Monday, 30 June 2014

Responsible construction practices

I’ve taken an extended break here lately to focus all spare moments (when I’m not engrossed in childcare) on work and house renovations. But now summer is here, classes are over and I can perhaps breathe and blog a little before starting a new full-time job in the fall.

Today’s post is comprised of imagined conversations between the former owners of our house. It was (apparently, based on dates from newspapers we’ve found – there are no official records we can find) built in the late 1940s, then added onto and remodeled sometime in the 1980s and again in the 1990s, we think. We’re going through and updating and repairing again.  

In the 1940s Encinitas was mostly rural, and our house was probably a small 1-bedroom bungalow on several acres of farmland. Now the land has been subdivided into housing and some remnant greenhouses from the farming era are in the process of being converted to housing as well – darned good schools and lovely Pacific Ocean!

Why yes, apparently rain made the news in the 1940s, too. And people also used kid leashes (or a "walking harness," here)
Cast of characters
1940s – 1950s
Merl – 1st homeowner
Ethel – 1st homeowner
Hank – Merl’s buddy

1960s – mid 1980s
Bob – 2nd homeowner
May – 2nd homeowner
Sally – daughter

late 1980s - 2013
Doug – 3rd homeowner
various cats

Scene 1: The original bungalow

Hank: [helping lay hardwood flooring] “Well, Merl, looks like we’re outta building paper.”
Merl: “Dang. Ethel already went to town in the car. Lemme go see what I can wrangle up from the kitchen.” [comes back with stacks of newspapers]
Hank: “Oh sure, those should work for the underlayment. Farmer’s almanac? You got the latest edition? Some pretty good feed deals advertised in there.”

Merl: “Hey Ethel, I had a few leftover slats of wood from tearing down the outhouse that I couldn’t fit in the dump load. So I just threw ‘em out in the front yard. Perhaps you could plant some nice succulents over the top?”
Ethel: “Sure, Merl. How thrifty of you!”
Merl: “Just be wary of the nails, I didn’t bother taking them out.”
Ethel: “Oh, you scoundrel! Well, I’m sure they’ll just rot into the ground after a nice light rain.”

Scene 2: The first remodel

Bob: “Hey look, May – a pile of construction debris is hiding under these succulents! That’s convenient. I’ll just add our leftover concrete from the demolition.”
May: “Great idea, Bob! That would be pricey to take to the dump. I’m sure it’ll just break up and become part of the soil in no time!”

Sally: [having her infant hand and foot smooshed into wet concrete] “huh? wahhhh!”
May: “My gracious, Bob, that is just the cutest remembrance. Don’t forget to scratch in the date. And let’s write our last name over there.”
Bob: “That really completes the walkway. I love how you thought of cementing the beach cobbles into the sides of the entry pad, too.”
May: “And so convenient how the walkway and pad just run straight down the front yard hill and into the door!”
Sally: [thinking] Gee, I wish I could talk and alert them that rain water will also run straight down the hill and into the front door like that. Alas!

In the 1940s, people hosted dinner parties and kids blew out birthday candles! Woah!
Scene 3: The third remodel

Doug: “You know, Scruffy? Cat doors are for sissies. I’m just going to cut a hole in the wall here between this exterior storage closet and the rest of the house, and then take off some of the screening on the outside, and you can go in and out as you please!”
Racoons/possums/etc.: [some time later] It was so nice of Doug to provide direct access to the crawl space under the house, storage area, and even the kitchen when everyone is sleeping! And just look at all this comfy insulation material beneath the floors we can use for bedding. Let’s all move in, kids!

Doug: “Watch out, Rascal! I’m just going to throw this mirror down from the second floor into that dirt pile, better move!”
Rascal: “Meow.”
Doug: “Ya know, it’ll be easier to just throw all of the construction debris off the roof into the dirt in hindsight. Bagging it up and lugging down the stairs is so exhausting. Look out! Here come some broken tiles and nails!”

Doug: “I’ve been thinking, Rascal. What if I feel like welding upstairs as well as downstairs? I might as well run some more 100-amp wiring up to the utility room while I’m at it, just in case!”
Rascal: You’re building an airplane in the living room; what on earth will you build upstairs?! Well, at least it will probably be fun to climb on.

Doug: “Hey  Pumpkin, could you use another broken surfboard for your scratching post? This one seems a bit shot. I’ll just grab one from under the house.”
Pumpkin: “Meow.”
Doug: “Here you go, little guy. I just stuck the old one back under there, too, in case it comes in handy. I did also happen to catch a glimpse of what I think may have been poor Rascal’s remains, too. I always wondered what happened to him. Oh well!”

Doug: “It sure would be terrible to get the house fumigated for termites. They have taken quite a liking to the wood siding, but I just can’t bear to think about those horrible chemicals killing all of our arthropod friends, and what about all of the mice and rats that have taken up residence in the walls? We don’t want to put them out, right Pumpkin?”
Pumpkin: “Meow.”
Doug: “I sure hope one day you learn to chase after them, though – that would seem fair. In the meantime I’ll just let them continue to eat the electrical system and nest in the insulation.”

So, what is the advice I can offer from these made-up reflections? Don't consider the future owners of your house when you do strange things like install a partially-finished low-voltage wiring system that no one else can work with. It's more fun to just let them redo everything again! Yeehaw!

Early version of Skymall?

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