Never be without a roll of duct tape

This week our columnist Claudette Sandecki tackles painting her kitchen

Olympic competitions offer a wider range of excitement but for sheer suspense, it’s hard to beat watching an old woman wobble up a ladder, an open quart of primer in one hand and a paintbrush clutched in the other.

Ordinarily I avoid ladders, even the three-step kind, and repainting. But fate had sent along a family visitor who had agreed to paint my kitchen beginning Monday at noon. Before then a small plaster repair needed priming and time to dry. It was now 8:30 a.m.

My first reaction to her ‘Yes’ had been an impromptu trip Sunday afternoon to Canadian Tire for primer, a gallon of acrylic paint, two rollers (did I need a large or a small to fit the roller holder in my husband’s shop?), an extender handle (my painter stands barely five feet) and a 60-yard roll of green painter’s tape.

Feeling comfortably stocked for the Debbie Travis task, I fell asleep only to awake when insomnia hit at 2 a.m. Rather than stare at the ceiling, I got out of bed to begin taping doors, a height I could reach while standing safely on the floor.

Promptly after breakfast Monday morning, I primed the  plaster patch then resumed taping around doors, window panes, and along the counter backsplash once everything including the microwave had been cleared from the counter. I taped  a span of newsprint over the formica and up under the tape on top of the backsplash. The last thing I wanted was paint splotches on the red countertop. I removed switch plates and carefully set them on the bedroom floor so the screws wouldn’t go missing.

My painter arrived at 12:30 p.m. and, after reading the label on the paint can, tackled all the nooks and tricky corners with a two-inch wide angled brush. Ready to roll, she screwed the new purple extender handle into the old roller holder.

All went well until mid-afternoon. This 110-pound girl was “on a roll”  when the screw tip of the 48-inch handle broke off in the roller holder, dropping the heavy holder on to her cheek. The metal cut her cheek leaving a bloody bruise.

No way could I remove the broken purple piece from the holder handle so I could screw in a wooden handle from an old sponge mop.

Luckily I had two rolls of gray duct tape on hand. I bound four inches of the wooden handle to the holder handle. By 5:30 p.m., she had painted two-thirds of the ceiling, the part of any room most difficult for me to do.

This first brush with painting gave me a crash initiation in the trade.

I learned to buy plenty of painter’s tape, a boon to the work. Yet even with years of experience calculating fabric needs for upholstering, I still came up short by 10 yards. Paper tape worked where wooden moulding met linoleum.

A wooden extender handle is unlikely to break the way this metal pole #049-5800-2 did. A two-pound magnet from a logging truck confirmed the pole is metal, but the vital plug that screws into the roller handle is plastic.

I later drilled several holes into the plastic plug until I could get it with small needle nose pliers and unscrew it.

In future, I would ladle paint from the can to the tray. Why pour out paint to flood down the outside of the can, waste paint, and make the lid difficult to remove?

Keep a list of tasks that need doing – washing outside windows, replacing a fence post – and engage visitors who are capable  and willing to take them on.

Before she began painting, we negotiated her wage rate just as I did when my little granddaughters helped around the shop.

Whether they wanted to wash windows, sweep floors, or remove outdated fabric samples, we agreed on a wage even if it was only ten cents. I was free to pay more  for a job well done.