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Hiding this Beautiful Wood Grain… Why?

Front Door System - Before Refinishing

Front Door System – Before Refinishing

One of our specialties as painting and decorating contractors, in the Chicago area, is the refinishing of wood front door systems and wood garage doors. In the past four weeks, we have refinished about a dozen of those doors. One of them has a particularly interesting story.

A client in Elmhurst was very unhappy with her front door entrance, which consisted of a mahogany door, two side lites and a canopy. For reasons that were not too clear, the person who last refinished the door applied a heavy coat of opaque stain. It virtually looked like a solid-color stain and no wood grain could be seen, as shown in the “Before” picture we attached.

After twelve hours of stripping the old finish off, the beautiful mahogany wood grain was again revealed. The owners were elated! The finishing consisted of two coats of tinted satin varnish and an additional coat of clear. The result speaks for itself. Take a look at the “After” shot. Which one do you prefer?

Front Door System - After Refinishing

Front Door System – After Refinishing

Wood exterior doors are an expensive investment for the homeowner, one that is subjected to all the abuses weather has to offer. To keep up their good looks and protect their investment, homeowners have to invest in the periodic maintenance of those doors. We have the expertise to do the required maintenance or complete refinishing of the doors. Bringing beautiful wood grain back to life and preserving the doors from the elements give us much satisfaction as house painters.

Restoring Vintage Metal Cornices and Bay Windows

Chicago is well endowed with vintage masonry buildings that boast elaborate cornices and bay windows. Most of these buildings were built in a thirty-year period, ranging from the latter part of the1880’s to late in the1910’s. Some of these buildings were commercial in nature and were erected right next to the sidewalk. Others were residential and were often set back on the property. In either case, the maintenance of the metal ornamentation required the erection of scaffolding. Because of the high cost of creating safe access, the maintenance of the metal surfaces was often neglected for decades, often compromising the integrity of the metal structures. When the paint job looked bad enough, the owners often did the cosmetic work, but cut short the metal repair work. In doing our metal restoration work, we have encountered numerous situations where duct tape had been used to cover a hole and painted over.

Vintage Matal Cornice and Bay Window

Vintage Matal Cornice and Bay Window

This summer, we were contracted to restore the metal painted surfaces on two sides of an 1890 brick Victorian corner house. As shown in the picture, from a distance, everything appears pretty normal. However, a close inspection revealed that the metal surfaces had seriously corroded, split apart or fallen off in numerous places. These openings had created many points of access to water, as well as creating numerous habitats for birds. In all, about forty repairs had to be performed. In some cases, some pieces had to be fabricated to replicate the surrounding patterns. Some pieces had to be welded in place. For other pieces, rivets were used to secure them in place. We attached before and after pictures for your reference.

All the repairs were made using galvanized steel. As house painting contractors, before painting the new metal, we prep the steel by degreasing it and then priming it with an appropriate primer. Then we paint!

The clients that hire us see it as their duty and privilege to restore their “piece of history”. For us, doing this kind of work is our contribution to the preservation of Chicago’s architectural heritage.

Metal Restoration  Before 1

Metal Restoration Before 1

Metal Restoration After 1A

Metal Restoration After 1A

Metal Restoration Before 2

Metal Restoration Before 2

Metal Restoration After 2A

Metal Restoration After 2A

Two Newly Fabricated Pieces

Two Newly Fabricated Pieces

Repairing and Matching a Decorative Finish

Water-Damaged Ceiling Planks

Water-Damaged Ceiling Planks

As a painting and decorating contractor in the Chicago area, we are often asked to repair and match an existing decorative finish. We recently received such a request from a client. Her basement ceiling was clad with simulated wood planks made out of a material similar to that of acoustical tiles and wrapped in a vinyl that imitated rustic wood, including knots. The water had stained, bowed or destroyed seven of those boards. The entire ceiling covered about 500 square feet. The goal of this restoration project: Making it look like it never happened!

Achieving that goal is a lofty one. When you are the person who did the original work and have kept good records, the task is greatly facilitated. However, when it involves the work of others and no records exist, the task can be very challenging. This restoration project was of the latter sort.

Our carpenter’s investigation revealed that these planks were made in a tongue and groove style and that seven of the boards had been compromised. He concluded that the planks should replicated in wood, with the same dimensions, in the same tongue and groove style.

