As we’re looking at houses (for now remotely) in a potential landing place, because we’ll have to wait till this house sells to buy what we really want, and because frankly, we’ve always made money out of houses (like, we usually — except for our very first house — double our investment, no matter how long we stay in it) there is the temptation to buy something small and distressed, put most of our stuff in storage, and clean/fix/improve a home, then when this one sells buy a better one, and sell that one.

The drawback is rather obvious, of course. Well, look…. I’ve spent 20 years of my life getting at least a day a week eaten away improving Victorians.

I can do it. I understand Victorians. I can’t do roofing, and I’d prefer not to do electrical. I can do plumbing, but it takes a lot of cursing, and I tend to…. ah, over build because I hate leaks (No, you don’t get it. I HATE leaks.) I probably could do electrical, but it would take learning.

However, provided I choose a house that is okay as to roofing, electrical and plumbing (or where those are relatively cheap to have done, and for a small house even rewiring is not that expensive) I can do everything else. Worse, or perhaps better, I’ve learned workarounds, so things look good and are sturdy but aren’t exactly…. conventional. Partly because I collect books on renovating like other people collect cute statuettes, and I’ve spent a substantial portion of my life walking around hardware stores, lumberyards, or those construction thriftstores where they send the bits and pieces of demolished century old homes.

So you know, I can look at a wall that is completely irregular because over the years people have put layers and layers of walpaper in it, without bothering to rip out the former layer….

You can sand it, so it’s smooth and you can paint it (though I advise a good coat of shellack under the paint, or it will bleed down into the paper and you’ll have another kind of mess. And if what you’re dealing with is a bathroom, and one that will be used by your kids…. well. I’d recommend that. But if it’s, say, your front hallway and you really don’t want to sand (you really don’t want to sand. Even with an electrical sander it takes forever, and I guarantee at some point a big patch of the plaster and horsehair underneath will fall down, and then you’ll have to patch. You really, really, really don’t want to sand. Actually, in retrospect, what I should have done in that bathroom was put up wood paneling, give it a white “pickled” finish (the rubbed on thing you do, very Swedish and stuff) and then several layers of polyurethane. But it never occurred to me, and I didn’t know most of what was holding the plaster together was wallpaper. Some of which, judging by the color, probably contained arsenic.) you buy anaglypta and put it over the mess, then paint it. It looks (depending on pattern chosen) very Victorian, and you never have to know what you hid under it. Oh, and it wears like iron. Actually we’ve had it in a bathroom (WE didn’t install it.) And it held fine even though it was again the boys’ bathroom.

You can hide a multitude of sins under plywood veneer, particularly if you’re even mildly handy and can make it resemble an inlaid pattern.

And if you’re saying “Why the emphasis on hiding. Shouldn’t you be making it over again, and sound?”

Well, yes. Some things you absolutely want to. Like, for instance, electrical. And in Victorians you also know no matter how well you have fixed it and/or replaced it, you’re still going to be living with hidden stuff you can’t even dream about.

If you really want to know how the past is another country, buy a distressed Victorian and fix it. Take the house two houses ago, in many ways my favorite house. When we moved in, it had a new roof, new electrical, etc. put in. The plumbing, we contracted to have redone, within a month of moving in. And because we had two very small kids, and when we moved in I’d just torn my ACL (don’t even ask) and was in a leg brace, while we had the handyman put in a new bathroom and tuck point the basement (where we found out one of the foundation walls…. wasn’t. It was just dirt. Yes, we had a wall built in front of the dirt and supporting the wall above it, because seriously) we said “get the washer and dryer out of the basement. Look, there’s this tiny room with a toilet under the stairs, where you can’t use the toilet without leaving the door open. Obviously, there’s plumbing there. So put a washer dryer there.” This was a brilliant idea. Except for some minor things. One of the, was that he needed to enlarge that space (and we could BARELY squeeze the washer and dryer in. Also the dryer was venting into an abandoned fireplace. Do not go there.) Anyway, when he enlarged the space, he knocked out the back wall. And there, amid a pile of 19th century newspapers, was a live/sparking wire. From the previous system that was supposedly completely disconnected. You know, one of the antique cloth-wrapped wires. It was somehow double-connected to the switch to the attic (my office) so that every time I turned on that light, the wire went live. Yes, we removed it, and traced connections, so we could to the best of our knowledge eliminate the old wiring. But could we be sure? Well, no. Not short of opening all the walls.

And you don’t want to open all the walls. Why not? Well, same house, when we were getting ready to sell it. I’d done a half-assed job of laying in kitchen cabinets. Look, when we moved in, the kitchen had a small row of cabinets: sink and two cabinets on either side, and above it four small cabinets in bad shape. We were also broke which is kind of normal condition. Or rather, we had an extra 20k but it was going to new bathroom, new plumbing and remedying serious issues. Like no foundation on one side of the basement. Cabinets were not a structural issue. When I told my husband I had to go to re-store and buy cabinets he told me I could, if I could do the thing for under $100.

Now, this was probably okay if we were the type of family that just heats bought-food. We’re not. I’ve always cooked from scratch and we couldn’t even afford pre-prepared.

I could — have done it in other houses before — have built a moveable on-wheels island to help some with cabinets and counter top prep, but seriously, this kitchen needed a lot more than that.

So…I started scanning the free adds in the classified (like the free section in craigslist. Sometimes you strike gold. Most of the time not.)

Someone was remodeling their seventies vintage kitchen, and was giving the cabinets away for free to whoever removed them. Now, don’t get me wrong, okay? Most such deals are bad. This one was medium-bad. The cabinets were real wood, but I swear these people didn’t clean PERIOD. So there was a quarter inch coat of solidified grease on every surface. First step was taking the cabinets out — we looked it up in one of my do-it-yourself books — then I put them in the backyard, hosed them down with water and detergent, cleaned and bleached them, before bringing them indoors to install. After which I painted them white and called it good. But there were…. issues. Like the conformation required me to frankenstein two cabinets together to form a jumbo cabinet. On which the door was never quite right.

Also — this was not my doing — but the cabinet with the sink didn’t sit right and wasn’t level. Which was okay, when what I had on it was a formica counter, but before we sold we put in marble (because the formica was salvaged and in not great shape. And people don’t look past cosmetics.)

So I hired a handyman to come and fix those things and install the counters. Only he said the cabinet with the sink didn’t sit right (and movement had led to near-constant leaks under there) because the wall behind it was curved. And I — innocent that I was — said “Why don’t you pull the sink out and put something behind it that straightens that wall.” He looked at me like I was nuts and said “uh uh. No. I’ve measured behind it, and that curve is about two feet not accounted for. It could be a body.”

I thought he was insane but then he told me what he had found in other walls, and I decided, you know, that was cool. I don’t remember what we did, but it involved a lot of shims under that cabinet, and eventually floor bolts, until it was straight and didn’t move. We didn’t however open the walls.

Most of making a Victorian safe and livable, though, is covering surfaces. Hence, you know anaglypta. And if you must paint over old paint, do what you can to avoid sanding, because there was lead in old paint. And weirder stuff, to be honest.

The best you can do is make it so that stuff is not in contact with anyone. At least, you know, if it’s not structural. If it’s structural you sometimes do need to tear into the wall and make anew.

Our previous house, before this one, well… for instance there was the bathroom where you couldn’t use the shower without mushrooms growing in the corners. Yep, no venting. I think that bathroom was originally a not overlarge closet, and someone added a bathroom perhaps ten years before we bought.

That’s the other thing about buying a Victorian. You’re not just buying the house as it was built. You’re buying every mend, every patched-up do over over the century and a bit since it was erected.

And that means sometimes you get…. well…. there was a reason one of our bathrooms two houses ago was brown. Brown walls, brown tub, brown tiles, brown…. toilet. Which would be okay except for scaring the crap out of me to be in there for any length of time. There was this one TINY window. Yes, we changed those appliances out.

Anyway– given all that, I feel like I’m almost a lunatic for considering buying a small house in bad shape. (Well, smaller than we need.) But the price is right, and I KNOW how to deal with most of that stuff. So, it’s a matter of getting estimates on roof and electrical, and I’ll handle the rest. (Probably in a month upfront, at least for some them, because they’re not something I want to live with.) And honestly, the house that bit us in the ass hardest — the one before this one — was the one that looked move-in-ready, nothing to do. Actually that one and the one two before. Both had horrifying structural stuff that people had been hiding and patching and hiding, and which we HAD to deal with before we sold. (When we sell houses are mostly ready to live in, unless next person wants something drastically different. Because I’m neurotic, and can’t live with hidden rot or things that are unsafe.)

If you think about it, this here republic is like that. Part of the problem, as has been pointed out, is that we didn’t build new. We kind of did, but it mostly involved replacing the foundations, patching up the walls and maybe redoing the plumbing.

Because when it comes to human society, you can’t build new. This is where the communists and other arrant idiots routinely go wrong. It’s not that they look at the house they inherited all askew walls, twisted foundation, not enough cabinets and possibly leaky plumbing and go “this has to be fixed.” Well, of course it has to be fixed. The things people in the past lived with and thought were fine are not good enough for us, their descendants, mostly because through their efforts and their living in horrible conditions, we’re wealthy enough not to put up with that stuff.

