Spring 2018

May 2, 2018


Well, that happened fast. Spring, I mean. It was like it was never going to get here but as I write this it's 84F and getting ready for thunderstorms. This is the time of year we begin to think about exterior work on our homes. Everything from fading and peeling trim to our decks and often the whole shebang from the chimney on down to the foundations. These jobs don't come cheap but if they're properly done can add value to your home. But more important, will protect the surface from weathering thus extending its life and man, residing your home is a lot more expensive than new paint!
When choosing a painter for a project like this, first talk to your friends as personal experience is generally the best way of knowing whether the guy/gal is any good. Watch how the bids come in and see if they're detailed enough to have incorporated  everything you talked with them about. On a large job like this the painter will often ask for 50% down but if it's going to take a few weeks, recommend that you'd feel better with 1/3 down, 1/3 about a week in and the final third at the end. This protects you and is likely to keep a shyster on the job until they're done.



November 2017 Update

November 10, 2017

Good Friday,

Yes, it's cold and many parts of our state saw snow last night and the temperatures today won't climb above 30F and that gets us thinking about projects we need to take care of before family and friends gather at our homes for the holidays.

The living room and dining room, as well as rooms we use for guests, all need to be gussied-up before the holidays because you certainly don't want your Aunt Mabel to complain - and you know she will! 

And, if you've got a second-home or a lake house this is the perfect time of year to take care of those interior projects so that when you arrive for the Holidays or in the spring your place will reflect the care you know it deserves.

Lastly, if you're selling your home it pays to freshen some rooms, or even just a wall or two, in order to get the price you're looking for. So think about changing the 'California Orange' your daughter painted her room before she went off to college to something less, um, intense.



MidWinter Update

January 27, 2016

Good Wednesday,

It's that time of year when both the real estate and home improvement markets are starting to shake off their winter chill. The latter especially comes alive once people begin to receive their tax return checks or, at the very least, know what's coming to them. That means they're going to start calling painters like myself for an estimate.

There are a painters who will give an estimate based on the square footage of the job entailed and at places like Thumbtack they'll even do so without seeing the job or visiting your location. I can't understand how that works as a sight-unseen price is going to hurt someone - usually the consumer.

I've always enjoyed visiting a customer's location to see the job, what is involved, the general layout of the space, how easy - or difficult - it will be to move furniture or remove wall hangings or place ladders if necessary, discuss finishes (matte, eggshell, etc.,) and most importantly, to talk to the customer to find out exactly what it is they're looking for. "Paint the bedroom!" sounds simple until you get into the details of trim and doors and the extent of repairs - then it begins to look different and a little more complex.

An estimate for a residential space, say that aforementioned bedroom, can take a painter several hours of time, travel and research and we in the business find that many people are doing nothing more than 'price shopping', calling in several painters and then doing it themselves. And because of the time involved, this generally raises prices for everyone as we scramble to cover our costs from other sources. Be fair to any contractor you call and select one once you've accumulated their estimates.

Of course, an estimate is just an estimate and I've always taken pride in generally staying to within ~10% of the stated price. That price should include the cost of labor and materials, travel and other expected expenses. Sometimes, however, once we get into a job we'll find something that was impossible to see when we visited for the original estimate and if it's going to add to the estimate we'll stop and talk to the customer at length and offer possible alternatives. More often, we may run short of paint because the walls are 'thirsty', especially if they haven't been painted in a long time.

You should always develop a relationship when someone comes into your home or business to do work for you. It builds trust, customer and worker satisfaction and generally makes everything go smoother, enhancing the experience all around.

It's February in a few days and Lake Michigan should be almost frozen over and there should be feet of snow on the ground by now. But this has been an interesting winter - It could still come around and smack us hard but let's hope the fates are on our side and spring comes warm and early.



November 2016 - Paint and Primer? Not so fast!

November 18, 2016

I recently completed an exterior job wherein the previous paint had catastrophically failed on cement/fiber siding and there are many reasons why this could happen:

  • Moisture from inside the house can "push" paint off the exterior walls .
  • Failure to properly prime the walls
  • Extreme weather.

