Painting Old Toronto Homes and Apartments

(A Toronto painter’s senseless pursuit of perfection)

For some of us living in the suburbs of the GTA there are certain realities about our living space that we take for granted. Our streets are straight and wide, our houses look neat and organized from the outside. Some call this boring, we call it curb appeal.

Our interiors are usually an organized collection of rectangular pieces of drywall surrounded with smooth and linear new pieces of trim and woodwork. We expect our walls to be nice and smooth, our corners to be “square” and everything needs to look new and be constantly maintained.

Painting older houses and apartments

As we work all over the city, we are often asked to paint older houses and apartments in the downtown area of Toronto. Some of these homes have surfaces that are in less than perfect condition.  Occasionally the customer has the budget to consider a major renovation/restoration. In most cases that is not the case. Painters are expected to paint on these challenging substrates and are trusted with the difficult task of improving the appearance of these homes.

The basic rules of prep work we have learned and practiced over the years become useless. There is so much imperfection, so many flaws on practically every inch of space. It looks like somebody painted over dirt, flies and possibly other insects. In some cases there is wallpaper over layers of paint and some other times paint over layers of wallpaper.

When Perfection Doesn’t Make Sense.

We will patch the holes, fill the cracks, maybe do some sanding, but that’s all we can really do. Then we (painters and homeowners) will collectively lower our expectations, and philosophize about the anticipated results: “it will have character or charm” we say.

Old imperfect downtown homes do indeed have character and charm. They are old and there is nothing wrong with that. Their surfaces often tell stories of their past inhabitants. The bumps, the dents, the scratches, they all mean something. Layers and layers of spackle and thick paint were not able to cover most of these stories. This latest paint job is not going to do it either.

When we go back to our suburban homes at night, our walls look naked and maybe even cold.

Our rooms look like brand new cardboard boxes. They don’t tell many stories yet. Will they ever have this many stories to tell?

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