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"the old house" Category

There Is Satisfaction in Complete Destruction

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Last week was all about pry bars and sledgehammers and demolition. In fact, the one tool that has probably been responsible for the most work done so far is something called a demolition bar. It’s a very long pry bar with one end bent at fifteen degrees and the other at ninety. Bert says that many things will try to resist the demo bar, but none succeed. Whatever the demo bar addresses eventually succumbs. It is heavy, so it can knock things down. It is long, so it provides the leverage to pull things up or apart. It is hard, so things like concrete or nails do not impede its path. The sawzall used to be my favorite tool, but the demo bar has dethroned it. 

After the roof came off the rest of the house fell quite readily. Bert came over with Scott to help remove the shed roof from the kitchen. That happened so quickly that we decided to take the side and rear walls down as well. Ironically, we broke for labor day and then I returned on Tuesday to take down the laundry room and the front facade. Working alone is three times slower than working with two other people. Weird how the math works out on that huh? When Scott and Bert were helping we took down three walls and a really heavy roof section in half a day. Alone I took down one wall and one little four by eight foot room in about six hours. That left us with just the car port, which Ed Botello the hauling guy pulled down via a rope tied to his truck. Ed deserves an entire post so I’ll sing his praises later. For now I’ll describe him as a compact bulldozer of a man who gets things done like nobody I’ve ever seen. 

The carport was the last of the original structure and once it fell we were left with two giant piles of debris. One pile was “clean” and one was “dirty”. Dirty goes straight to landfill. Clean is recycled and most of it eventually ends up as mulch. The dump has giant piles of different grades of mulch that you can buy for a low price. I’m positive that some of the lumber of the old house will eventually end up back in the garden.

While taking down one of the walls I split open a piece of wood and found a bunch of termites. Man those guys are tenacious. It seems like every wall and most of the ceiling was spongy from their efforts. Somehow they manage to eat most of the wood while leaving a fairly rigid structure behind. It’s as if they know that if they ate completely through the house would fall down and they’d ruin their meal ticket. You can see photos of the termites and their handiwork in the gallery below. 

Tearing down the front of the house brought out the neighbors. Every hour or so I’d see someone stop in front, mouth agape and with a “dang!” expression on their face.  I met Kevin from down the street – a woodworking teacher and carpenter. And I met Jake from across the street, a nice guy and also a carpenter. My next door neighbor is a carpenter too. And a few doors down is a roofer. For such an anti-growth town there sure are a lot of dudes in the building trades living here. Everyone has been really cool, offering advice and generally being stoked on the project. 

I’m putting together a video from different stages of the tear down. Until it is ready, please enjoy these photos of recent interest.

Roof B Gone

Friday, August 29, 2008

Today was going to be a mellow day. I did a dump run first thing in the morning then came back to the house to strip off some more roofing materials. It was hot and I was planning on starting the weekend early. Then Bert came by. Bert is so awesome. After working a full day and then having a midday surf session he came by the house to help out. I had already loaded up the truck to make another dump run so I felt a little guilty asking him to help when I wasn’t even going to be around. But… I guess I’m just a slave driver… so I asked him to take a crack at the newly exposed roof decking. On the drive to the dump I kept having visions of poor Bert dropping through the termite ridden decking down twelve feet and smashing head first onto the piano, er, workbench. 

By the time I returned Bert was still alive and the main roof decking was gone. He had singlehandedly stripped the roof! Well, that meant the game was on. Bert and Kari and I then went hog wild, tearing down the rafters, balancing on the ceiling joists and prying off whatever wouldn’t cause the structure to collapse beneath us. So fun. Luckily, I mean, thanks to keen planning, nobody lost a finger or an eye. We removed the entire roof, thus accomplishing the hardest and most dangerous part of the house demolition in one afternoon. We also got our demo permit just in time to stay legal. 

The termite damage inside the house was extensive. Some boards lifted right off the nails as if they were made of paper mache. A pry bar would easily penetrate 2×4 studs sending me off balance at the unexpected lack of resistance. See the gallery below for some of the more affected spots. 

Here’s a gallery of some recent pics from the project:

It’s Alive!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I thought video might be cool in the blog. Here’s one we made a couple of weeks ago after we had gutted the house. It gives a bit of a feeling for the condition of the old place.

