From the Bathroom to the Bucket
Don’t worry it’s not a chamber pot, a household bucket or a pail but is actually a towable Nifty TM34T 35′ articulating boom lift with a 3′ 7″ x 2′ 2″ bucket (actually a “cage”) that we rented starting on Friday, September 14th for 8 days so we can finish painting the exterior of our house.
I say ‘finish’ because we painted the front walls under the porch and the entire garage two years ago but never did the rest of the house (guess we were too busy playing). In fact you can see the two different colors in the pictures to the right – the dormer is the original color – kind of a rosy beige (don’t know the actual name) and the garage is the new color (Autumn Sand), kind of a greenish beige. The trim on the garage is a pale yellow.
One reason for procrastinating on this project is we knew there was no way to reach the gable ends of the house without some special equipment – even if we had them on hand there is no combination of ladders that we could envision allowing a safe platform over the 12/9 pitch (38°) garage roof. The north side (back) is also fairly well covered with slippery growth.
We figured staging would be expensive and very time consuming to set up, leaving a boom lift as the logical choice for the job, even though there was some concern we still might not be able to reach the peaks.
So after some hunting for a local rental of a boom lift we found a good deal at a place in Hanson, MA about 24 miles away. The next closest option was 21 miles away and about $250 more for the 8 day rental we were looking for. Even though the cost of the rental was about $800 plus tax, we figure it is way cheaper than hiring someone to paint it for us (we estimate $8K-$12K). And this is a job that absolutely must get done this fall.
So knowing that the days are quickly getting shorter and the weather is turning colder (it was only 43 degrees the other morning), we decided to shift our priorities. Rob will be able to work on the bathroom project regardless of the weather and the hours of daylight so that project was put on hold. And we had a favorable weather forecast for the week except for one day. If you have to paint, the weather we have had turned out to be perfect painting weather – cool and comfortable.
Once we had the rental lined up, earlier in the week, Rob started to prep the back of the house by spraying the reachable areas of the siding with a mixture of TSP, water and bleach which works great at removing the dirt and mildew, then using a pressure washer with a turbo nozzle to rinse everything off.
It’s amazing how dirty the house was! Of course, it hasn’t been cleaned since we moved here back in 1997 so why wouldn’t it be dirty? Once the back side was clean and dry, on Tuesday, I started painting there going as high up as I could reach using a step stool (I have been banned from using a stepladder due to a propensity to fall off).
Fast forward to Friday morning and off we go bright and early to pick up the lift at the rental place in Hanson, MA which is about 50 minutes away.
On our way, we stopped for breakfast at Pogo’s which is a small restaurant in a strip mall in East Bridgewater. We had never been there before but it had excellent reviews (including the Phantom Gourmet) so we figured we would try it.
Everything there is home made. I had two eggs, hash browns, homemade sausage patties and home made Portuguese sweet bread toast. Rob has two poached eggs on home made corned beef hash, hash browns and home made cinnamon swirl toast. Every thing was delicious and there was so much food, we had the leftovers for breakfast the next day.
Once our tummies were full, we continued to the Country Rentals in Hanson, arriving about 9:30 a.m. After hooking it up to the hitch on the truck and given a few very brief instructions, we left.
We rented this rig for eight days so our plan was to return it on the following Saturday. We asked if we finished early and brought it back ahead of schedule would we get some of our money back. His reply was that if we kept it for 3 days at the regular $250 per day rate, then we would be close to the 8 day rate we negotiated. Eight days for $800 is a pretty good deal (at least in this area). Silly us – did we really think we would be done early? We’ve learned over the years that we are not real good at estimating how long something is going to take. If we estimate that something is going to take 2 days it most likely will take 5! As far as painting goes, our time estimate was probably unrealistic because we neglected to include the other tasks we wanted to get done: removing and painting the downspouts, cleaning out the gutters and painting them and replacing several boards in the dormer soffits that had rotted. Not to mention weather delays. As it turns out 9 days would have been more comfortable.
