Category Archives: Buying & Renovating

Stripping on the terrace, and glossing over things

You know how you occasionally have a bright idea as to how to make a chore a tad quicker, strike while the iron’s hot and then (almost instantly) regret your impetuousness, wishing that you could turn the clock back?  Some things you can undo, but some things – maybe most things? – you can’t.  It was one of those un-undoable bright ideas of mine about a month ago that lead me to stripping on the terrace last week. And the week before that, too.

The aforementioned bright idea was to speed up the cleaning of the ground floor terrace doors by blasting off all of the winter’s cobwebs and accumulated crud with the hose. It was fine at the top of the doors.  The bottom of the doors, all 4 of them, was a rather different story. Layers of paint flew off to reveal what looked like very sad wood underneath.  I leave you to imagine what I was thinking when this happened, but those of our readers who are of a certain vintage may recall Muttley’s growl.   That’s the polite version of what I was saying, and far, far shorter!  There was no time to make it good before Caroline & Evelyn arrived from the Washington DC area to visit family, so we simply had to apologise and move on.

After they’d left and the weather improved, I gritted my teeth and steeled myself to the wondrous task of stripping the doors back to bare wood.  Not fun at the best of times, and certainly not when the mercury barely rose above 11°C.  And even less so when it is raining and windy, and the doors that you’re working on are significantly taller than you.  Hey-ho (cue more Muttley-type swearing).  Even with my power tools – the gutsy big orbital sander for the flat bits, and the Dremel for the fiddly bits (boy, are those little sandpaper wheel attachments expensive), it was a miserable job and hard work.  Paint stripper wasn’t much of a help either, and I had another fun “Mr Bean moment” trying to find a putty knife/paint-scraper thingy in the local brico with which to remove my melted paint (its called a grattoir, should you ever have cause to ask for one yourself).  But after a week of work, and sawdust EVERYWHERE, the doors were stripped of their paint.  They took a full week to dry out to the point at which I could decide what needed to be done in digging out rotten wood and filling with stuff.

Then came the great paint debate …. white, or cream; satin, or gloss?  Initially, we agreed that we’d match the neighbours and go for cream.  But what to do about the paint?? It is generally agreed amongst the ex-pat community in France that French paint is, well, um…… not of the same calibre as the English versions, even with the big brand-names.  “Monocouche” my eye.  Apparently, the formulas differ from country to country.  And I have to say that I’ve not been impressed with the paint that we’ve bought locally over the years.

One of my morning dog-walking friends kindly said that she’d the name and number of a chap who imported paint from the UK.  It turned out that he no longer does, but she’d heard of a French brand that was highly recommended by some English professional painters who’ve worked in France for many years.  It was available through a chain of hardware shops, the nearest branch of which is on the outskirts of Bordeaux.  Trish needed paint too, so we decided to have an exotic shopping trip.  No, not shoes, handbags and a girly lunch, but gloss paint, and sandpaper, and paint mixers, and so on.  Yep, we know how to have fun here!

Fast-forward 10 days (rain stopped play), and finally the terrace doors are sporting shiny white paint.  We’ll gloss over the abrasions on the windows caused by the idiot wielding the orbital sander, and the gouges in the wood courtesy of the same numpty using the Dremel.  While we’re at it, we’ll overlook the amateur job of replacing a section of wood, too.  And don’t inspect the bottoms of the doors too closely either – there are a good few drips.   I did Latin, not woodwork, at school, so I have an excuse (sort of).

Oh, and then I learned that gloss paint is not the done thing in France.  Never mind …. it is here at Les Terraces.  If you need some, feel free to drop by, as I bought a lifetime supply!