So the sprayer got clogged and the color was awful, a dingy off-white. So I had to take that paint back to Menards, which very kindly allowed me to exchange it, even though we had wasted a third of the bucket. We resumed with the right kind of paint and managed to finish by the very last light of dusk.

The next day, I repainted the section we had covered with the wrong sort of paint, with my daughter's help. The sprayer worked for a little while but then got clogged, so we just used brushes for the last bit. Grrr.

Anyway, the ordeal is over. I understand why many people have vinyl fences, but I love the real wood fence so much, and it is so much more appropriate for our old-fashioned farmhouse, that to me it's worth the day-long ordeal every few years. And it certainly does look better now:

The glow of the setting sun behind me has colored the fence a decidedly non-white color in this photo.
A closeup of the tulips against the freshly-painted fence. I think the crisp whiteness sets off the bright colors quite well.

We tried to use plastic tarps and large pieces of cardboard to prevent paint from spraying all over the place, but a fine mist covers many of the plants in the front border nonetheless, and I hope they will not suffer as a result (I'm particularly worried about some newly-planted delphiniums in the previous photo, because their very few leaves are covered with paint spray). We really should have painted before the plants got this tall.

The other end of the fence. The fresh white fence makes our house look dingy by comparison.
The inside of the fence.
Much improved.

We're both very glad that this job is completed and it should last for another few years.

Now we just have to paint our house... I think will hire someone to do this, but only because I'm afraid of heights. I'm really not looking forward to the expense, though: We got one bid for $5,500. Aaagh! That makes me tempted to climb up on a ladder with the sprayer.

What do you think we should do? Have you painted your house before, and how did it go? Thanks for reading! -Beth


  1. Hi Beth, Your picket fence is really beautiful. I love it! We put siding (vinyl) on our house a few years ago and are happy that we did. No more painting. It has held up well. My husband does a house wash with a soap product on the hose every year, keeps it gleaming white. Your flowers look lovely, Beth.

    1. Hi Beth, Yes, I certainly understand the very good reasons why people prefer vinyl (it's not exactly "final" as the ads say, but it's certainly much longer-lived than most paint jobs). Our garage is vinyl, as that's about all I do to it, hose it down on the north side every year or two. Thanks for reading! -Beth

  2. I just put in a wood picket fence. I was thinking of painting it white, but the maintenance seems like a nightmare. I definitely don't want to go through that every few years. Yours looks great though!

    1. Hi Fiona, the maintenance is not exactly a nightmare (if we knew what we were doing with the sprayer, it wouldn't take more than a few hours). If you like the weathered natural wood look, you should stay with it, but if you really want the "white picket fence" look (like I do), either white vinyl or repainting every few years are the options (whether you do it yourself or pay someone to do it). Thanks for visiting! -Beth

  3. Your fence looks crisp and white again, it was quite a job but you can be proud. Until now we also do all the painting inside and outside ourselves. But we are getting older and each time I say this is the last time.

    1. Hi Janneke, Ha! I really understand what you mean about saying each time that it will be the last time! But then I think about how many lovely plants I could buy with the money I save from doing the work myself and tell myself to just get on with it. I might reach my limit one day though, like you. Thanks for reading! -Beth