In this case, it was a failure to properly prime the walls. Why? Because the last painter used a product that claimed it contained a primer as so many do these days. So he thought he could just clean the walls off and paint because after all, there was primer in the paint! But those products are misleading in that the primer isn't (regardless what the label says) for priming the walls but can act as a block for whatever color is being covered.

South Haven Beach Home

In order for paint to stick to cement/fiber shingles you need to use a primer specifically made for such a thing before you top coat with the color of your choice.

In the case of the Lake Michigan beach house pictured here I used Glidden Professional Hydrosealer, a product specifically designed to bond to worn, chalky or cement underlayments that will block moisture both from inside the house and any that might find its way through the exterior surface (from under the shingle overhangs, for example). In one section I had to make a repair and sanded off the old paint and the adjoining area I had primed and found the primer had embedded itself into the subsurface - which is what it should do where Big Box store-bought products rarely do. This gave the topcoat a solid platform to adhere to and hopefully extend the life of the paint job by a few years.

The top coat paint came from O'Leary's Paint in Kalamazoo and was specifically color matched using remnants of the old paint.

Wind, sun, blown sand and winter gales coming off the lake make for a tough environment for paint so the 6 days it took to prepare this house for paint were essential in assuring the paint lasts without failing as catastrophically as it did the last time.

Time will tell but I'm feeling pretty confident.

Getting Ready For the Holidays

Monday, November 8, 2016


Your Aunt Phyllis and her husband will be coming on Thanksgiving for their first visit to your home. Is your house ready? There's only a couple of weeks to go! Is the guest room cleaned out from the toddler's toys and the bed made? Is your dining room prepared for Thanksgiving dinner?

One great way to make a lasting first impression is with a fresh coat of paint and needed repairs to the walls to fix those dings and scratches that have accumulated - almost unnoticed - over the years. (Especially that dent in the wall behind the doorknob that so many of us seem to have.)

Ah.. now you're thinking about it!

When choosing colors people tend to shy away from dark colors because they feel it makes a room "small" and "dark". Dark colors have been used for "accent" walls but they should have a wider use and greater acceptance.

There are rooms in your house where they will work well; your bedroom, your dining room, den or  office space as examples. Those dark colors bring along a sense of togetherness and intimacy that aid, in the case of a bedroom, sleep and rest and in your dining room, closeness and calmness and a regal touch while dining. In a dining room, dark colors help to focus your eye and attention on the people around the table - and that's what matters.

Recently I had the pleasure of changing a 12'x12' bedroom that had pink and purple walls and a white ceiling into a haven for rest and relaxation. The color chosen was "Dinner Party" #AF-300 in a matte finish from Benjamin Moore, and at my suggestion, they agreed to bring the wall color up to and include the ceiling.

The room faced several issues (aside from the pink and purple walls!) There were streetlights almost immediately outside that shone brightly at night and it's original plaster walls were dinged and cracking and the painted-over layers of wallpaper on the ceiling (remember when that was the way?) were too obvious to the eye. The matte finish was chosen because of its low reflectivity and because modern high quality matte finishes are as cleanable as an eggshell finish.

When the job was done the room was darker at night, reflecting a lot less of the outside light and was more peaceful and restful during the day. In fact, they began sleeping better almost immediately and with the shades drawn, daytime naps were more successful. How did they like the ceiling? When you paint the walls and ceilings the same color the corners disappear and the light that reflects around the room does so in the color you've chosen making it more true to the eye. Because of the outside streetlamps, that unnerving light disappeared completely with the ceiling matching the dark richness of the walls. The matte finish also 'hid' much of the impression of the layers of wallpaper that had been placed on the ceiling over generations.

Almost any rich color will work in a room where contemplation is desired. For a formal dining room in Scarsdale, NY we selected Benjamin Moore's "Tandoori" CSP-1105 for the walls and ceilings. I wouldn't suggest dark colors in a hallway or in a room that gets little natural light unless that room is used mostly in the evenings. As for painting walls and ceilings the same color in general, I heartily suggest it become the norm for the reasons listed above: It ties a room together and gives you a truer color than a white ceiling would do. With that said, white ceilings serve a purpose but think 'color' before you think white.

In general, TaconicArts doesn't select colors for customers, but we will suggest finishes and the extent of the use of a color in a space. With almost 20 years of experience in all kinds of settings and housing situations we've never had a complaint.

