The Tipping Point

Goodbye old roof.

Goodbye old roof.

Hello new roof.

Hello new roof.

Watching the roofers scurry up and down 40′ ladders and perching on gutters – with no apparent fear or regard for safety – must have addled my brain. I, who sit at a desk most days, thought it would be a fine idea to scurry up and down a 32′ ladder to paint the exterior bits of the porch.

I’m not a complete weakling…but jockeying a mouse around a desktop doesn’t do much for my upper body strength. And while I can carry a 32′ ladder on its side, getting it upright and in position is an entirely different matter. I’m not stellar at math…but 32 divided by 2 is, let’s see…16. With my (weak) arms stretched above my 5’6″ head, I can grasp things about 80″ up. On my tiptoes. That is well below the 16′ tipping point of a 32′ ladder…and that makes it difficult to – no, damn near dangerous – for me to move around.

And of course, with only one ladder and a lot of porch exterior to scrape then paint, there is a lot of moving of the ladder.

I now understand why the roofers put up four, then simply left them in place through most of the job.

This? Not fun.

This? Not fun.

But I got the porch scraping done; all flaking paint has been removed, and I scraped off some bubbling bits on a stretch of dentil moulding as well. And I am so very thankful it was but a stretch that required it; the dentil moulding goes around the entire porch.

At about 8:30 p.m. last night, I started painting the areas that will be dark gray-blue. By 9:15 or so, it was too dark to continue. By 9:30, I was on my couch realizing that I’d hurt myself. But at least I didn’t send the ladder crashing through the neighbor’s window (it was a close call a couple times).

Wow. I made it look even worse.

Wow. I made it look even worse.

This morning, with a high temp for the day projected at 90°, I got up with the sun to try to get in a little more work outside before it got too hot. I made some coffee, ambled out back and eyed the big ladder. Then I walked back inside and had some more coffee, while massaging my aching right shoulder.

Instead, I decided to do something “easy” – paint the lintels, sills and window frames on the second-floor front windows.

While the sills and bottoms of the frames were indeed easy, it turns out I’m too short to reach the lintel and the upper frame reaches. And the porch roof changes planes right where one would ideally put a ladder. If one had the proper type of ladder to put there. I do not.

Kids, don't try this at home. Or anywhere else.

Kids, don’t try this at home. Or anywhere else.

On one side, I tried a stepladder. This is among the most idiotic things I’ve ever done – and I knew it the second I stepped onto it. But with a fingertip death grip on the window frame, I got that lintel painted. Then I had some more coffee, and used my head.

On the second window, I lowered the upper sash, then I was able to stand on the sill, get a good grip on the frame through the top opening, and barely reach the extents of the lintel and the upper frame with my brush.

But I’ve reached my tipping point on the rest. I’m hiring a painter.


About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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4 Responses to The Tipping Point

  1. Kurt says:

    Three words. Rental basket lift. No ladders and you get to drive it around!

  2. potomacker says:

    Any task requiring a ladder easily doubles the required time to finish it.

  3. BLZeebub says:

    Ditto on hiring a pro. In all my days climbing heights for work, the only times I fell were off ladders. We need you pushing your mouse around and cranking out your mag. Stick to making sawdust near the ground and cracking your editorial whip at your day job. We need you around, Fitz. All 66″ of you.

  4. bsrlee says:

    Handy tip for getting loose paint (and stucco etc.) off – use an air compressor, long hose and a small jet tip. Works a treat, took a few hours to blow all the loose render off my neighbour’s house before it was redone.

    If you are going to be doing high work it really is a good investment to buy your own safety harness (with the break away style decelerator webbing) and a load of climbing rope – just don’t tie it off to a car, that is just tempting fate (and Warner Bros. cartoons). Toss a light leader line over the roof then use that to drag the main rope over, tie it off to something immovable, connect loose end to safety harness and adjust as you go. Better to look silly hanging from the roof than in hospital in a full body cast, or a slab.

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