May 31, 2010

The hideous vanity of painting a garden shed

Sometimes I finish a project, marvel at the quality I managed to put into it, and wonder why I put so much time into doing something with so little use. Today was one of those days.

A few years ago, we installed a 10'x10' garden shed, purchased from the folks at Thee Amish Market at the intersection of Route 13 and Hanshaw. I thought I posted an article about it then, but apparently I got distracted - here's a gallery of the shed preparation and arrival. It was white and black, not quite matching the house, but it had a great shelf and skylight for starting plants, and then we added a solar panel and battery to run the electric fences for the ducks and chickens.

Then I got these crazy ideas. The first one, probably a good one, was to insulate the shed. Originally, it looked like this:

Original framed interior.
Original framed shed interior.

Now, after fiberglass insulation, plywood walls, and various stuff attached to those walls, it looks like:

Insulated shed interior.
Insulated shed interior.

The insulation, though not yet completely covered over, seems to work nicely. The shed doesn't get as hot or as cold as it used to, and this will help when we're starting plants. However, when we did that last year, a chicken got in the shed somehow and destroyed it all. This year, with Konrad's arrival, we aren't planting vegetables. So we'll see...

The next idea, though... when I got beehives, I painted them in the house colors, since those were the exterior paints I had around. Angelika built some rabbit housing, and we used those colors again. She was about to put that against the black-and-white shed, and I paused, and thought that maybe I should paint the shed to match the house. It's just a small shed, right? I got the first - smallest and simplest - wall done in a couple of days, and now it's taken me odd bits of time over two years, culminating in too much of yesterday and today, to finish the rest.

Shed exterior as delivered.
Shed exterior as delivered.

Shed exterior today.
Shed exterior today.

It looks great, but the amount of time it consumed cost far more than the paint that went on it. Why?

  • The textured board it was built from requires huge quantities of paint for decent coverage, even on the trim.
  • Tape barely works on this textured board, requiring lots of touchup after it's removed from everywhere except the windows. (I stopped using it after a while.)

  • It seems clear the original builders were smart enough to paint the parts before they assembled the shed, avoiding all kinds of narrow inconveniences.
  • The batten lines in the board are an extra hassle to paint, requiring a lot of time with a smaller brush heavily charged with paint.
  • The shed's been in place a while, and now has plants all around it.

So after spending vast amounts of time which could have been spent on other projects - some of you, I'm sure, can think of alternatives - I have a shed that is painted in the same colors as the house, though with a slightly different use of red and no paint on the window frames themselves.

If you want a garden shed, get a garden shed. Ideally, get one in colors you like, but whatever you get, don't spend vast amounts of time changing its color. Well, there are some good reasons to consider painting it:

  • Too much time (or paint) on your hands.
  • Deep desire to learn more about exterior painting in challenging situations.
  • Fondness for weather-dependent projects.

On the bright side, I was outside in good weather for all of this, though this weekend was a few degrees too hot. I was largely in earshot of Angelika, Sungiva, Konrad, and my visiting in-laws, though it was hard to sustain conversation while avoiding drips or climbing a ladder. I probably increased my property value by about as much as the paint cost. And, of course, I now have a shed painted in the same colors as my house.

Let's hope it lasts twenty years. Thirty?

(No, I'm not painting the fence. The cedar can weather happily without my help.)

Posted by simon at May 31, 2010 9:20 PM in
Note on photos