Call us today to get that guest room ready as you'll want to make a good first impression on Aunt Phyllis!


What To Do With Old(er) Wallpaper?

October 19, 2015


A while back I had a customer in Portage who was preparing their home for sale. The real estate agent handling the sale wanted the wallpaper removed in one room to 'brighten it up'. The paper was male-oriented: sports flags and men on racing bikes, rather tawny in color and was in a room with a single window placed at the end of an 8'x4' alcove - so yes, it was dark.

Alcove process for newsletterA few years ago, during the restoration of an c1880 farmhouse the new owner wanted the wallpaper removed from a bedroom.

Here's the thing with wallpaper: In order for the paper to be applied properly the walls first need to be "sized". "Sizing" is a primer specifically made to cover the underlying strata and give the wallpaper's glue something even and smooth to stick to. It forms a hydrophobic film that prevents moisture from the glue penetrating to the wall underneath.

If the walls have been properly sized then modern wallpaper removers such as the popular DIF, will easily cut the glue and the paper will peel off in sheets and an entire room can be stripped and cleaned in a matter of hours. But if the wallpaper has not been sized? What a headache - and expense - that can be!

The photo here shows the three stages of repair on the 8'x4' windowed alcove in Portage - that had not been sized. The first shows what the walls looked like once the paper was finally removed and you can see the damage the walls suffered in the process. The second, after the wall had been repaired and the third, the finished job. What should have been a job that from beginning to end took a couple of days - took that long alone to remove the paper and longer still to prepare the walls for paint.

The large bedroom in Mahopac, New York, had a different issue. Sixty years ago brocaded wallpaper had been applied properly as the walls underneath had been sized. When we pulled the paper off what we found under the sizing was another layer of wall paper. That layer had cracked through the sizing where the plaster and lathe underneath had settled so we removed that layer as well, also properly sized before application, to find yet a *third* layer under that which brought us, finally, to the actual plaster walls underneath where we repaired the cracks and repainted the room.

But note: it took us as long to repair a small alcove in Portage as it did to fully strip three layers of wallpaper and repaint that large 1880 bedroom in Mahopac.

The moral of this tale is this: When you're staging a home for sale or freshening up a space and before you decide wallpaper should be removed from a room, make sure it was applied properly! It's often not worth the enormous cost of removing paper improperly applied regardless the color, pattern or texture. Wallpaper can be covered with fresh paper or if it's in fairly decent shape, painted over. A matte or flat finish works best.



When it comes to paint, 'When in doubt, don't throw it out!

September 12, 2015

When it comes to paint, 'When in doubt, don't throw it out!'


Accidents happen or minds change. You dent a wall or replace the windows or suffer water damage from a plumbing failure (or here in Michigan, ice dams) and you find a need to touch up your walls or ceilings or trim. What color did you use? You don't remember? Let's go down to the basement or out to the garage to find the old cans of paint...

Several years ago I was involved in the full renovation of a weekend home. Extensive work had taken place; new windows, new insulation, repairs in walls, trim and ceilings and the homeowner wanted the place painted the same color scheme as before but during the renovation process he had the garage cleaned out - including all the old paint cans! There were more than 20 colors that had to be matched from a paint job done a generation previous. The original decorator was long gone and so any record of the colors used - even of the company from which the paints were purchased - was now unavailable.

No two ceiling whites will match even within the same manufacture's line. Benjamin Moore's "White Dove" isn't the same as Pittsburgh Paint's and Cabot's "Cape Cod Grey" will not be the same as Sherwin Williams'.

Using a Benjamin Moore fan-deck and a lot of sample mixes (and in one instance bringing an interior door to the paint store to match the color), we managed to achieve the impossible - but it came at a price. All those paint samples cost money and time and so several hundred dollars were spent on matching colors alone. Though that was a small portion of the overall $15,000+ job, it was a nuisance and a cost that could have been avoided through a little advanced planning.

[In the photo attached to this note, a homeowner had smartly saved an empty can of exterior stain so that when we went to repaint his home we were set with a perfect color match.]

The lesson here is this: After you paint or your professional paints, make sure to save an old can or the lid from the can. Barring that, write down and keep in your household records the color name and formula, even a cell phone picture will do. This makes the job easier for you, your professional and everyone involved!