Scraping paint off of a building is an exercise in endurance, as well as management. Not a very glamorous job, its importance in maintaining the protective coating of a building can be overlooked. Paint failure can ruin a building due to water infiltration and paint build up can hide the details that enhance the form of the building. The architect and the builder of the past worked together to imbue each building with qualities that one doesn’t see much of today. It is always a pleasure to reveal those details long hidden. It is a greater pleasure to extend the life of some of America’s most important buildings.
At the Moffatt Ladd House in Portsmouth, N.H., we are removing layers of lead and latex paint while repairing the trim and clapboards as the need presents itself. The fact that we are all carpenters may bring into question the relevance of the task at hand: Why didn’t we hire the job out? Some of us have been painters and have delved into the art and science, as well as the history of the trade. The skill required for this undertaking is well within our abilities, and our passion for preservation ensures that the job will be done right.
With the right tools and procedures, work can progress at a rate that can maintain morale and avoid burnout. We have the means to sharpen the steel tools and keep a supply of the triangular carbide tips on hand. Sharpening and changing tips is part of the regimen. This breaks up the monotony while improving performance and, subsequently morale. We also don’t scrape for more than five hours a day. This allows time for the carpentry, which by this time is quite a treat. When enough ground has been covered, we can putty and prime. At the end of the day, there is a complete clean up, due to the lead.
As we approach the completion of the third side of the house, those who have contributed have shown the resolve to see a grueling task to its end. The attention to details in craftsmanship, as well documentation, has enhanced the future of this beautiful museum house.
All text and photos by David Ford.