New Planks Grained to March Old Ceiling

New Planks Grained to March Old Ceiling

We then turned to our graining specialist to first replicate the colors of the wood grain. It takes a trained eye, patience and a willingness to experiment to arrive at the combination of colors. The next step was to mimic the style of the wood grain, including the knots present in the original planks. That process also involves experimentation with different tools and techniques. Finally, matching the sheen of the clear coat was the final touch to the restoration work. In this case, we used a dead flat varnish to match the surrounding sheen on the old planks. The second picture shows the final result: Mission accomplished!

In a way, the plank design made it easier to blend in the graining patterns, because there were no edges to contend with. When a decorative finish has been damaged, we must sometime redo the whole surface affected by the damage, because it is impossible to blend the edges of the repair. Because of the experimentation needed, the cost of a decorative finish repair can be disproportionately high. However, that cost is only a fraction of what a complete redo would be. In our house painting company, we do whatever it takes to meet a client’s need!

Ensuring Safe Access to Paint Chicago’s Exterior Building Surfaces

An important part of our work as house painters involves the paint restoration on century-old buildings in Chicago. Some are wood-frame houses like the one in this picture. Others have elaborate metal cornices and bay windows. Ensuring safe access for the preparation and painting of the surfaces is of foremost importance.

Boom Access to Building Facade

Boom Access to Building Facade

The house in this picture is located in one of Chicago’s many old neighborhoods. It is about one hundred twenty years old and presented a number of challenges from an access point of view. Two of the obstacles were the front porch/steps and the other was the roof of the bay window. We accessed that a forty-foot ladder could reach some of the gable surfaces, but not all. So we had to look into using a boom.

At first, we thought that a sixty-foot boom could access the highest areas from being parked in the street. However, because of the proximity of two trees, we determined that a shorter forty-foot boom should be used, so it could clear the tree branches. The trees also made it necessary to park the shorter boom on the sidewalk and close the sidewalk to pedestrian traffic. Since the boom had to jump the curb, we set up a temporary driveway with 2×8 and 2×4 lumber. Three sheets of ¾” inch plywood were used to protect the sidewalk and parkway.

Once those factors have been assessed and decisions have been made about equipment and procedures, an equally important aspect has to do with securing Chicago permits to have access to the public ways. In this case, we needed three permits: fifty feet of curb space to move and park the boom, sidewalk closure and barricade for pedestrians and temporary driveway for the boom. We also resorted to the services of an expeditor to facilitate the process. In all, the cost of the rental, permits and expeditor fee was about $2,000 for three days of use.

Safety is paramount on projects like this. Our employees have gone through training to be certified as boom operators. We take our preservation work on Chicago’s old structures very seriously.

Painted Stripes Can Add Wow Appeal to a Ceiling

Painted Stripes on Bathroom Ceiling

Painted Stripes on Ceiling – Craftsman Style

Gilded Stripes on Ceiling – Craftsman Style

As Painting and Decorating Contractors in the Chicago Area, we are called on to execute an array of decorative painting projects. Stripes are one of the options in our bag of tricks. Painted stripes are more commonly thought of to ornate walls, either as a border, or in vertical or horizontal patterns. Unlike wallpaper, painted stripes are custom and can be adjusted to exactly fit the dimensions of a wall. The size and sheen of the stripes can be tailored to meet any need at hand.

An often-overlooked application for painted stripes involves ceilings. We recently worked on such a project in a 1920’s bungalow on Chicago’s North side. The room was the house’s hall bath. The lower six feet of the walls was clad with a white subway tile, a black bullnose and base, as well as a thin patterned black/white stripe. We painted the upper wall and ceiling in a color to match the white tile. Then came the fun part: executing a stripe pattern that worked well with five inside corners and one outside corner.

Coming up with the appropriate design was a major challenge. The lady of the house had a picture of a ceiling pattern. However, it turned out it could not accommodate the outside corner, without making the pattern look disjointed. This is when her husband was inspired to try his hands at coming up with a design. His first attempt crashed and burned. His second was a resounding success: he nailed the design, as shown in the attached picture!

Painted stripe designs can also be very effective in “Period” houses, like Art Nouveau, Craftsman or Art Deco styles. I have attached pictures of two Craftsman-style projects to illustrate the possibilities. For the first one, we created a Gingko-leaf pattern to frame the four corners of a living room. In that case only a single painted stripe was used, which led the eye to the corner designs. The second project involved a dining room. In that case, we gilded a more intricate stripe pattern. That project also involved gilding square wood buttons in the upper corners of five-foot panels framing the room. Look at the metallic sheen!

Offering decorative painting custom solutions to help enhance the beauty of our clients’ vintage houses is part of what we do as house painting contractors.