But communists and other idiots faced with the idea that there might be a body behind the sink or that the wall surface is made mostly of wallpaper, don’t go “Well, okay. I don’t buy it on the body. It’s more likely to be someone’s silver someone hid against robbers, but okay fine. I can see where we’re already moving out, and if someone finds a skeleton (it would, by now, be a skeleton) it would cause a big problem.” They don’t go “Well, this is not a structural support wall, and it’s just the surface that’s a mess, because plaster and horsehair rot and crack in extremely dry climates.” They don’t go “How can I clean and retrofit these gross cabinets?” No. They go “There is a flaw in this house and it’s not exactly like the house of my dreams, so I’m going to tear down every wall and every support beam. And then I’m going to live in the ruins till something perfect automagically emerges.”

Which is why mostly they live in ruins and grub in dirt and talk about their great purpose and congratulate themselves on no longer having any of that icky stuff in the walls. Because they no longer have walls.

Human society doesn’t work like that. Mostly what human society is built on is other human society. And I know I joke — a lot — about how Rome never fell, it just exported itself.

But it’s not just Rome, it’s everything, going back to bands of vaguely human apes walking around the Savannah, and making the best of what they had. Something, btw, that the utopians of the left want to take us back to, so they can build perfectly this time.

Only they can’t because the flaw is in the ape. The only only to eliminate the flaw is to eliminate our corporeal form. Which of course the left is all for, btw. I think at bottom their hatred of everything human is because they know we can’t be retrofitted into perfect form. I still think when it comes to hating your own species, you should have the honestly of killing yourself FIRST.

Our republic wasn’t built like that. It was built to self-correct and fix, but most of all it was built on that one, basic fact. “Na kings, na queens, na lords na ladies. We won’t be fooled again.”

Of course the ape has been trying to “fix” that since it was built. And the republic, honestly, has been in serious trouble since before most of us were born, even the older ones.

None of which means that it should be demolished, despite all the crazy left running around with their little bulldozers and screaming “Build back better”. Sure, they’ve captured some important systems, and you really don’t wand to know what they’re doing to the plumbing.

They’re also living the doors open, in the hopes that different people will claim ownership and give them more power. (That’s not how any of that works.)

But you know what? We are still here. And the house is still ours. Yes, there is one, or several bodies in the walls, and the way the previous generations hid them weren’t very good. At least the holes the left has punched have shown that they have over time, termite-like destroyed most of the support structure of the republic.

You know what? It can be rebuilt. Now that we know where the problems are. And boy, do we know where the problems are.

Is it something we want to do? Well no. This is not the project I’d planned for my last twenty or thirty years. But it will have to be done.

We’re still here. We still don’t recognize their right to a boot on our neck. We certainly don’t recognize their right to run around with bulldozers. And you know what, most of the people who own this house know that if you knock down the walls a glittering, amazingly perfect building doesn’t emerge.

So — So.

We have this here property. It’s in bad shape. But it’s time to rebuild. As for the idiots who want to pull it down, it’s time they were recognized as pests and nuisances and sidelined. Maybe they can go back to wandering the Savannah until they figure out that mother nature is a bitch, not a goddess. Or considering most of them are paler than milk, maybe we can find a suitable arctic island where they can worry about global warming.

We have more dire concerns. The renovations of the late 19th century were iffy, but dear Lord, what were they thinking in the forties, the fifties, the sixties and the seventies.

And never again let anyone who believes Rousseau or his retarded disciple, Marx, had a point, near the plumbing. ever again. I think we’ve been dumping sewage in the cultural basement for almost a hundred years.

It’s going to be a mess to clean, right enough.

Fortunately we have experience with broken cultures. Humans have never had any other kind.

Even more fortunately, all the rot is exposed. Let’s rebuild.

245 thoughts on “Renovations

    1. This did not end up where I thought the essay was going – but, it was good.
      As for houses in later years:
      – sell the old one, use the money to pay for the next one outright – no mortgage.
      – fix it up, little by little, as you can.
      – if you run out of room, buy a storage unit/shed/separate work/office space.

      At least, that’s my plan when we leave the current house. Just have to talk my husband into it.

  1. No, you don’t get it. I HATE leaks.

    In out first house there was an unnoticeable leak in the upstairs bath. We discovered it when I stood on the toilet seat in the downstairs bath (directly below ) and gently touched the ceiling to assess the apparent sagging of the plaster. This probe initiated a collapse of the ceiling, deluging me with what had previously been a six foot by four foot plaster ceiling.

    This may have been the cause of the damage to the wax seal connecting the downstairs toilet to the floor and outflow, because that leak eventually rotted out the floor in that bathroom, providing a charming view of the crawl space below.

    I get it. Leaks merit hatred.

    1. Protip: Never touch overhead plaster when it’s bulging…

      Dad had to redo the floor in the upstairs bath in our 1903 Foursquare house. I had to do the same for the 1936 bath (the only full bath in that house. Secondary was literally a water closet, with the nearest sink 12′ away in the laundry room. We lived i the houseduring the work, but I had to promise never to buy a house needing renovation again. More or less held, modulo new floors and a disaster induced kitchen upgrade.

      The Dems in Salem seem to think that Oregon can show the way to a shiny new democracy tyranny. I wish they wouldn’t tell Nancy to hold their wine. No walls, no floors, no gas, not much electric. whee.

      1. Gah. That happened to us – a leak in the den ceiling from an AC valve bubbling … but when it was finally sorted and the saturated portion of the ceiling collapsed entirely, the AC maintenance company were absolute princes and replaced the ceiling at their expense, as the leak and saturated place in that ceiling had been something we had been pointing out to them repeatedly …
        No, never go into walls. My father did, in the little cottage in South Pasadena that my mother had grown up in, as part of helping Grandpa Jim so some home renovation or other … discovered that the electrification of the place was based on bare copper wires string to ceramic posts. Dad was mostly agnostic, but became suddenly and temporarily devout upon this discovery.
        My daughter had a good friend when we lived in Ogden, Utah – whose’ parents were living in and renovating an 1895 brick Italianate historical home close to downtown Ogden. My friend’s mother had grown up in that house, and was sentimental … but she eventually began to hate it because there was nothing really sound and substantial in the place save the outside walls. They spent beyond their means, trying to reno it bit by bit … and at the end of twenty years, discovered that a) all of it had been built on the cheap to start with, b) all the previous owners had managed to totally munge up what was originally installed and c) there were absolutely no nice surprises in craftsmanship anywhere in the place… She confessed to me that they would have been better off just gutting the interior from top to bottom and starting fresh within the brick shell. Friend’s mother wound up hating the place. They eventually sold it and moved into a 1920s bungalow a couple of blocks away. They liked that place much better.
        My own home was constructed in 1985. Nothing special, but at least, no surprises within the walls…

        1. Knob and tube is a perfectly reasonable wiring system… as long as you never try to insulate any of the wall cavities, and nothing builds flammable nests that touch the wires. ^_^

          Insulated wiring was a marvelous invention.

    2. Step-daughter discovered a very slow leak the hard way. She was standing at her kitchen sink when she and a roughly 2′ x 3′ section of the tile floor she was standing on fell down 2 1/2 feet.
      Turns out the polybutylene pipes feeding her sink had a small seep (you couldn’t see it without a light right on it – the pipes were just damp) which ran down the pipes under the sink and disappeared into the particle board subfloor where they came through. That subfloor was rotted out for 6 – 8 feet around the leak. Must have been leaking for many months.
      I spent several hours making an emergency repair and a few days later more family came and we spent the day tearing out the kitchen floor / subfloor that hadn’t yet fallen in, then repairing the damage to the floor joists, sheathing it with real plywood and installing a new floor.

      Yes, I share the hatred of leaks!

      1. OMG. I am shuddering. My parents’ house had some unexplained features from the original owners and builders, but after all of us kids had moved out long ago, it turned out that there was a bad pipe under the house, bad drainage, and this slow undermining of both the kitchen and the bathroom, as well as Bad Stuff happening to the underpinnings of the master bedroom and my brother’s old bedroom.

        Fortunately they found out before the floors gave way, but it was freaky scary. And crawlspaces can need pumps.

        1. er… One of our neighbors across the street, in a 100 year old house, found out the house had never been hooked to city sewer.
          Crawl space. Yep. He found out because the foundation cracked.

          1. *Shudders* The horror, the horror.

            The last cast iron and Orangeberg plumbing (pre 1970 vintage) at RedQuarters was replaced last fall as part of the leveling of a secondary slab. A plumbing rooter had found a weak spot in the old cast-iron, and . . . Mess ensued that included digging out an impressive amount of wet dirt and sand by hand, replacing the pipe, putting in clean dirt, then lifting the slab.

          2. How does the mandatory home inspection prior to getting a mortgage loan miss that? Good grief. I’d be suing the inspection company for repairs.

