Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Please Listen!"

There’s this story about the Brooklyn Bridge. Or maybe it’s the Golden Gate Bridge. Maybe it’s any big bridge, I don’t know. I don’t even know if it’s true. But it sounds true. And as a person who’s currently having trouble finding truth of any kind, “sounds true” sounds pretty good to me right now.

The story goes like this: It takes four years to paint the (whatever) Bridge.

And they paint it every four years.

Get that picture in your head. Painters slap the finishing touches on a bridge they started painting four years earlier, they proceed to the other end of the bridge

And they start all over again.

Depending on your perspective, that’s either a really good job or a really bad job. But anyway, that’s the “bridge” story. It’s also, or excruciatingly close, to the story of our house.

“How often do you paint your house?” I’ve been asked.

“Every Tuesday.”

We own what they call a Craftsman Bungalow. It sits on a hill, four blocks from the ocean. It is made entirely of wood.

Please listen. This is the “Voice of Experience”, about to give you some invaluable advice. Ignore it at your peril. And the loss of enormous sums of money.

The advice is this:

Never buy a wood house near the ocean.

Write it down.

Remember the Three Little Pigs? One of the dumber ones built his house out of wood. That was a mistake. The thing is, he didn’t compound his mistake by building his wood house near the ocean. Even a stupid pig is smarter than that.

Not us.

We didn’t know. It was twenty-eight years ago. There were no bloggers back then. No one watching his cherished home deteriorating before their eyes, whose bank account is screaming, “We’ve sprung a leak!” no one living a life of nightmare and regret to reach out to cyberspacal strangers considering buying a wood house near the ocean and tell them, “Don’t!”

You’re luckier. You’ve got me.

Salt-laden air blowing in off the ocean will crack the wood siding, exposing the unprotected wood to the elements, and inevitably requiring the wood siding to be replaced.

The torrential winter rains slam into the first vertical structure in their path – in this case, our house – causing the wood making up that vertical structure to rot, inevitably requiring the rotten areas

To be replaced.

(We’ve had the same building contractor for fifteen years. He lives with us now. Every morning, he gets up, goes outside, tears down a decaying piece of our house, and replaces it. On Friday, he hands us a bill.)

Houses like ours also play host to beachside visitors from the lower strata of the evolutionary hierarchy – ants, moths, silverfish, rodents and raccoons.

Oh yes, and, of course,


Not long ago, our home had the pleasure of serving as the venue to a competition, of sorts. A recent inspection had uncovered a serious termite presence on the premises. Enveloping our house in an enormous, blue-and-yellow tent required the cessation of work that was in progress, replacing a substantial section of our front porch, due to the threatening spread of mildewing rot.

It’s like a race: “Termites versus Rot.” The contest? Which of them will cause our house to collapse first?

This coming September, we’re planning a party to celebrate our Craftsman Bungalow’s one-hundredth birthday.

We’re hoping it’s still here.


Gary said...

Yeow, Earl, you didn't know that salt is second only to a nuclear bomb in terms of property destruction? I thought you were from Canada...didn't they use salt there to clear the streets in the winter? And didn't said salt eat thru your car (or your ox if you were on the poor side of town)? It is unfortunate you didn't know cuz your only real option now is to tear it down and start over. Lots of luck!

Tony Tyler said...

I am so sorry to hear about your house problems. I am not sure if this will help, but what if you replace your wood sidings and install cement fiber sidings? From what I know, it is the latest type of siding that is durable and low maintenance. I know a friend who works as a siding contractor (Minneapolis based) and he might be able to help you. Actually, there are many siding contractors Minneapolis professionals who might be able to help you.

Anyhow, I hope you find a solution soon!