How to Stain Siding and Everything Else

This month it was time to make some decisions about siding aesthetics. Now if you know me, you know I hate to make decisions. Seriously, never take me to the ice cream parlor. But I am super proud of myself! I was the best decision maker of all time this month!

If you recall, at the end of my last post I had just discovered a way to age wood with steel wool and vinegar, and by discovered I mean watched a couple videos on YouTube about it. I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to do this with my wood so I bought a semi-transparent gray stain to compare, cut a couple samples out of one of my scrappier boards, and tested out the two methods.

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Ma’am, you’ve been standing in line, starring at the board for 20 minutes. Do you want Cookies and Cream or Birthday Cake? No, you cannot try another sample.

To be honest, I wasn’t completely sold on either but I liked the natural stain better. I could have gone back to the paint store and tried another gray stain but they only sold them by the quart. I imagined myself going through $25 can after $25 can of stain to find the right one and decided to just decide. I would use steel wool and vinegar with a transparent top coat to protect the wood. I still wasn’t totally sure I wasn’t about to eff up $1500 of siding.

 

Going industrial.

The staining took up my next couple of work days. I set up a station and played around with the stain. I wanted a variety of tones in my boards so I played with the ratio of steel wool to vinegar, with how long I let the mixture sit before painting, with how long I left the stain on the boards, and with how many coats I applied.

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All aboard the staining train ‘cuz this is the work station!

It was messy work. At one point I went to reapply sunscreen and gave myself a very natural orange glow. I also noticed that I started coughing and getting headaches while I applied the stuff. It didn’t 100% occur to me until the last day of staining that I was basically breathing and bathing in rust, at which point I masked up and slipped on a set of gloves. Just because it’s “natural” doesn’t mean it’s good for you!

Overall, I am really pleased with the results! The boards are all in different shades of gray and brown, and all of them have a rich, natural look.

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Ta-da! I present to you… Slightly darker, shittier looking wood!

Most of the month was just me and the wood as both my parents were off cruising through Europe like good retirees but just in time for my last work day of the month, Dad got back and started mapping out the studs on the house while I stained. Next step is painting the boards with the transparent stain and then it’s siding time! This is all happening people!

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Mapping those studs.

Thank you to the guys at Kelly-Moore Paints in Petaluma for their helpful advice and patience with my staining questions, to my roommates for letting me keep a big bucket of vinegar and rust in our garage, and to my dad for helping me out once he had recovered from all the fun he had on his cruise. And of course thank YOU for making the difficult but correct decision to continue reading this blog!

Siding Science

I feel like this month’s update is a little scattered. Let’s blame the eclipse. I mean everyone lost their minds over it so why not? Let’s start with…

The Trim

We got the trim almost entirely finished, except for a little bit around the door where I still need to flash the wheel well.

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Good trim.

Siding Adventure

I also went on another siding quest. This time I called ahead and got someone on the phone who swore they actually had the materials. Still, there was always the chance that after 40 minutes in traffic, it could all turn out to be a filthy lie so I had to make sure the trip was worth it this time.

Let’s just say I made a little side quest to a certain bright green, misleadingly named Puerto Rican restaurant on the way… you know the one. If you are thinking, “This is a construction blog, why is she writing about some restaurant?” Then you have clearly never been to Sol Food, your life is sad, and I am sorry.

When I finally arrived at the store with a belly full of limeade and camarones criollos, I made my way apprehensively to the lumber aisle, sure that I would find only an empty space and a note reading “F you Katelynn!” where the promised boards should have been. But when I reached the siding section, there it was, actual siding! My siding! I piled nearly 50 boards onto my cart, most of which were in great condition, and carefully guided my towering load to check out.

I almost made it out without being on the receiving end of any mildly condescending comments about my presence in the lumber aisle. If you have ever been a young woman in a floral shirt and ballet flats just trying to buy some construction materials, you know this is a true miracle. However, it was not the day for acts of God and as I approached the counter a man cocked his head and said, “Ha! You building a whole house there?”

I said, “Yes.” He said nothing.

The glee I got from this small moment of triumph over the patriarchy lasted only minutes until the woman behind the counter said, “Your total today will be half of your monthly income.” After breathing through my heart attack, I handed over my debit card and thought of all the camarones criollos and garlic plantains I could have bought with $1058.37 (seriously… it’s a really good restaurant).

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This is what $1000 of wood looks like.

For Science!

On the bright side, I now have enough boards to really get started on this siding adventure! This coming month, I can stain the boards and maybe even start to side my house! I have decided to do a graywash, and am experimenting with a natural method that uses vinegar and steel wool to artificially age boards.

I watched a couple of YouTube videos which showed this simple method working in moments. I was skeptical but thought I would test it out. All it takes is vinegar, steel wool, and a jar.

 

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Science Step 1: Gather Materials

I poured the vinegar over the steel wool, covered it most of the way up with tin foil so that gas could escape but dust wouldn’t get it, and let it sit on a shelf for two days.

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Science Step 2: Combine Materials.

At the end of two days it looked like this.

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Science Step 3: Observe

I dipped a piece of sample wood in, pulled it out, and left it out overnight. Supposedly you only have to wait a couple minutes for results but I didn’t have two minutes. I had important reading in bed and falling asleep to do.

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Science Step 4: Do the thing in the middle of the night after you get off work and you’re real tired, take one incredibly blurry picture of it, and say, “f*** it that’s good enough!”

Ok, so that last process picture is really awful but look how well it worked!

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Science!

Now I need to decide if I want to do this natural stain and then coat it with a protective layer of transparent exterior wood stain or if I want to skip the YouTube life hack altogether and go straight for a semi-transparent gray exterior wood stain. There is a lot to consider. The second method would protect my siding better in the long run, and also I am not entirely sure that painting my boards with what is essentially rust and acid isn’t damaging the wood… but it looks so good!

I know all of you will be on the edge of your seats this whole month, waiting to find out what I decide!

Thank Yous!

Thank you to my dad for loaning me his truck and taking the lead on getting the house trimmed, thank you to the San Rafael Home Depot for actually having more than 8 screwed up boards this time, thank you to Sol Food for making life worth living, thank you to YouTube DIYers Chad Cole (video below!) and DIY Pete for their advice on ageing wood with vinegar and steel wool, and thank you for keeping up with my tiny house memoirs!

All I want to do is hang out by Chad’s koi pond and listen to him talk about stuff. Is it just me?