[media id=2 width=460 height=320]

Holy Eyesore!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Our poor neighbors. We spent most of last week gutting the house. Taking everything that wasn’t holding a wall up and tearing it out. Note the very large and very obsolete satellite dish on the left edge of the frame. That came off the roof. And I’m still alive! Next to it is concrete from the back porch. The lower right contains drywall. Upper right is unpainted wood. Those four things are actually recyclable. All metal can be recycled, so were gonna tear that sink out of it’s melamine casing and put that in the scrap pile. See the volkswagon over there? We sold it to our neighbors Joe and Sari, who live on 48th ave. They’re gonna fix it up. Yay! All this stuff that we thought was junk is actually going to have another life. The metal will become iPhones. The wood will end up as eco-toilet paper. The concrete will end up thickening Jamba Juices. The VW will become another VW – just with every single part replaced. 

This is what you get when you turn a house inside out.

This is what you get when you turn a house inside out.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Yes. We have begun to labor. As in actual physical labor. Over the last two days we have torn down the old shack and gone toe-to-toe with the blackberry bushes (again). 

The shack was built on a dirt foundation. It was completely eaten by termites and it had about seven layers of roofing. Structurally it was comprised of old 2x4s, randomly spaced between 2 and 3 feet apart. Then it was clad in tongue-and-groove siding. Then it was clad in wood shingles. Inside, someone had drywalled it and then poured an uneven foundation into the interior. It was not difficult to take this building down. I feel after this small endeavor that I know a little bit more about what holds a building together. Long nails and any sort of sheathing. A stick frame of 2x4s is structurally worthless. It isn’t until you throw plywood or some sort of sheathing along the outside that you gain any strength. And if you hammer that in with nice long nails, you’re gonna have a helluva time undoing it. 

After much deliberation, and the kind advice of our landscaper friends, we went chemical and sprayed RoundUp™ made by MiracleGro, owned by Monsanto. These nice folks are the leading producer of genetically modified seed and employers to many hardworking children in India. We sprayed this stuff on our flourishing blackberry bushes and the leaves started turning black within an hour. Obtaining instant gratification like that is some crazy magic business and it seems waaaaay too good to be legal. 

Tomorrow we plan to rip all the drywall out of the house and load a big truck with what used to be the shack. Friday we’re gonna try to move the volkswagon out of the back yard and into the street with a FOR SALE CHEAP sign. We’re trying to get a dude with a Bobcat to come out on Monday to grade the back yard so we can start digging the foundation for the new & improved shed.

Investigative Demolition

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Did I mention that I purchased an investigative demolition permit from the city of Capitola? It cost 45 bucks and it allows me to take a sledgehammer to my walls. I’m not sure why a permit is necessary for this sort of thing or what sort of penalty one would incur if they didn’t obtain one, but the question is now moot. I investigatively demolitioned good portions of the entry, living room and kitchen and found much to admire and fear. The wiring in the house is old. As in knob and tube. As in, outdated in the 1930s. Not to get all nerdy or anything, but wikipedia has an interesting entry on this rather handsome approach to electrification. Also of note is how solidly build the house is. Old fashion 2×4s (the ones that are actually two inches by four inches instead of their reedier modern descendants) covered on both sides with 1×8 tongue and groove siding and then nice wood paneling from before I was born. I’m afraid that when I get all that sheathing off the termite devoured frame will simply disintegrate. Actually the termite damage seems pretty localized to a couple of bad areas around the doors and in the slats in the roof. There are actually live termites walking around in there that you can watch eating wood. They seem to eat wood and then poop wood. Which makes me wonder: where is the nutrition? Or are they just whiling away the time, sort of like how we whittle bigger sticks into smaller sticks. 

In the attic above the living room, above the ceiling and below the insulation were egg-crates (see the photos below). This has the telltale signature of my dad’s handiwork. I can attest that our house was freezing cold when I was a child and thus empirically prove that egg crates do not make good insulation.

Yard Work

Monday, April 21, 2008

We spent a recent weekend tearing out blackberry bushes and weed-whacking. We carried stuff out of the yard – stuff that had been piling up for probably 25 years – and created a giant heap in the driveway. Later that week a really nice guy named Ed (cool name!) came by with his truck and hauled it all away in two trips to the dump. Don’t worry eco-warriors – we carefully separated everything out so that there would be no waste – the paint and lead and DDT and other chemicals from the 60s was separated from the motor oil and toxic mold and Coors ICE cans and grass clippings.