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Saving hundreds is worth a little paint on the yard, muscle aches

Julie Johnson isn't a do-it-yourself weekend warrior. She's a bond trader who is much more comfortable on Wall Street than in the aisles of a hardware store.

But then she was laid off from her job of 17 years. And a professional painter gave her an estimate of $2,200 to paint her 2,200-square-foot house in northeast St. Petersburg.

"I had time on my hands and I thought it couldn't be hard," said Johnson, who has two daughters in elementary school.

Johnson went to a home- improvement store and came home with khaki-colored paint, rollers, an expandable handle and a nice brush. It cost her $325 and took her 25 hours over five days.

Because she and her husband own a stucco house with limited trim she found exterior painting easier than interior painting. There's no need to protect carpet, hardwood floors or furniture.

"I didn't even tape anything. If the paint hits the grass, then the next time you mow the grass it's gone," she said. She used a plastic shield to keep painting around the soffits and trim neat.

About two people a week stop in the Ace Hardware at 7575 W. Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa to buy supplies to paint the exterior of their house, according to manager Tony Figueroa. Closer to the holidays, when folks are more focused on sprucing things up, even more take on the job, he said.

One gallon of paint covers about 400 square feet. Buying in 5-gallon buckets instead of 1-gallon cans saves you about 10 to 15 percent, Figueroa advises.

"What you spend all depends on the paint you buy," he said. There's paint that will last 12 years and then there's some that will last 25 years. There's also a paint that is primer and paint combined.

"The price goes up the higher quality paint you buy," he said. "No matter what kind of paint you use, the secret is the supplies."

Rollers and brushes make a big difference, he said.

To make your paint job look good and last, you also need to use a pressure washer on the house first and make sure all of the old, loose paint is gone, Figueroa added.

Johnson pressure-washed and used Behr brand paint and primer in one.

"The kids thought I was really crazy, but they would come home each day and wanted to see how much more I'd gotten done," she said. "They turned out pretty impressed."

Would she do it again next time the house needs a refresher coat?

"I would, but I'm glad it's only once every seven years or so," Johnson laughed. "Every night I went to bed and my arms hurt so bad. They hurt the next morning, too, but it kind of felt good."

By the way, Johnson did get a new job. She is now a bond trader with another national firm.

Katherine Snow Smith can be contacted at (727) 893-8785 or

Saving hundreds is worth a little paint on the yard, muscle aches 10/07/12 [Last modified: Sunday, October 7, 2012 8:54pm]
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