The Fence…….

The US Army teaches you many of life’s lessons.  They rely on experience to be your teacher, as opposed to picking up a book and reading about it, although they are notorious for their training manuals that can break the simplest of tasks down into a series of steps and considerations that are referenced in the simplest of terms.  One of those lessons is that if something is there, pick it up and move it, if it cannot be moved, paint it.  We have a nice Carnahan-White, treated lumber fence around our back yard and it cannot be moved…… we are painting it, or staining it as the case may be.  A manual would have been most helpful.

Missourians are a unique people.  Most folks that I know are loathe to pay someone to do something they can do themselves.  I suppose this characteristic has it’s roots in the adventurous nature of the folks who settled this state where our beauty is measured in rivers, rocks and vast forests.  It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, and we decided to transform our nicely greying fence into one of the terrific stained fences that many of our neighbors have, a consideration that we considered a necessity.  We decided to merge the fence painting project into a deck staining project and “git ‘er done” as the cable guy would say.  Never mind the task was begun in the hottest week of the year thus far, with humidity levels chasing the thermometer.  As folks do these days, we hopped on the internet to help us find the sweet spot that exists between expense, efficiency and quality before diving into this job.  We found that many people who write about such matters really don’t know their butts from a bucket of paint resulting in us attempting to stain hundreds of feet of fence with a roller, garden sprayer and brush.  I can attest that if you have enough time, you can paint a long fence with a toothbrush and Q-tip, but that would not constitute working in the aforementioned “sweet spot” .  We bought two different garden sprayers, suffered through the laughable experience of “backbrushing” the the mess they created and pitched them into the dumpster.  Our fence is a staggered board style and does not lend itself to being stained in this fashion.   I admire the garden sprayer industry for their remarkable marketing savvy in locating enough shills to write about their great success with these devices in convincing terms.  I am confident the folks who are pushing this technique are writing under an assumed name so as to avoid being beaten to death with a garden sprayer.

My good friend, Neil Atkinson, was also caught up in a staining project involving a new deck at his home.  Neil advised me to buy a simple Wagner airless sprayer, apply the stain and pitch the thing afterwords.  These sprayers can be had for 80 bucks or so, and really do a nice job.  I own one, am about halfway through the fence and it is holding up reasonably well.  Oil based stains and paints constitute their own particular kind of hell, clogging up equipment, requiring copious amounts of mineral spirits to clean, and producing a fine mist that effectively stains everything around you, to include your ceramic bar-b-cue grill, extruded aluminum deck furniture and stainless steel prep table close to the grill.  Mineral spirits go for about 10 bucks a gallon and leaves your exposed skin tingling after you scrub the stain off. We found that about a gallon of spirits is necessary to clean the Wagner up to the extent that it may again be used for it’s intended purpose.  We would have to have some sort of license to buy enough spirits to clean up everything else we have managed to stain.  I should offer a hearty shout out to Neil, as his advice has been most helpful, as long as reasonable precautions are taken to protect everything else you own from the overspray that can drift ever so easily.  While walking the neighborhood, I did locate an enterprising young man who had just finished spraying his own fence and upon my inquiry, indicated he bought a handfull of sprayers from Harbor Freight for the price of a hamburger, used one each day and then gave it a toss as the clean up would have cost more than the sprayer.  Every neighborhood has a resourceful guy who relys on guile to get the job done.

About my theory that I don’t want to pay someone to do what I can do myself.  I found that folks who do this stuff for a living and can powerwash your fence and stain it over a three day period want somewhere between a thousand and two thousand dollars, including the stain.  Outrageous you say.  a quick breakdown of our expense for this project looks like this:

A new power washer, on sale at Home Depot                     300.00

Gasoline for power washer ( 10 gal. X 2.25 gal.)                    22.50

Cabots semi-solid stain    ( 30.00 a gal. x 15 gal.)                  450.00

Mineral Spirits          (10.00 a gal x 4 gal.).                               40.00

Wagner Sprayer                                                                            80.00

New extruded aluminum deck furniture                              500.00

Two garden sprayers                                                                    30.00

Miscellaneous.                                                                            250.00

The miscellaneous category includes four serviceable shirts, four pairs of pants, two hats, two pairs of tennis shoes and socks, two bundles of paint rags, filters for the Wagner sprayer, drop cloth for work table, brushes, and contractors trash bags.  

The experience of doing it yourself and the satisfaction of a job well done is priceless.  I said that?  Excuse me while I pour another Bailey’s and coffee.  There was a time when I changed my own oil, maintained my own lawn, washed my own vehicles, and did my own exterminating. ( I still do my own interior painting, latex of course, where the clean-up is as close as the nearest faucet).  In a year or two, depending on which shill is evaluating the stain that you use, this job will need to be done again.  You may be assured that I have no intention of seeking the satisfaction of doing it myself and thus preserving that proud Missouri tradition of not paying someone to do what I can do.  The power washer will be perfect for the RV and the Wagner will be reposing in a landfill somewhere.  

Tom Sawyer had it right all along!


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