The bad news is that after arriving at home, we discovered that the young man that gave us the operational rundown had forgotten to give us the keys! Oh, man, how frustrating was that! The lift has interlocks to prevent injury and two unique keys must be present for it to operate. Definitely not off to a good start! Rob called and we were told that they had realized that they didn’t give us the keys shortly after we left (they supposedly had called but there is no record of that call on our cell/home phone). The owner agreed to have one of his guys meet us halfway at a parking lot about 20 minutes away.
After a little bit of a wait, we finally met up with him and got the keys. He told us that the owner was furious that the kid screwed up and that they had sent him home (not sure if we believe that).
So finally around 12:30 p.m. we were home and ready to start. Operating one of these lifts isn’t the easiest thing to do if you haven’t used one before and it took some practice getting it situated properly for maximum advantage. After a couple hours of learning the controls (three sets of them), hitching/unhitching and re-positioning the lift, it turned out (as expected) that it wasn’t going to be quite enough to reach the peak on the garage side, mainly because Rob couldn’t get it close enough to the house – the stabilizer arms require a good deal of space to deploy properly. It was not height that was the issue, it was the horizontal reach that came up short – even at about 20′ of reach, we were still short by about 3-4′ from the peak. Anyway, later Rob found that by using a paint pad on a pole he could reach everything so that problem was thankfully resolved. The west gable peak was easily reachable by the way – only the porch roof in the way on that side.
A little about the lift: The Nifty TM34T is a gas powered, trailer mounted lift which can be towed behind just about any vehicle (weighs under 1000 pounds). It has a 40′ working height (33.6′ at the platform – the 40′ rating assumes a 6’6″ operator I guess) and a telescoping boom with a 20′ outreach, which can be controlled either from the base or from the platform. The fully proportional hydraulic control system and pressure sensitive outriggers make it easy to set up – assuming you can maneuver it into proper position.
Rob has backed up a lot of boat trailers in his day, but this rig was unexpectedly touchy to back down due to a short wheelbase which promoted a tendency to jack knife quickly and made it difficult to turn around in the relatively small unwooded sections of our yard. The hardest part of using this rig was moving it from place to place to get maximum reach, so we quickly learned to do everything you can on the house all at once since re-positioning was so time consuming.
Otherwise, the controls on the unit itself are pretty self explanatory and after a bit of use became almost second nature. One set of controls on the side of the unit (photo above right) deploy the stabilizer arms, another set of controls outboard of the bucket (photo right) operate the upper arm, lower arm and rotation to set the unit up for travel without the need to climb into the bucket. The third set of controls (photo left) are in the bucket – these duplicate the upper arm, lower arm and rotation and add the upper arm extension, bucket tilt controls and a start and stop button for the Honda engine. Note also that each set of controls has a dead man switch – you must hold the switch with one hand while you operate the motion control with the other.
After a few trial runs to the peak we quickly discovered how critical the stabilizer arm placement is particularly (as you would assume) when at full horizontal reach. The rig has a “tilt sensor” which detects an off balance condition and sounds an alarm in the bucket. Rob said that after a few deployments you learn the secret of proper foot pad setting to avoid this issue, although soft ground can still be a problem until the feet get settled.
Anyway, before he could start painting, the first step was to clean and power wash the two peak ends on each side and the two dormers in the front. So once again out came the TSP, the bleach, the pressure sprayer and the power washer. By Saturday morning, everything was spic and span and dry enough to paint.
And what was I doing you ask? Well, I was busy as well. While Rob was in his lofty perch, I kept my feet on the ground and painted the underneath of the porch overhang and some of the other trim. Our three slightly rusty basement windows had never been painted by the previous owners so I tackled cleaning all the grunge from the metal frames and windows, scraping off the rust and masking so Rob could spray paint them. Pyuck, what a messy job! But well worth the effort – what a difference a fresh coat of paint makes.
The weather forecast for Tuesday was good with rain predicted that afternoon, Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. But luckily the rain held off until after dark so Rob was able to get a lot done on the west (non-garage) peak. After the rain cleared on Wednesday morning and the siding had dried, he was able to finish that side and move to the front dormer section.
