Not sure exactly how our house addition ballooned to its current size—I blame childlessness and lack of impulse control. Anyway, we tacked on about 1700 square feet to the place over 25 years ago, including a third-story tower just for fun. Now, we’re trying to keep it all stuck on. Fungi have moved in and are razing the place for their own subdivision.
I didn’t catch on real quick. The signs were there, and I actively ignored them for a good long time. Due to an error in flashing for a one-foot-long gutter, our winter rains were being sluiced directly behind our siding for years.
It was ripply.
Still, something about the sheer massive scale of the calamity caused my sensible side to shut down altogether. My own brain stuck its fingers in its ears. Then a plant started growing out of the siding fifteen feet up. A nice bleeding heart, it was. When it started blooming, I was forced to strike up an acquaintance with reality. Virtually the entire north side of the house needed to be replaced.
Then one of our tower windows rotted out and could not be repaired or swapped out—it had to be re-fabricated. The fabricator was danged proud of his work, if his invoice is any indication.
Then this summer I belatedly noticed the pertinent windowsill also had problems. Specifically, it was a rubbery layer of paint with a bunch of air beneath it. Once I started poking around, my finger went in up to the second knuckle. Two men went up there with Bondo, a pencil, and a cereal box, and now they’ve fashioned a special metal sill to go over the top of it like the plate on Hank Williams Jr.’s forehead that keeps his brain from leaking out. Haven’t gotten the reckoning yet.
It’s probably a lot of things. It’s that the only standing timber we still have left is on fire, it’s that some tiny-pricked dictator invaded Ukraine, it’s that 28 years are in the rear-view mirror, but the fact is all these efforts to keep our house from shlorping into the earth have already cost a sizable fraction of what the whole addition cost originally. So now I’m paying attention. If the neighbor doesn’t have his music cranked up, I swear I can hear fungal mycorrhizae on the march. Tiny wicked crackling laughter. Heh heh heh. Heh heh heh. It was no doubt what led me to look up at the base of our nearly inaccessible oval window. With binoculars.
It looked wrinkly.
Awesome. I located a handyman neighbor with big balls and an extension ladder, and he popped up there to do triage and came back with photos. Rotten at the base. Rot beginning to go into the sash. I do not know what sort of surgery would be required to replace an oval window. I do know it would be major, would cost a down payment for a trip on SpaceX, and I personally would need to be anesthetized.
Neighbor with big balls was dispatched for the rescue. He bounced around on that ladder for about five hours with an assortment of surgical instruments and magic goo, and now my window is fixed. Fixed, I say, before all was lost. Today the rains have begun. I can’t hear the fungi over the pattering, but when it dries out, next June, I’ll be listening for squatters.
Murr, I’m so, so sorry about all this. I, too, have an old house, and I know how things were not “up to code” back then, especially when one was building one’s own house. The basement part of our house is stone, and they mortared it with clay, horsehair… whatever they had on hand. It’s held up okay, except for the south side, where we get horizontal rain. There are crevices and it goes into our basement. The drain pipes under the washer are too small, and they can’t be replaced with larger ones because they are smack dab against the wall in the basement. So every other year, we have to have the drain professionally snaked. Nothing is square, there are gaps in the attic where mice can come in (we even had a vine that wriggled through a hole and ran all the way across the attic.) and some of the floorboards up there should not be walked over. We love our home, though, and call it “our crooked little house.” And at this point in our lives, with much less time in front of us than behind, we can’t see getting things done to make it last forever at a great expense. Let the next person puzzle it all out.
Weirdly, our basement does not flood. I have no idea why. It’s all gravel and spit down there, wall-wise. And We Get Rain.
No, no, no, little fungus, shrooms and mycorrhizae and rot. You can’t have Murr’s house.
There! Solved! Thanks, Susan!
If there’s anything my life, early life, in Oregon, well in Portland, circa 1970 told me, is never, ever, trust fungi. You think they are your friend. Well, sometimes. Sometimes you think you know what they are, and invite them in. Then they can either be welcome, if imaginative guests, or sometimes…they can turn on you. Never trust them, Murr.
I’ve grown quite fond of yeast. And yet. It too can turn on you.
The lesson to be learned here is to pay attention from Day One and fix the little things before they become big problems. It’s still a lovely house to look at.
You would think that would be the lesson to be learned, wouldn’t you? It is. I won’t. I know myself.
Nor will we. We’ve been supposed to move to S. California for years now – to be closer to our children, to be cared for. This Old House needs things before we sell. But today I need to do a mountain of laundry and quilt the next border on a biggie. Bill needs to practice his sax for a holiday concert and attend a meeting of local fellow RC airplane nuts. And we need naps after lunch to get through it all. And tomorrow, well. There’s at least one something on the calendar, so that’s out. And so it goes.
After clearing out my uncle’s house after he died (he was a hoarder, so it was a hell of a job), we were too tired to do anything to the property or house. A friend of ours who is a realtor sold it in one day — as is — for cash. Good thing we didn’t take the time to fix it up, because right after, the housing market went tits-up. The way I figure it, you’re only going to recoup the money you put into the repairs — you won’t get that much more. And anyway, people have their own ideas of what they want, don’t they? If i painted everything white, they’d want some other color. If I had the floors refinished, they’d put in carpeting. Sometimes it pays to just stop and say, “Meh. WTF.”
Then there’s the story our realtor told us of the couple who spent some tens of thousands of dollars remodeling their kitchen so they could sell the place. The new owners, you guessed it, demolished the house so they could build what *they* wanted.
You use my methods!
I’ve never done anything to date that would be considered an investment. We moved in in 1978 and I thought “Thank God! We won’t have to do that again.” And sure enough everything we’ve done to the place is to suit us. It’s not what you’d do if you were planning to turn it over. Every now and then I give a thought to what the next owner will do and then think Ehh, I’ll be dead.
It was almost three men and a pencil—-count yourself lucky on the invoice side of things.
Yeah, where’d you go?
FWIW, I say just bite the bullet and get everything fixed. Completely, with no patch-up jobs. My reasoning is that if we limp along with piecemeal repairs, then we’ll end up living to 100, and we’ll regret all of the money we pissed away, instead of doing it completely and right and having it to enjoy for our last 30 years on this planet. Its only money and you can’t take it with you. Tick-tock, no one’s getting any younger…
I don’t have thirty years. I’m perfectly willing to live the rest in ignorance. Somebody throw a space blanket over me.
House is 100 years old…I feel your pain…and if you are looking for a wonderful vintage, a ’87 Black Mold is very desirable! Thanks for another good one!
Parts of my house are 116 years old. And THAT part is doing fine.
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