            My house is 1909 so I can relate to many of these stories. Here’s two quickies:

            1. Plaster crumbles. The easiest way to seal it is apparently to put 1/4″ drywall over top as a sheath. Only bad part is that the beautiful door frames, which used to stand out about a 3/8 inch, now stand out less than an 1/8th. Not nearly as attractive. Also, if you do renovate a wall (I did) you discover that the thickness of the rough cut lumber, the plaster/lath, and the drywall is 100% impossible to match, so you either do a whole wall or you have weird bumpy joins.

            2. Upstairs toilet started leaking into the kitchen wall and ceiling. Giant brown stain. Resealed toilet but it was obvious while I was down there that the wood was sort of rotten. Unfortunately that’s a full bathroom reno and it’s not time yet. Got the toilet reinstalled and there was still a leak. Tore out part of the kitchen ceiling/wall and discovered a big crack in the iron pipe’s flange. So that’s a full kitchen reno to pull out that whole wall while the bathroom is being done and replace all that pipe. And it’s not time yet. So I have silicon gooping up the crack, a piece of bedsheet stapled over the hole in the kitchen, and no leak. Meanwhile I’m figuring out how to do this full reno while working two jobs (and being single so it’s a solo project).

            1. If you are an HGTV junky (guilty*) you’ll have learned that inspectors, while they can go through, under, and over, the house, an property, they can’t dig into anything. I’m sure whatever training, internships, etc., teach what hidden signs to look for. Obvious being, don’t usually see termites or **carpenter ants, but an inspector should be able to detect the sign that they are there. BUT nothing but pure experience will hone it into your bones what to look for. Even then what is hidden, well is hidden.

              * Better than news, or constant reruns. Runs in background until the big revel. I like looking a new homes. Taught me what I don’t want. Helped me to modify our dream plans … should we ever indulge.

              ** My Intro to Forest Entomology instructor had a rant about carpenter ants our first class. Apparently no respect for a Professor of Entomology. As the story goes, saw one ant traversing across den (where there is one there is a whole lot more, FWIW) … Treatment and a whole new den later … Years later saw one ant at mom & dad’s. Told them the story. Mom had experts out immediately. Yes, they had a nest starting, which was treated. BUT they did not have any damage. The Bug Man (Orkin, I think), mom will not skimp on.

              Old homes. When I was attending Toastmaster meetings, one of the humors speeches someone gave detailing his simple renovation of a century old farmhouse locally … Well it started that way … First it was electrical, then it was plumbing, then … and on and on. One of those “it gets worse, THEN …” You couldn’t help but laugh with them, because in the end, after all the swearing, it was laugh or have a breakdown.

              An aside. Spent yesterday setting up new computer, and cleaning up two devices it is replacing. Got tired of both suddenly shutting down on me, even plugged in, or rebooting. Both are OLD by any electronic standard. Non replaceable batteries are shot. Got a MS tablet w/detachable keyboard. We’ll see how it goes. As usual, if it outlasts the Costco 3-year warranty, I’ll be ecstatic. Yes. If I was willing to deal with hardware I could build something myself more sustainable … I’m not. So … new Toy!

              1. Beloved Spouse & I have worked out a drinking game while watching Beachfront Bargain Hunt: Renovation (DIY) based upon how deep into the show they get before discovering water damage, adding a shot for each commercial break occurring after they’ve chosen which property to renovate.

                1. It isn’t the shows where the renovators are buying without an inspection, which when planning on gutting, often do, but the ones where, planning on renovation but have the home inspection for discovery of major problems. Might still buy, might not. But then the major problem comes up and the comments are either, “Well we know this is happening because of inspection report”, might tack on “didn’t think it’d be this bad” or not. But the ones “Well this didn’t show up in the inspection report. Inspectors can’t open up walls” or whatever needed to be opened, “to see this problem”. Property Brothers is one show that does have inspections done.

            2. I’ve never had a house inspector who also does sewer inspections. That’s a separate company, with specialized equipment.

            3. “How does the mandatory home inspection prior to getting a mortgage loan miss that?”

              Pretty easily when you start looking at what’s defined as “mandatory”. Here in Plano, it doesn’t cover a pipe camera inspection of the main drain between the house and the street. They have to tell you about any termite damage, foundation work, etc. that they had done or that the previous owner disclosed to them. If it isn’t documented, and you can’t prove they knew about it (say you find a permit application with a date on it), then caveat emptor is the rule.

              If the toilets flush once for the inspector, he isn’t required to ask how.

          3. Always, always, always have the sewer connection inspected all the way to the street BEFORE you buy. Ask me how I know.

            1. Yeah. AND BEYOND to the street itself if you can. We didn’t in our last house.
              We spent three years with periodic, inexplicable back flow in the basement, including the time the rotto rooter guy told us we needed to stop flushing baby wipes. (The boys were TEENS.)
              Then there was a week of this horrible acid smell in the house, that forced us to open every window. Strongest in basement.
              And then it never backflowed again. It wasn’t till years later a neighborhood news sheet referred to them re-opening the community sewer line. (not even joking.) Apparently it was on the city side.

                1. BTW I’m fairly sure the city should have warned us what they were doing. Before we opened the windows, one of the elderly cats was having…. issues.

            2. Sewer connection check … X2

              House in Longview, problems within 4 months!!!!

              When we bought current house, no sewer connections, still had septic. We required septic clean and inspection. Still had a problem. Company who cleared it, took care of problem for free (didn’t correctly reseat lid), including the mess, which was mostly smell.

        2. The 1936 house started with a floor furnace, replaced circa 1972 with forced air. Attic furnace, so naturally it was installed in the crawlspace. My invective volcabulary got a workout every time I had to replace the furnace filter.

      2. Particle board subflooring. (shudder) My parents’ house had (still has) an addition of dubious quality, whose structure makes no sense until you realize that the dude just built in the porch and attached the shed, and then added hallways and rooms to make it work, kind of. Most of it has seven-foot ceilings, except the part under the flat roof. The completely flat roof, which leaked for decades until my parents found a roofer who basically sealed it in rubber. White rubber, because we’re in a hot climate. Makes it look very odd on Google Maps. Anyway, this genius put particleboard subflooring under the washer and dryer, which rotted out unevenly and made potholes. It’s a concrete slab house, so at least it wasn’t anything other than a trip hazard, but it was a glorious day when my dad ripped it out, replaced with plywood, and covered it over with vinyl tiling. (Off-cut from a flooring store. If you have a small space and you don’t care what the end result looks like, you can get some good deals.)

      3. Our kitchen disaster was a dishwasher fitting that had just a bit too much torque on it. We had replaced the floor that spring, and I found soft spots near the sink. It turns out the crack was pointed at a rear wall, and we all of the kitchen floor, 1.5 walls of base cabinets, and part of the wall. Insurance called in Belfor* to do the rehab (demold, dry and such).

        We did more of the base cabinets, and had the plumber install the sink and the dishwasher. A year or two later, the replacement fixture broke again, but we caught it right away. (Eliminating lead from brass has done so much for the virtue signalers, not so much for people who actually use it. Grrrrr.).

        (*) Pros at restoration, much better than Servicemaster, and locally, major employer of veterans. If you need that kind of service, highly recommended.

        The 300′ line from the pumphouse has one permanent splice in it (large diameter PEX) and minimal fittings to the main feed. It works.

    3. I hate plumbing. I can do it all, but every individual plumbing task spawns four other things to fix.

      But I hate no plumbing worse.

      1. All carpenters hate plumbers since the plumbers have a tendency to cut through joists that shouldn’t be cut through. There is nothing like that little frisson one gets when your contractors come running with 2x4s to shore up the bathroom floor because some f’ing plumber had cut the beam 75 years before and no one had any idea why the huge cast iron tub hadn’t come through the ceiling before

        1. When I watched Holmes on Homes, as soon as the homeowner said, “The upstairs bathroom was redone a few years ago, and . . .” I knew a joist had been cut.

        2. The plumber who put in the sewer line from the main floor bathroom for the house above the basement that I rent, cut completely through the main beam of the house. Y’know, the one that all the floor joists rest on.

          Someone very helpfully put another section of beam under the cut ends, and supported that with a post (which had a shocking number of voids in it, as I discovered when we removed it) and about 6 inches of shims. Which worked for several decades, to be fair, but I can still only assume that the place was mostly standing out of habit.

          There’s now a laminated post – three 2x8s, glued and nailed together – under each of the cut ends. My landlords said that they could feel the hammer blows from the installation all the way at the top of the house.

          1. They actually make metal post-things for supporting those– we have like eight in the basement, because clay shifts too much and the guy three owners ago was paranoid.

            Wonderfully, wonderfully paranoid. (He also re-did the wiring. It’s an electrician’s dream of “what I want to see when I don’t want to pad the bill.”)