Painting of the dormers began on Wednesday afternoon. I think the original owners were smart (or cheap) in that they painted the siding and the trim all the same color. But we decided to paint the trim a different color. Looks great but it adds a lot of extra work and time since it requires multiple coats of the trim paint to cover the old paint. Fortunately the siding color covered the old with just one coat! The dormers are small in paintable area, but big on trim and other details making them complicated to paint. The worst part was the side of the dormers where they die into the roof – this area was not reachable with the lift due to the slope of the main roof, so Rob had to get the bucket as close as possible then lie on the roof bracing himself with his feet against the bucket – what fun!
I wonder if there is some scientific evidence that proves that houses, boats and RV’s grow bigger when you are painting, washing, cleaning or waxing them! Was it all going to get done before we had to return the lift on Saturday, the 22nd? Not likely! But the goal was to get all the high altitude tasks that require the lift completed before then and leave the areas that can be done using the ladder for last.
On Friday Rob finished replacing the rotted boards on the dormers and finished painting them by early afternoon. To save the precious lift time remaining, he decided to leave one last section between the dormers which he can reach just by walking on the porch roof so he could move to the back of the house.
After a quick lunch break, around 2 p.m., Rob moved the lift to the back yard to work on the gutters and get some of the top section painted. By the time it got dark on Friday night, he had painted the gutters, soffits, trim and the top 6 rows of siding. Big sigh of relief to have this project behind us!
Since we had to have the lift back to the rental place by 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, we left the house with the lift in tow around 8:00 a.m. and arrived at the rental place at 8:50 a.m. And yes, we stopped at Pogo’s on our way back home for breakfast. It’s a good thing that we didn’t keep the lift for another day – the drizzly weather we had this morning would not have been conducive to painting!
In case you are interested our painting tools involved a 4″ roller and a 2″ brush for cutting in those odd corners. The 4″ rollers are great because they fit in a 1 gallon can and in combo with a 1 gallon sized paint screen there is no messy tray required. The 4″ rollers we use have fuzz on the end as well as the sides so you can simultaneously apply paint to the front of the clapboard and the lip of the clapboard above it. We also find with its 1″ diameter that the roller is all you need to get into corners. Top that off with superior paint holding capacity and the ability to “work the paint in” as good as any brush and you have a fast, relatively clean and effective paint experience. We also used an edge trimming paint pad along the ridgeline where the asphalt shingles overhang the gable ends of the house – this makes quick work of painting the trim and left the exposed overhanging bottoms of the shingles clean. We loaded up the paint pad simply by rolling on some paint with the roller. Rob operated with the paint pad, a gallon of each color paint and a roller, screen and brush for each. The bucket made carrying all this equipment simple and would have been a lot more difficult to do from a ladder.
For paint we used Cabot PROVT Solid Color Acrylic Stain – the original paint on the house was the predecessor to this formulation (also a latex base) and it lasted for 17 years without one peel or flake (no kidding!). Although, Rob thinks the back-primed clapboards used on this house (painted all sides) are the primary reason for the longevity of the paint job – if moisture can’t be absorbed from the back of the clapboard it probably goes a long way toward maintaining the paint integrity. We fully expect our thorough prep and painting technique will provide a least 15 more years of longevity (with the possible exception of the pine trim boards which tend to rot more easily).
We’re not totally done yet but at least we accomplished everything we wanted to with the lift. There are only a few remaining rows to paint on the house – probably about 12 in the back and the small section between the dormers. The gutters around the porch and the downspouts still need to be painted but with another few days, we will be done! Yippee!
There is a new problem now however – now that the rest of the house looks great, the natural wood porch doesn’t! Replacing the horizontal railings with spindles has been another project we have talked about over the years but we never got around to it. We’re not sure that we want to tackle that project at this point in time but maybe a little paint or stain would dress it up a bit.
And the list keeps growing and growing…
But today, Saturday, has been declared an official day of rest.
Hopefully Rob will have a chance to update you on the bathroom project in the near future so stay tuned!
Y’all should get a spray gun to paint. We’ve used it before. It’s quick & easy. Nice job weekend warriors. 🙂
How did you ever find time to work before with so many projects going?
Actually it looks like fun in a perverse way…I would most likely be saying bucket many times!
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