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House Painting Restoration 101: An Interview with Thomas Livingston of Livingstone Painting

By Thomas Livingston

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

We began in 1974 as a way to help fund college. After graduation in 1978 I launched Livingston Painting. I had a very wise father who then advised me that to be successful I needed to do some things to set myself apart. So I began to apprentice for an old Italian craftsman whose specialty was wall paper. The old kind before all the pre pasted products hit the market. After a few years I was one of the first to offer both painting and wallpaper in one. As a result the decorators snapped me up for job after job. This was back in the Philadelphia area. Then in 1988 I was on my way to AZ for a life altering move when I visited the Lititz area in Lancaster county. The rest is history. I have been here since 1988 and have also branched out into doing furniture repairs and restoration with re-finishing the old treasures as my specialty. I built a log home when I moved here so I also began restoring log homes and have developed a system that lasts 7-10 years before re-coating is needed. I still do house painting both interior and exterior as well as wallpaper. In 2010 I began to re-store Hotels. I now do all of the above and travel the country doing the hotel work. In between the hotels is the furniture and residential work. I have trained countless young men in this industry and have many to call upon when I need extra help.

Can you briefly talk about what painting restoration is and when it is usually done?

The sun feeds on wood. One needs to think of the sun as "charging a tax". It demands to "be fed". Paint has been developed to allow the sun to feed on the paint and not the wood fibers. A good paint job should not peel or check. It should however begin to dull after several years giving notice to the homeowner that a fresh "sacrifice" is being sought. If the fresh coating is ignored the sun will eat into the wood fibers and begin the process of destruction, we are all to familiar with. If the paint job is checking or peeling it has to be due to water getting under the wood. Usually, a sign caulking has been neglected. What one needs to do is yearly monitor the paint and after dullness sets in realize it is time to re-coat.

What are some of the most common places in Thomas Livingston homes that need restoration?

Window and door frames. Wood has a capillary action in which it draws moisture up the fibers. If a frame is setting in standing water it will rot. The way to avoid this is leave a gap under exterior door frames so water cannot wick and ensure the bottom of the side trim on all windows is caulked tight.

What is the basic process for paint restoration, and how long does it usually take?

Only a day or two and a normal house can be properly "tuned up". Removal of all failing paint and filling of all cracks is the most important.

What should be done then

If wood has rotted then it is done. It should be removed and replaced.

Do you have any tips for homeowners who have an older house that is starting to show signs of paint and/or wood damage?

Call a professional painter. Myself or another that fully understands the process of water wicking up the woods fibers. Be aware of many modern non apprenticed painters that are out to make a quick buck because they think it is easy to leave their employer and have the money themselves. The current economic slowdown has fortunately sent a lot of them packing into other jobs. Most "old timers" understand this process and due to a long standing business practice have been able to weather the slowdown and are quite healthy as there are a lot of homes out there suffering wood rot. .

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

Either call (717-371-3463) or the best is email (

Please include that I have begun in earnest this year 2014 to branch into furniture refinishing. It has exploded into more then part time and I have included it as a full service of the company

Livingston Painting, Hotel Painters Network and Livingston Furniture Refinishing have all been brought under one name "Livingston Enterprises."

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