      2. One of the things I hate most about plumbing repairs is there’s no @!#$* room to work. I recently had to tighten down a toilet tank that was suffering a slow drip from the middle mounting screw. With about 3-inches of space either side of the tank. Okay, drain the damned thing, replace the washers (another annoyance – what size washers does this thing require? Dismantle it and take those to the store, being able to have them in hand before hand would be too #%$@$! convenient), which requires finding the right wrench for a bolt I cannot see, then dealing with 1/8 turns because of the tight space (praying blessings on the person who invented the ratchet wrench) the put in the new rubber washers, one on either side of the hole, with metal washer over that, then tighten everything carefully so as to not crack the tank by over-tightening, then putting a “bucket” under that middle bolt to find out if it is dripping again (because I cannot $#*%-ing see the bolt …

        It’s even worse for something as simple as replacing a flush mechanism when invariably it will be learned that the tank is too narrow to work within and the intake pipe simply will NOT permit a tight connection to the flush mechanism … Geeze, I’d rather replace room light switches without turning off the circuit.

        1. “(because I cannot $#*%-ing see the bolt …”

          RES, this little gizmo should help:

          1. Well that is super cool. Some years ago I spent about $300 buying a Milwaukee one because I am a mechanic. It is pretty low rez but it’s been useful. This looks better.

            1. The devices have been getting better, and cheaper, over the past few years. And Bluetooth is generally a good thing.

  2. Nicely put. Time to do nuisance abatement and start fixing things again…

  3. Sadly, bug bombing the house is going to be awkward, but we’re a creative bunch with lots of tools for all of it. And what we don’t know we can figure out.

  4. Hate leaks. Hate them! They rot out the wood and everything else around the leak. This is part of why I refuse to live under anyone else in an apartment building, especially in a basement unit. No flooding allowed, ever! No living in flood plains or hurricane-prone regions either for that exact reason. -_-

    BTW, Mrs. Hoyt — speaking of house rehabilitation — check out lumber prices at Home Depot and such. Make sure you’re sitting down. The shock may knock you flat. I know I was flabbergasted myself recently when looking at simple framing lumber. Sheer insanity! o_O

    1. Try lumber from this outfit, if you’ve got one:

      Our local Thomae Lumber is not only cheaper than Home Despot, it’s become clear they get firsts, and HD gets seconds. Waaaaay less dinged and warped.

      But yeah, between the lingering death of the timber industry and a great deal of the product being exported to China… holy crap, maybe I’ll just make do with scraps from the truss yard…

      Oh, and leaks. Die, all leaks. DIE.

      1. I’ve been trying to find a locally-owned alternative to the big chains here in Central Indiana. I thought I’d found one, but they turned out to be a wholesale lumber yard, not retail.

    2. The last I actually bought 7/16″ OSB, it was $11 a sheet. Dropped my jaw at $31 at Home Desperate, and that was a month ago.

    3. China has been scavenging every bit of scrap metal that gets generated for some years now. And it would appear that they are doing the same with new lumber, or so I was told by someone who tracks that sort of thing.

      1. I would love it if we’d stop shipping things to people and countries that want us dead.

        That would be really really nice.

        1. No, that would be terribly mean-spirited, judgmental and retributive. Besides, they probably don’t really mean what their leaders are saying and (if they do) almost surely have good reason to be irked with us. After all, look at the terrible things Western nations did to China a century and a half ago, or consider the US role in imposing the Shah of Iran’s tyrannical regime (totally unlike the current tyrannical regime) back in the 1953! We have done BAD THINGS in this world and must atone.

          I could go on but must return the damaged brain to storage (it tends to overheat) and reinstall the functioning one.

  5. Twice in my apartment dwelling life, I’ve woken up, walked into my little hallway, and found myself in ankle deep water. Pipes upstairs had burst and flowed down between the walls and out onto my bathroom. I despise leaks and check for them constantly.

    I like the analogy with our current situation. Yes, it’s time to clear out the pests and rebuild.

    1. Happened in Mom’s condo, though it was a few stories higher than her ground level place. She got the mold-induced ear infection from hell, complete with hospital stay. Kim DuToit has a similar tale from the Texas Deep Freeze (though no illness).

  6. In the midst of a kitchen remodel. All of the little specialized tools that you find you need when doing cabinetry. Oy vey.

    1. And then the things for something that nobody outside expects but make perfect sense if you are there.

      “Uh… that’s the electronics toolkit, right?”
      “So, uh, hemostats?”
      “They hold things in place well and are good heatsinks during soldering.”

  7. My previous life included helping people cope with the evils of dealing with planning and building departments. I would tell couples that the most dangerous time in a marriage was during a “simple” addition, or “corrections” to a 50 plus years home.
    You need someone to blame. Your spouse is handy.

    I would explain the two invisible warning signs at all building and planning departments.
    First: “We are not out to get you. We treat everyone this way”.
    Second: “Abandon hope all ye who enter”.

    1. A kitchen remodel resulted in discovering that prior remodelers had cut every internal structural support in the back of the house. We fixed that fast, before the tub ended up downstairs.
      The same applies to our country. The left are cutting the supports. We need to evict the pests and rebuild to the original plans.

      1. Defenestration of the BidenHarris regime would be a good starting point. Fumigating Congress would help, too.

        1. Fumigating the permanent bureaucracy would help a lot more. For every cockroach in Congress, there are 4,000 bureaucrats dedicated to spending our money to make our lives miserable. Plus a few thousand more in state and local governments. That is the one place where ‘burn it all down and start over’ makes some sense.

          1. As a former bureaucrat, I can say some of us try hard to be good stewards of taxpayer money.
            OTOH, there are reasons I’m a former bureaucrat.

          2. Hey! If they weren’t making our lives miserable how would we know we were getting our money’s worth? They don’t want to make our lives miserable, it’s just the way the job path careers.

                1. per Merriam~Webster:

                  career, intransitive verb
                  : to go at top speed especially in a headlong manner
                  > a car careered off the road

                  … when employed as a verb, career does have some semantic overlap with careen; both words may be used to mean “to go at top speed especially in a headlong manner.” A car, for instance, may either careen or career. Some usage guides hold, however, that the car is only careening if there is side-to-side motion, as careen has other meanings related to movement, among which is “to sway from side to side.”

                  … the word career got its start in the world of medieval tournaments. Jousting required knights to ride at full speed in short bursts, and 16th-century English speakers used the noun “career” (from Middle French carriere) to refer to such gallops as well as to the courses knights rode.


      2. But they’re still cutting.

        And then they’re torching the posts. And handcuffing you to the radiator underneath the clawfoot tub while they saw through the beams holding up the bathroom floor.

        A better metaphor is they’re strapping dynamite in all the best places to bring down the whole building.

        It isn’t enough to remodel. We have to stop having the demolitionists in charge.

        1. No, a better metaphor is:
          They’ve put out the pilot light and turned all of the stove’s gas burners up to high – and are now playing with matches.

    2. We had our chimney lined a bit over a year ago.
      (Its first ever liner, and it’s 130 years old. You can just imagine the piping for the boiler….)
      I *still* have not been able to get any one from the town to come and sign off on the permit. And they had several months before WuFlu hit. I lost track of how many messages I left. I’m beginning to think the department is imaginary. Certainly their staff are.

      1. We almost immediately put in a wood stove insert after we bought in ’88. In fall 2000 when the chimney was cleaned, the cleaner reported a major crack in the lining, but not critical, then the pipe connection for the fireplace cracked again (could see flames). Fire scares the he** out of me. So in 2001 we replaced the insert AND put a full lined pipe up the chimney. That has all held now for 20 years. Still good. But the chimney is now pulling from the house. We are done burning *firewood. Sometime, the whole wall is coming out and we’ll frame it into just a wall. Might, maybe, put in a natural gas fireplace, connection will “only” be $250 for the 5′ gas pipe connection ($60/8′ run, $250 minimum).

        * Expensive, by anyone’s standard (by ours? which was free …), to get locally, when you can find it. Most of it is going to feed local wood burning electrical generator (mostly powers the wood mill … do not ask me how they got it past TPTB local environmentalists, but they fought them and won. Very large long term local family.)

    3. Renovation and building — only slightly more relationship stressing than backing a trailer or docking a boat.

    4. Hehe. Years ago… like 30 or so, I think… we had to deal with the San Francisco permit department. Very educational. The permit that we wanted to simply put a door in between two units because we were occupying both of them cost about 4 times more than the cost of putting in the door. I’m sure it was deliberate punishment for daring to do it. They were infamous. I think somebody went through and reformed the department years later, but I’m sure it’s worn off by now.

      1. There was a video that circulated several years back of the nonsense that a woman had to go through when she opened her store in San Francisco. The bureaucratic stuff took several months – possibly even over a year – just so that she could get the needed permits.

        1. At the same time (5 years ago?) that In and Out Burger was opening stores here in DFW, they announced they weren’t opening any more in CA, because in TX the permitting time was 2 months vs something like 2 years in CA. CA, of course, is where the chain was started……

  8. “You can’t build new when it comes to human society” thing is something I have to continuously explain to people who insist that we can take something that works in some other country and transport it over here and shoehorn it into the culture and ‘then it’ll work.’

