Have you ever entered a weekend with the idea that you'd definitely be completing a certain project or goal, only to take on something completely different? At the conclusion of the weekend you look back with a certain sense of disappointment for not having your anticipated completed work to show for the time, but you have something else that's equally as good, if not better? This past weekend we experienced this very scenario.

I was sure we were going to tackle a bit more of our bathroom tile, but the long holiday weekend had different plans for us.

Wendy's parents were in town for the Fourth, and they enjoy working in the yard. We had planned to attend a cookout and the fireworks on The Mall, but beyond that, the weekend was pretty open.

As a result, the morning of the Fourth we found ourselves cleaning up our small backyard area, trimming our ivy, and staring at our decroded, warped, and flaking back gate.

You see, our back gate has been in sad, sad shape for months.

It may have a bit of a "cool" look to it at first, but peeling paint, rough edges, and water stains have shown its age and lack of routine maintenance.

Over the winter, when we received countless days of snow and rain, the failed and missing paint allowed water into the wood, causing it to swell to the point where we could no longer close the door.

For a time, we thought the door's days were numbered and we'd need to just build a new one.

Though building a new one would be okay with me (I'd get to fix the mistakes I made the first time around), ain't nobody got time for that. We have a bathroom to be tiling and storm windows to be building...finally...for real this time (really for real).

After a long drying period our back gate started to close again and things started to look up for the little gate that could. The key to its longterm success being we had to correct the issues before the next round of torrential rains. It was time we got our back gate in shape.

The first thing I did was remove the cast iron grate we had attached to the little arched hobbit hole in the door. I initially thought I was going to clean it up and remove the rust, then apply another layer of polyurethane to protect it, but once I got it down I realized just how cool the patina looks.

The rusty deep oranges and brown with an overall greenish hue was earned through years of bearing the brunt of difficult weather. It was character and charm that you don't easily find just anywhere, so we decided to keep it like it is.

But the paint on the door, that was another matter. You can't reasonably call this "character."

Peeling and flaking at every corner, I began by first scraping with a wire brush, and then sanding with steel wool.

The goal at every spot was simple, get the loose paint gone and leave a solid surface to work with.

Once we had a good surface with adhered paint, we spot primed any area where bare wood could be seen.

We used the same exterior fast drying oil based primer that we've used on our wood siding and other outdoor projects. This primer works great at hardening and keeping the weather out.

When we were done, our door looked like a reverse Dalmatian. Regardless of its look, it was already looking better.

Painting the door was, well, like painting a door. Not much too it. You dip the brush, you wipe it on the door, you repeat.

We used some high gloss oil based enamel and applied it to the entire door in long and smooth strokes. Wendy's mom did some of the painting, Wendy's dad did some of the painting, Wendy did some of the painting, and I did some of the painting. It was definitely a team effort. Well, except for Lulu who lounged in a nearby chair.

After the first coat was complete we could still see some of the white primer showing through, but it was looking 1000% better than before. We knew we'd need a second coat, but it didn't matter if we needed even more, that door was back from the brink.

Once we applied the second coat we allowed the necessary but excruciatingly long drying time for oil based paint, then reattached our beautifully patina'd and ornate grate.

Now, its color and aging looked even better against the crisp black door. Hopefully the door is sealed up so water will no longer cause us the issues we experienced. And hopefully we'll keep up with the necessary maintenance better this time around. But no matter what the future holds for this door, all it needed was a little TLC to go from neighborhood eyesore, to the welcoming glossy back entrance to our wonderfully relaxing yard.

With the weekend now behind us, and little to no actual work completed on our tiling project, I'm not disappointing by our progress in the least bit. The back yard is trimmed, swept, and looking good, and our back gate has lived to fight another day. Not too shabby for a holiday weekend with great weather and very helpful guests.

What did you do this weekend?

Comments 10


7/9/2014 at 11:55 AM

The holiday weekend was so beautiful here. I couldn't have resisted working outdoors, instead of tiling, either!

7/9/2014 at 12:01 PM

I liked the door before but I love the after!

Shows how you don't need to give up on a great element and all it needs is a little TLC to make it look brand new again...

Thanks for sharing,

4/4/2017 at 7:01 AM

I agree! I loves the rusty look, I think it showed a little character! I still like the newly painter door, but for me, I would have just given it a tidy up, but left the rustic look.

7/9/2014 at 12:01 PM

I love the picture of Mel! And the door looks great. A tip from my junker friends, to maintain that level of patina on the grate, poly right over the rust.


Mel really loves it outside. He just chills right into the seat and will hang out for as much as an hour.

7/9/2014 at 1:12 PM

Rust is beautiful but it will continue to eat away at your metal until its full of holes or falling apart.

If you want to preserve the metal then you should coat it. Try this to preserve the rusts beauty before putting a sealant on top:


This is great! We have a bottle of the Penetrol down in the basement. Will need to coat it this coming weekend.

Laura C
7/10/2014 at 1:36 PM

Hey Alex - not sure if anyone else has had this problem, but on my computer, the "Ask Old Town Home" bar is showing up as a huge stripe down the middle of my schreeen, obscuring most of the post. It happens on Firefox, IE and Chrome. It just started happening in the last day or two. Apologies for any typos - I can't see most of what I'm typing!


I know this has been happening to some people, but I've never been able to nail down the reason behind it. Care to email me a screen shot of what it looks like? And the best thing you could do is look at the page in chrome, right click anywhere on the page, click on "Inspect Element," then scroll to the top of the HTML that displays and select the area that starts

8/26/2014 at 6:08 PM

You asked if your readers have ever planning to do one project and end up doing another?

All the time. And I have the same disappointment/accomplishment jive going on when it happens.

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