In a Nutshell: The DIYer painting debacle

You get these ideas in your head. I don’t know where they come from. Maybe you saw a picture in a magazine of some celebrity showing off their digs. Maybe you just got tired of looking at the same four walls, or the color you picked years ago. Maybe you just figured it was time for a change, or to try to be more sophisticated, or to add something new to your domicile.

Brian Thompson wearing a blue shirt

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Brian Thompson

Or, maybe you thought: “Hey, my life is pretty easy right now. No major issues. No nagging headaches. Not a lot to do on the weekend except relax on the sofa with a beer and watch Formula 1 racing. How can I muck that up real bad with a house project?”

I got it: Why don’t I paint the front room?

Yeah! That sounds like a GREAT idea! (Cue music from “Psycho” when Janet Leigh gets knifed in the shower.)

Ah, painting. The DIY-er’s greatest nightmare. Worse than active sewer line repair or asbestos removal. Worse than relocating a pack of foaming-at-the-mouth raccoons from your attic and into your neighbor’s backyard. Worse than roof repair in August. Or sod-laying in August. Or that time when you were doing some flashing repair around the chimney and it almost toppled over on you … in August.

There is no home improvement project you can dream up that will be more infuriating, exhausting, time-consuming or out-and-out excruciating than slapping a new coat of paint on your walls. It is written in the Bible. It is a truth handed down through the ages. It was what Tom Sawyer desperately tried to get out of doing. (And that was just a fence!)

But for some reason, we always forget this. We forget how bad it can be, and get in our heads that it not only makes sense, but will be super easy. So, we present this “fantastic” idea to our wife. And she falls in love with the notion of a freshly painted room in a sophisticated color … that could land her in a magazine.

And after you’ve convinced yourself, and her, of the genius of all this, you walk into the actual room, look around and realize: What the heck was I thinking?!? This is a gigantic disaster! I’m the dumbest guy ever. Maybe I should run away and join a cult.


First off, you have to paint over the last guy’s bad job. And, man, did he do a BAD job! His drywall plastering skills look like either he was massively drunk or was trying out modern art sculpting skills.  

Even worse, you realize you are hiring the SAME guy as before, and that idiot is you!

Then there is the fact that it is an old house, more than 100 years old. And old houses, in spite of what they tell you, are not quaint and lovable and historic and one-of-a-kind. They’re terrible. Nothing inside of them makes sense. Nothing ever meets at a 90-degree angle. Nothing is level. Some properties of physics literally DO NOT apply here. Not even the glass is smooth. The walls are so pockmarked and cratered, you wonder if a major battle took place inside. And, because there is some kind of historic code that requires it, there is always at least one window that will topple out of its frame if you so much as look wrong at it.

You think you can improve upon this?

Worse still, there is stuff everywhere. And you have no intention of moving it all out. No, you decide you’re going to “carefully work around it.” You’re going to “cover it in tarps” and “shift it all around” like one of those moving tile puzzles. Never mind that this will give you no more than 2 square inches to work before you have to shift the whole room around again.

Never mind that this room is packed to the gills. It’s multi-function, which means it serves as an office and craft center and guest room, and there’s a loft with a TV, and there’s a coat closet and filing cabinets full of files, which is really kind of funny because you haven’t actually “filed” anything since 1998. (Also the year you moved in.)

There is electronic equipment and computers and outlets and wires running everywhere. You don’t dare disconnect any of them because you have no idea what they do or where they go or if any of them are even needed. But what you do know is that if you unplug something, you will never figure out where to plug it back in. So, you’re going to have to paint around it.

You convince your wife you can do this and it will be OK and there’s no way you will get any paint on the red sofa. And you try to ignore how she is looking at you. Like you’re full of it, a complete ignoramus and will probably look good in an oak coffin, but definitely not cherry.

And with that vote of confidence, and a nagging sense of doom, you still think, “Yeah, let’s do this!” Because you got this idea in your head. And because a celebrity who hired an ACTUAL professional had a picture in a magazine. And because maybe it is time for a change, or to try to be more sophisticated, or add something new to your domicile. And who cares if the window pops out of its frame or the last guy who undertook this room did a terrible job while going insane in the process. It’ll be different this time, and you’re sure getting tired of all that Formula 1 watching and drinking beer on the sofa.

Brian Thompson is director of news and information at Flagler College.

This article originally appeared on St. Augustine Record: In a Nutshell: The DIYer painting debacle

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