    No, no, no. No. *tired* No.

    Other countries, their cultures, their histories, their mos maiorum, are not replicable. They create the parameters by which a society can accept certain things, and certain ways of doing those things. Assuming that you can just make one country’s solution to your problems work for you because it worked for them is the most astonishing form of blindness. It denies diversity. It denies cultural uniqueness. And it is an attempt to hope that the hard work can be handwaved because you can import solutions and have them magically fit.

    I honestly don’t understand how people can *not* understand this.

    1. Effort. It takes a special effort to preserve that sort of folly from a chance contamination of reality. They work very hard to stay so blindingly, well, blind.

      It helps if you start with an ignorance of real history and go downhill from there.

    2. Democracy imposed from without is the severest form of tyranny.

      — Lloyd Biggle Jr, The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets

    3. a) the f3(c)%ers are innumerate in almost every way. This can be seen in them failing to reason out the implications of size differences between countries. This can also be seen in not running the trade off study of sizing when proposing to have a new federal bureaucracy to address x problem for every citizen. They do not think in numbers, and seem blind to tools used for physical models like ‘maybe the curve is not perfect’, ‘what happens if the system changes’, or ‘the map is not the territory’. Purely static models with no dynamic coupling, etc.
      b) They are exquisitely trained in theory that amounts to the cognate of innumeracy in the humanities. This cr^d is outright mainstream theory in certain fields.
      c) There are nuggets of utility in some of the theory in some of the soft sciences. Good luck finding them by talking to any sort of undergraduate student in those fields, or anyone with a graduate degree who is still with a university.
      d) Seriously, look at the hints of rot within academic engineering work. H#ll, look at the rot in professional engineering implied by Raffensperger (who I have yet to properly research, my conclusions could be unfounded.) Engineering /still/ looks down right credible compared to some of the other academic areas.
      e) In conclusion, it is not surprising that the fellows are so very ignorant. It is actually more surprising that we are not in the middle of a much greater mess than is already apparent. We should have killed public schools long ago, and even studying engineering at a university may be a mistake these days. Even so, with the measures we will regret not taking earlier, things will probably not be as bad as estimated from university students talking about the fields they have been ‘trained’ in but have not focused their studies on.

      1. Good luck finding them by talking to any sort of undergraduate student in those fields, or anyone with a graduate degree who is still with a university.

        LOL! Now I’ll get taken seriously!

        I agree with you that there are nuggets in the social science (in my case poli sci) theories that do bear looking at. Those were usually the original ideas that gave rise to the theory. They have since been discarded as not being trendy or “woke” enough to be seriously considered. That general discarding and ignoring of past work is another reason I left academia.

        1. You got them to let you teach a course on mass murder. That is totally awesome. If I was taking college courses, and if I was additionally taking courses not narrowly tailored to a degree or topic, I would have wanted to take that course.

          As I have dropped out of touch with my last Poli Sci contact, you went on my mental list for if I ever need someone sensible to discuss poli sci theory with.

          There are definitely people worth talking to at universities, but good luck finding someone sane in certain topics if you don’t already know someone who is sane, that you can trust, and who can trust you. Trying by chance is a losing game.

          And I’m still salty at a guy who, at monster hunter nation, made the claim that university experts could be trusted to design a secure electronic voting system. I am sure that sane, politically conservative, competent, professors of electrical engineering exist. Maybe also computer science. I do not for a moment believe that a conservative layman should trust any combination of engineering faculty to speak out if an electronic voting system has a severe flaw; there are things at modern universities that are not being publicly condemned by any engineering faculty.

          1. Note: there are two challenges to a secure electronic voting system that have nothing to do with technical design. 1. How easily can the ordinary citizens available for investigating the system do function inspections? (Haha. No. Detecting a gimmicked PCB is not an ordinary skillset.) 2. Can a trustworthy chain of custody be maintained for the physical security of the electronics? (No way after last November.)

            You can definitely find nominally Republican engineering faculty who are so narrowly focused on technical issues that these questions would not occur to them.

          2. I know too much about computers, and programming, to trust them that far. When we are using computers and programs we KNOW were designed to rig elections in a literal banana republic…

            What has happened to common sense and sanity? WHY are these abuses permitted?

            1. They are “the law” and “the police” and “the government.” They say there’s no abuse.

              “Nothing to see here, move along.”

          3. Yeah my genocide class and my Russian politics class (“Vodka and Capitalism”) were my two most popular classes. 😀 Mass murder and alcoholism…those are my areas of speciality!

      2. I suggest that we take those arguing for quotas and watered-down engineering programs for “women and minorities,” and require them to stand under (or live in) the projects built by the results of that dilution. Like the Romans did with their bridge-builders and designers. To show how making things easier for women and minorities will have no, zero, nil effects on the results of the work done by women and minorities.

        1. I’m teetotal.

          I’m almost drunk enough to try to sit down with a university’s wokeness board and walk them through how a) ‘math is white supremacist’ does not represent the opinions of degreed engineers who are black, female or LGBT b) how the logic of ‘math is white supremacist’ leads to apartheid as a rational policy.

          And not because of being unusually infuriated by anything.

          1. Heh. I keep wanting to know why, if math is “White” supremacist, anyone would ever hire a Black accountant or, for that matter, a Black electrician (they usually don’t understand that figuring the load on a circuit entails crunching numbers.) Now that I think on it, determining the square footage of a yard for application of fertilizer just might possibly involve math.

            About the only professions I can think of that do not involve math are journalist opinion columnist (I had forgotten how little actual journalism is done these days – now they are all narrative spreaders … which gets us back to fertilizing my lawn) and politician.

              1. Writing science fiction almost always involves math. How much would a brilliant-cut diamond the size of a basketball weigh? (about 50 pounds) Would 5 kilograms of 1/2 mm industrial diamonds fit in a 2-liter plastic pop bottle? (yep, almost full)

                If somebody takes off flying like Superman and clears a 12-story building in about a second, how fast was that? (about 8 G’s, and 180 miles per hour at the top)

                How much borax would a Farnsworth-Hirsch-Bussard Fusor use in a year to power one of those mega-cruise ships? (I make it 200 – 300 pounds) How much boron-10 would you need to convert back into borax? (still working on it)

                If the defunct San Onofre nuclear power plant were refitted with two 2.5 GW fusion reactors, how much hydrogen would they use per year? How much sea water would have to be electrolyzed to generate the hydrogen? How much waste heat would they produce, and how much electricity could be recovered using steam turbines and alternators? How much should the electricity cost? What should the sell-price be, to avoid disrupting the whole California electric market?

                You can go down a lot of mathematical rabbit holes just to write a couple of chapters.
                Cast Away: Only Tom Hanks could make two hours of talking to a volleyball great.

                1. Many SF writers do no math. Indeed, the best definition of hard SF I’ve heard is that it requires the author to have solved an equation to write the book.

            1. You can deputize the math if you are a politician but you do want the promises (that you will ignore) to add up.

        2. The Building Code of Hammurabi:

          228. If a builder build a house for some one and complete it, he shall give him a fee of two shekels in money for each sar of surface.

          229 If a builder build a house for some one, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.

          230. If it kill the son of the owner the son of that builder shall be put to death.

          231. If it kill a slave of the owner, then he shall pay slave for slave to the owner of the house.

          232. If it ruin goods, he shall make compensation for all that has been ruined, and inasmuch as he did not construct properly this house which he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means.

          233. If a builder build a house for some one, even though he has not yet completed it; if then the walls seem toppling, the builder must make the walls solid from his own means.

          If I ever get a job at an architecture firm, I’m going to put it in a form suitable for framing and keep it at my desk.

          1. I have always figured that #229 was probably the impetus for the first limited-liability incorporations.

    1. Yes. I think I’ve spent about half time doing either. Hence, this would be small and the job would be done up front.
      But we “have to get out of this place.”

      1. About hiring roofers, electricians, and plumbers … Locally, all the trades are a minimum of 6 months or more out to schedule them. AFTER you manage to snag one or more to get bids and estimates. They are that busy.

  9. Yep, the foundation is quite sound but there’s a lot of dry rot above it. We’ll have to tear off a lot of paper and paneling, get all the way down to the Constitution and common law before we can make it right again.

    I still remember when I left NYC to move to Alaska, New York Sate alone was passing enough laws annually to fill a shelf 8 feet long. At that time all the laws and statutes (All, not just passed that year, but all.) passed by the Alaska legislature didn’t fill a five foot shelf. Now however….

  10. … maybe redoing the plumbing.

    We redid it some, but there’re still plenty of turds that don’t flush until we take a plunger to it.

  11. Actually, I think they’ve been dumping sewage in the attic. And, being too stupid to keep the bulldozer properly supplied with fuel, oil, coolant and hydraulic fluid, they are reduced to wandering through the house bashing everything they don’t like with hammers. It’s the only tool that doesn’t utterly confuse them. Although I swear some of them hold the head and swing the handle.

    Switching from metaphorical to literal renovation, fear not electrical repairs. Romex has made today’s electrical work pretty simple. Run one uninterrupted cable from the main panel to the closest electrical box in each room, and chain or branch the room’s other outlets, switches and lights from there. Avoid connecting anything in the next room to that circuit, even if ‘the outlet is Real Close to one on this side of the wall’. Just. Don’t. Each room should be on its own circuit.

    Use #12-2 copper Romex for all circuits up to 20 amps. #14-2 is not enough cheaper to be worth the trouble, and some idiot WILL swap out the 15 amp breaker for a 20 amp some day. Aluminum house wiring was made by and for pyromaniacs and should be stringently avoided. For, say, a 30 amp 240V central air conditioner circuit, use #8-3 Romex. You could get away with #10-3, but #8-3 doesn’t cost that much more and you’ll NEVER have trouble with it. Use #6-3 on 50 amp circuits for electric stoves, dryers, water heaters, welders, etc.

    If replacing the mains, always go for 200 amp service and #000 copper cable. It doesn’t cost that much more.

    1. Pacific Power ran aluminum wire for the 200A shop service, but the proper anti-oxidant goop prevents disasters.

      I had to argue with the electrician when it came time to run the wiring from the farm pole to the pumphouse. He insisted that #10 would work for 30A lines, but at over 300 feet, Mr Ohm suggested #4 wire. Lots of copper, there. That was the only part of that electrical I didn’t do. OTOH, I left the plumbing to others. Less nervewracking.

    2. Thank you for this info. I’ve started a file of “good info to have for home repairs” for when we move into our own house.

    3. If only you had taught the electrical contractor who wired this place . . . the circuit that is non-working actually leapfrogs over another.

      But first, the toilet, because we don’t know how long that leaked before it showed on the hardwood and what damage has been done that doesn’t show through the basement ceiling.

      Which that toilet is in the space leapfroged by the busted circuit . . .

    4. “Avoid connecting anything in the next room to that circuit, even if ‘the outlet is Real Close to one on this side of the wall’. Just. Don’t. Each room should be on its own circuit.”

      Geez yes. There is nothing quite like the fun of circuits that are connected by the “your guess is as good as mine” school of mazery, especially when you’re trying to load-balance appliances. (Oh, and if at all possible, give EACH kitchen outlet its OWN circuit. Trust me on this.) My old house… bathroom, laundry, and far side of the kitchen share a circuit, as do the back bedroom, the front porch light, and some random outlet on the dining room wall (70 feet away. I hate “ranch” floorplans. If you’re gonna design a singlewide trailer, just stick to trailers.) Except the outlet right next to it is on a third circuit that also includes the gazebo and the water heater… (Real example.)

      In present house, built in 1950, the original outlets (still live but not usable) are those old ROUND sockets (probably the kind you shove the hooked two-prong plug in then turn it to lock in place). Where in hell they salvaged THOSE from I have no idea, let alone what they had that USED ’em. I can’t even find a picture of the type. I’ve only once seen the type of plug that goes into ’em. I have a drill, a lamp, and a fridge from pre-1950 and even they don’t have these round plugs. Heck, I have a lamp from ?1930s? Germany and even it’s got a normal plug. So WTF??

      1. Electrical code here in Kalifornia calls for no more than 4 kitchen outlets on a 20 amp circuit, and lights on a separate circuit. All outlets within 6 feet of water must be GFI, or fed through a GFI outlet. When I rewired the rental house, the kitchen got 4 20 amp circuits.

        OH! When there are multiple circuits in the same room, MAKE SURE they’re all fed from the same phase! Nothing like having two outlets in the same room with 240V between them…

        I connected a computer to the stereo system to digitize some vinyl records and got the most gawdawful buzz out of both the stereo, and the computer. Turned out the stereo outlet was connected to one phase, and the computer outlet to the other one. Madness! And not the worst electrical goof I found. Previous owner didn’t know near as much about wiring as he thought he did. I wound up doing a complete rewire, starting at the service drop and then room by room.

        1. My electrical expertise: call the electrician. 😀 I’ve done minor rewires on lamps and cord ends, but always plug ’em into a surge protector for the dry run, cuz I get ’em backwards… Would not touch house wiring with an angel-blessed pole. Electricity is an evil demon that lives in the walls, and is best kept there.

          Used to lived next to a shop (from whence came my power) infested with lowlife. One of said lowlife decided to wire a yard light directly from the drop (ie. above the meter), except the wires were too short. So he made them longer… by PULLING on them until sufficiently stretched. This apparently caused a short somewhere between the pole and the plug-in for my trailer… trailer’s metal skin went “hot”, and my light bulb exploded, but the slowly-dying B/W TV (old enough to have tubes) suddenly had a good sharp picture again!

          1. I have no problems with electricity (EE degree has a minor part in that, but done more wiring than many people). OTOH, I try to leave plumbing to the plumbers. I can do some (did a fire trailer 15 years ago; still wirks), ut beyond replacing faucets, nope. Not gonna.

          2. Our hottest-days-of-the-summer neighborhood 30-minutes-of-gross-undervoltage, then two-hours-until-PG&E-got-it-fixed power outage a while back left the next door neighbor with no power even after it was restored – he had switched off the main and it would not reset. He borrowed an old yellow pages I had saved to look up an electrician to call and try to get to come out and replace it (no power = no internet – I offered to let him use mine, but he just used the YP), and when he finally got someone, they could not come out for a week or so.

            “What year was it built?” the electrician asked.
            “Switch it to OFF, then take a stick or something and whack it really hard to the ON position – those old breakers that don’t get cycled get stuck internally and sometimes only respond to force. They are sturdy as hell, and even if you somehow manage to break it, which you won’t, you’re no worse off than you are now.”

            Worked like a charm.

            Though the undervoltage before he got it shut off still killed off his fridge motor.

            1. I had a microwave and a small fridge that both ran on undervoltage for about a decade (because the place I lived had shit power and there was nothing I could do about it). Both survived the experience, ran for another several years on normal power, and didn’t die until after they’d set idle for a a long time (both seized up). The fridge didn’t seem to notice the low voltage, but the microwave got so it ran slower and slower, and took about double normal time to boil a cup of water.

        2. That isn’t just a CA code, it is national recommended code that most states use. When I redid my kitchen 6 years ago, to meet the current at the time code, 2013, O had to insall 20 AMP GFIs for each appliance, and each wall. Fridge, dishwasher, garbage disposal, microwave, cook top, 3 wall, and a 60 AMP line for the double oven. Total of 10 lines.
          And each line coming from the new sub panel i installed had to have arc fault breakers, 50-70$ each.

      2. Might have been for a radio. I think I had one socket like that in the 1936 house, though it was dead. OTOH, after Uncle L graduated in 1958ish, USAF ROTC had him go to Rome(?), Georgia for rudimentary training. The place where he and Aunt B lived had DC power, leading to much fun. (Tube-type radios into the ’50s were available in AC-DC configurations, with the tube filaments in series, and some really odd voltage ratings for those filaments). They might well have had odd power plugs.

        I was quite little at the time, but I do recall hearing of some of the odd power they had.

          1. No, definitely Air Force. He tried (and washed out) in fighter pilot training in T-33s at Laredo AFB circa 1959, though I don’t know if that was before or after Georgia. He ended up as a navigator in KC-135s for SAC out of Pease in NH, with TDYs in Goose Bay, Labrador. Left the AF when he realized he was the last surviving member of his navigator class. Asked for a desk job, AF wanted to court martial him because reasons. I believe a Michigan congressman or senator got involved, and Uncle L became a civilian.

  12. The husband spent years as a union electrician so he mostly did new commercial and industrial builds, but sometimes he’d do repairs for friends and family or folks from church. He’s seen some really scary DIY electrical ‘improvements’ done by well-meaning homeowners who, only by the grace of God, did not burn their houses down.

    1. …or tenants, who after breaking one ceiling lamp apparently tried to fix it by rewiring it in with the other lamp… electrician tried diligently and could not figure out how the hell (except that yup, whatever they did, now it don’t work), so I had him run new, so we actually know what’s there. Best guess was they’d managed to wire it like for a three-way switch, except it’s on a one-way switch.

  13. When we moved to the city because my parents couldn’t keep the farm due to some shady dealing by the guy they bought it from, my father used one of his old contacts and rented about the only house we could afford. When we got there, we realized it was literally falling into the basement. Apparently, the landlord had at one point cleared out the UNFINISHED basement and sub-divided it into “apartments” for college students along with the rest of the house, and wouldn’t you know, there were these pesky poles in all the wrong places down there, so he took them out. The house was empty because not even college kids would live in it after seeing how structurally unsound it was.

    My father just shook his head, went out and made a few trades to get the right materials, and jacked the house back up to where it should be and replaced the supports. Too bad it was a rental, they should have bought it for a song, THEN fixed it.

  14. Kilz sealer is your friend. Make sure it dries for at least 24 hours. No bleed through.

    1. Oh, that too.
      Particularly when varnishing floors, they now make a clear one.
      Sorry, this was …. 25? years ago, so if it existed it wasn’t available near us.

      1. Got any advice for putting a new surface on solid red oak floors that have been water damaged? (At some point idiots had a leaking waterbed…) Lots of cracks and grain that’s raised up and splintered, but don’t want to cover ’em over. Just sanding-and-varnishing ain’t gonna make a good surface (too much shrinkage from being repeatedly wet), so needs something like acrylic fill for the cracks.

        1. I had splintered worn wood on some of our oak floors (mostly from stupidly allowing rolling office chairs). I had some luck filling the cracks with Famowood Red Oak wood filler, and then sanding and staining. I had both an older and a new container of it and they were really different in color, so you might want to make sure it’s all the same if you have a lot that needs filling. Also might want to get some different colors and try to match the color.

          1. It’s a lot, and I really don’t want obvious lines of filler — did matched fill on an oak table that had water damage, and don’t like the look. Would rather have the dark lines from something transparent in the cracks. Sanding will be too minimal to get enough color fill that way (and yes, I know oak dust is toxic). Plus someone has previously done matched fill on the bigger cracks, and that aged very poorly. (Shrank at a different rate, and has largely popped loose. Plus the wood darkened, and it didn’t. Will probably pop out what’s left of that.) Will NOT be staining — the wood itself is beautiful, just badly abused smack in the middle of the floor.

            1. So you’re thinking of something like that thick clear stuff they put on bar tables, to fill in the cracks?

              1. Thought about that, but lordy the mess… also not so sure how it would hold up. But yeah, something clear.

          1. Had to go look up Zinzer… sounds like the real shit. Thanks!

            Just regular off the shelf polyurethane? I wonder if that’s what’s on the floor now… it’s been refinished with something pretty durable (but not varnish), but then the place was a rental for a while, and came the waterbed.

            I used poly on a salvaged solid oak dresser that has a lot of surface texture (horrid gold paint, long time sitting in an alley, paint stripper, there’s not enough sandpaper in the world… decided to leave it “textured”) and it came out pretty well. 2nd coat more or less filled up the “texture” so it’s smooth enough to the touch.

            Side note: someone gift me an iron-and-oak outdoor seat that was badly weathered. The black iron looked like crap and I didn’t want to take it apart to repaint… so I just used spar varnish, on all of it. Woah, the black iron looks like brand new!

              1. When I peer at dark corners, I discover two different extant finishes. The older is mostly gone except for around the edges, and somewhat yellowed and flaked. I take it this was the original varnish from 1950. The newer is almost invisible, not yellowed, and *very* hard-surfaced. Where there’s water damage, there’s a 3rd layer that’s gone rough and flaky (and can be fingernailed away), but under that is the hard layer. Maybe a half-assed re-do followed by more water. Grrr…

          2. Wow, you do know your stuff. That’s what I was going to say, down to the recommendation for Zinzer. There are things we won’t do to a house because it’s not worth our time (like hanging drywall–the pros are so good and so cheap…), there are things we will do to a house because it’s not possible to get a contractor to do things to our standards (most electrical, plumbing, and cabinetry), and there are things that we will do to a house just because our effective hourly “wage” is so high. Floors, almost any kind of floor, is the latter. They add so much value…

  15. Have you ever had a major loss, such as through a theft or a damaging event, and had someone say, “Well, you’re insured, so it’s all good in the end, right?”

    Ha. Such fools have never dealt with the likes of insurance companies. Good luck a) getting the value back out B) in a timely fashion.

    If you even can, of course. Many of the folk in Paradise were still effectively homeless a year after the Camp Fire, for a couple of reasons. One is that a lot of them couldn’t get permits to even come back to their area, due to the hazardous materials. It’s not like they could afford to pay the hazardous materials cleanup. And they couldn’t afford to rebuild, because the number of permits and new requirements on homes far out-ran the insurance payments.

    “Oh, but they have to be made safe from future fires!” it is said. Sorry, you can’t put that on the individual homeowners. Maybe work on route improvements, get more than one path in and out of the valley. Hire goats for brush abatement. Don’t put tens of thousands of dollars of home requirements on people who lived there because they could afford it on their fixed incomes.

    “Burn it down and start over” is never as simple as you think at first.

    1. Friend got burned out there, in fact you can see her very house as a super-hot spot on one of the satellite views. Start over wasn’t happening. I wound up talking with a bunch of other Paradise refugees (whilst trying to learn if she’d made it out) and maybe 10% are going to be able to rebuild, only through the luck of missing out on some artificial obstacle. Most won’t manage it at all.

      Hazardous materials cleanup was supposed to be done via some gov’t program, but apparently that ran into lots of reasons why it couldn’t happen, largely access issues. Same with hazardous tree removal. (I’m on the Butte County mailing list and they’re *still* sending out notices about that.)

    2. Late MIL left there a few years before the fire. I shuddered every time we visited, because it was a fire trap, and TPTB were happy with it. Environazis and other idiots.

    3. > Have you ever had a major loss, such as through a theft or a damaging event, and had someone say, “Well, you’re insured, so it’s all good in the end, right?”

      One of my neighbors trucks tried to mate with my truck while in the parking lot of local store. Turns out he was driving without his glasses, which his license requires. So my truck is fixed, his isn’t since he was too cheap to have full coverage. So every morning he drives by the house, cursing loud enough to wake the other neighbors. So my spouse had to call his spouse to stop the passive-aggressiveness. She mentioned that I wasn’t too upset but I tend towards real sneaky, but legal means when pushed too far. So far it’s been quiet, but if said neighbor wore his glasses while driving , he would see the camera system filming him every morning, driving without his glasses. Just like the cameras in my truck did during the accident.

      So insurance hasn’t resolved the core issues, but cheap, ubiquitous cameras can be a positive sometimes.

    4. Our BIL’s mother lost her home in the fire, and she sold the land. Way too old to start over, and she was widowed a year or two before the fire. My MIL’s next door neighbors bought MIL’s house after she passed away; their own house did fine (the flames in that area stayed low; anything flammable below 3′ went up, but the couple of houses on concrete block foundation walls had minimal damage). MIL’s old place was
      destroyed, along with 95% of the houses on that block. Wayyyyyyy too many trees and draconian anti-brush removal regulations.

      This Old House did a series on Paradise home rebuilding, including a house for a PG&E employee. It didn’t go over well, with PG&E not being mentioned and way too much happy talk. The Homestead Rescue people did one for a rural place by Paradise, and they were more realistic. FWIW, they did a show for a family near us; good people, both the people helping and the people being helped.

      We were incredibly lucky when the kitchen disaster hit. The insurance paid for the de-mold and new flooring, plus a fair* amount for the cabinets. Minimal hassle, and they dispatched the Belfor people right away to get things started. Country Insurance(tm) for the win.

      (*) We took the opportunity to replace base cabinets in all the kitchen, getting rid of the cheapass stuff even a “premium” manufactured home gets stuck with. FWIW, the cabinet maker said most of his restoration business is due to dishwasher leaks. We now have a really loud leak detector strategically placed under the sink, with a twin by the newish water heater. About $12 at Home Depot…

      1. ‘Homestead Rescue’ is one of the few programs we like to watch. I’m glad to hear that the Raneys are genuinely helpful and it’s not all just careful editing for TV.

        1. Newer episodes have less drama with the homesteaders who asked for help. Thanks to the Raneys. Actual statement made was they were irked enough about what the production crew pushing the homesteaders to do to build suspense, that they essentially went on strike for a new production crew. There is enough drama trying to accomplish some of the tasks they take on as it is.

          One episode, how do you tell the homesteaders that two of their 3 *babies* had joined a local dog pack and were now killers, because they let them run down and kill coyotes, then left them unattended to roam the homestead. The third had done the same, going after the coyotes, but it didn’t run off with the pack. It was killed and eaten, probably by the pack the other two joined. The homesteaders thought the two dogs were dead and dragged away by coyotes, wolves, or cougar. Raneys got video proof the dogs had gone wild and were alive.

          Yes. I do watch Homestead Rescue.

    5. Theft for us, 1/6/2006. Despite replacement insurance, it doesn’t. Replacement insurance only reimburses replacement cost if item is actually replaced with demonstratively similar item. Or pays what was paid for if you have the receipt. Laptop lost still had receipt because hadn’t cleaned out the box after the warranty ran out (hey, more there than a “replacement” was. It was 4 years old. Their rules after all. I think the adjuster laughed.) Had a receipt for almost my jewelry we’d gotten since we’d been married, or I was wearing it. Surprised the adjuster. Camera, we’d just purchased, payments (one payment had been made). Other cameras and gaming systems got replaced costs. Everything else, only adjusted value. How does one replace a 32 year old class ring? A childhood confirmation cross? (This one I just should have replace it.) There are ways to get more money, but we aren’t comfortable with what amounts to insurance fraud. Then there is the original $500 deductible before a cent is paid out. We were lucky. Most the items were replaceable or we had original receipts. In no way did we get paid anywhere near the value of what was lost in total, even with getting overpaid for a few items, by their rules. Note one change we’ve made, unless I wear jewelry all the time,we don’t bother. Not a glittery type person anyway, and total value was in only a couple of pieces, beyond the smaller childhood ones. We were luckier than most.

      Vehicle damaged and repaired looses resale value. Insurance doesn’t compensate for that unless you have the option on your insurance. Doesn’t matter if you keep vehicles as long as we have. Then there is the whole totaled slipped vehicles, which can happen because repairs are more than the low balled wholesale (not retail) resale value. That was one of my fears with our 10 year and 12 year old truck, trailer, combination (age by model years, add a year to both for usage years). An accident would almost guaranty both would be totaled. No way would we get the value, from any insurance, for what we sold them for. Let alone what it would cost to replace them. We sold for other reasons, but still.

      Yes. I cringe every time someone says “Don’t worry they have insurance.”

      I am finding interesting comparisons between Camp Fire in CA, and at least the Holiday Fire here in Oregon. There have already been hazardous abatement teams in for cleanup of burned homes and businesses. Plus hazardous trees have been removed. I’m sure the reason is hwy 126 is a major throughway and part of the military road system for mobility. But letting homeowners burned out to live in RV’s on their burned out property isn’t covered in that. We’ll see long term. OTOH, our local PIA building permit issuer isn’t theirs, which is going to be the county at worst.

    6. “Well, you’re insured, so it’s all good in the end, right?”

      Ha. That’s because they aren’t counting the lost man-hours and therefore productivity and therefore money that you have to spend to clean up someone else’s mistake or negligence or malice.

      1. Frédéric Bastiat ought drive by the house of anyone making that “you’re insured so it’s okay” argument and break all their windows.

  16. This really resonates with me :). We sold our 150 year old Victorian last year. I had spent the previous 2 years patching plaster, replacing door knobs (16+), filling holes in other things, filling and sanding floors, jacking up a porch pillar and filling with wood epoxy, etc, etc. Sigh. Sooooo much work. So exhausting. I miss the 10+ foot ceilings and really tall windows. I got really good at patching plaster, but can’t say that I miss *that*.

    The current house is 44 years old and has pretty cheap woodwork, etc. But it has lots of electric outlets and no plaster 🙂

  17. Reading this just really made me think of this line from “The Thick Of It”-
    “You know, I’ve spent ten years detoxifying this party. It’s been a bit like renovating an old, old house, yeah? You can take out a sexist beam here, a callous window there, replace the odd homophobic roof tile. But after a while you realize that this renovation is doomed. Because the foundations are built on what I can only describe as a solid bed of cunts.”

    There are some houses that you have to cut your losses, tear down, and build new. But, our opposition doesn’t care. They don’t want to build anything-they just want to tear it all down, and tell us that it’s for our own good. Then sleep on our couch, then try to tear our house down.

    And, explaining things to them causes them to look at you like you’re an idiot.

    I would like to invest in an industrial-grade throat cutter for all of these people. Except for the pretty girl ones. Those, I can make some use of. Otherwise, cut and chipper.

  18. My mind fastened onto the curve being two feet and possibly a “body in the wall.” This has been a trope in horror for a long time– “Black Cat” Edgar Allen Poe. So I wouldn’t be surprised and I also don’t want to be the one to find the skeleton.

    1. In our old Victorian in two rooms they had built an almost 2 foot thick “fake” wall to cover up the chimney and allow shallow closets on either side, so that the rooms would qualify as “bedrooms”. (It was student housing for decades.) We tore down one of the walls and found – surprise! – a nice old iron fireplace thingie. (I forget the word..) It had originally had a carved wooden mantel around, you could see from the cutouts in the floor. It also had a fake wood gas fireplace insert. It wasn’t big enough to have ever been a wood fireplace.

    2. My BIL found several thousand dollars in gold coins and bars in a wall when remodeling a Craftsman style house. Free income that Uncle Sam didn’t need to know about and waste on pork. Probably was hidden from FDR…

      1. yep. I thought that was more likely.
        When we remodeled grandma’s house (replaced kitchen floor) we found caches of coins everywhere,t he most intriguing being the about 200 year old cache with some CHINESE coins (what?)

        1. They might have been trade silver that passed through India. I’ve got a Maria Theresa thaler with various trade chops and marks on it, because it was exchanged in at least five places, and each one put their proof mark on the coin, attesting that it was a real Maria Theresa silver thaler.

        2. My grandfather used to tell stories about when the US was on the gold standard and how people would hide gold because it could be confiscated by the government.

    3. There was a so bad it’s fun movie made of the Black Cat. Worth late night viewing.

  19. Been in Real Estate about 20 years. Recently did three separate sell/buy transactions. Put your house on the market subject to seller finding a replacement property. I’m in CA but I’m sure that that kind of thing can be done in CO/Wherever. I’d say get that sale under your belt ASAP as there is another crash coming.

      1. We did the same thing a few years ago. In the area where we were, we could tell it was time to run but we had a half-finished renovation. We put it all together with a lick and a promise, and sold it for what we could get. I lost twenty pounds from stress and lack of appetite (I was pretty buff before the move, so half of that was muscle coming off). We were flat busted by then, so we’re renovating again (although it’s amazing how fast our finances improved once we moved to a free state).

        Good luck, git ‘er done.

  20. I grew up in an old farmhouse that was in rather poor shape when we moved in. Over the fifteen years that we lived there, my dad did a lot of work on that place. He completely renovated the bathroom, three bedrooms, the hallway, and the family room, and added electrical outlets in a lot of the other rooms, as well as overhead lights in all the closets. He also created a new, much larger attic access in the hallway (the original one was tiny and IIRC in a closet) and insulated the entire attic.

    Sadly, the farm was rented ground, and when we got out of farming and moved away, the landlord ended up with some really trashy tenants who pretty much destroyed everything, to the point the house wasn’t worth repairing. It was torn down in 1995, and I’ve heard the entire farmstead is now gone except for the wellhead.

    Dad also did a bunch of work on the house we owned in the Chicago area. It had some pretty iffy construction in it, including the submersible pump being wired into an outlet, which blew up one day (it’s a wonder it didn’t burn the house down). He ran Romex all the way from the breaker box (and IIRC he replaced the original breaker box with a larger one) to the wellhead. He put a whole-house fan in the attic, which really cut down on the A/C bills. He completely re-plumbed the kitchen sink when the drain kept clogging (turned out it was plumbed screwy). By the time my folks sold it in 2004, it had gotten a lot of improvements, although there was still a lot of work to be done — the guy who bought it was a contractor who was going to use it to train his crew, and then flip it.

    Dad’s also done a lot of work on the house they bought downstate, although as he’s getting older, he’s not able to do nearly as much by himself. Two of my brothers live in the area, and they’ve helped him with most of his recent projects. My oldest brother works as a maintenance man for his landlord (and can tell all kinds of hair-raising stories of the seriously messed-up things tenants do to apartments and houses), and my middle brother has done some pretty impressive renovation work on the fixer-upper he and his wife bought.

    I’d like to do some work on this place, but now that I’m getting to the “old gray mare ain’t what she used to be” point, most of it is stuff I wouldn’t want to undertake on my own. With luck I may be able to have it done eventually — we’re in a red state, so I’m hoping the worst will pass us by and we’ll come out of this mess reasonably OK.

  21. “….one of our bathrooms two houses ago was brown. Brown walls, brown tub, brown tiles, brown…. toilet. Which would be okay except for scaring the crap out of me to be in there for any length of time.”

    Having your bathroom scare the crap out of you promotes regularity.

    I could literally write a book of short stories about house adventures like you all describe.

    While we are in a state of being perpetually pissed about how our big house gubmint is being demoed, we are missing some of the resultant humor. The big meeting between the US and Chinese roosters took place and the Chinese puffed up their chests and managed to out-peck our team pretty well. They even have a term in Chinese now (forgot it’s name) that they use to describe our abundant “wokeness” and how it is ruining our country.

    Then we have Putin challenging Uncle Joe to a live televised debate knowing that he won’t accept, or if he did, he could easily mop the floor with him.

    Our fearless leader, in his haste to tear the country apart, looked very threatening as he stumbled, stumbled, and fell up the steps of Air Force One.

        1. Heh – even better, for administration consistency:

          The New War-on-Drugs Target: White House Staffers
          We all knew there’d be consequences to Joe Biden picking Kamala Harris as his running mate, but who could have predicted the crackdown would begin so soon? According to Scott Bixby, Asawin Suebsaeng, and Adam Rawnsley over at the Daily Beast, a pot purge is underway at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. From their story:

          Dozens of young White House staffers have been suspended, asked to resign, or placed in a remote work program due to past marijuana use, frustrating staffers who were pleased by initial indications from the Biden administration that recreational use of cannabis would not be immediately disqualifying for would-be personnel, according to three people familiar with the situation.

          The policy has even affected staffers whose marijuana use was exclusive to one of the 14 states—and the District of Columbia—where cannabis is legal. Sources familiar with the matter also said a number of young staffers were either put on probation or canned because they revealed past marijuana use in an official document they filled out as part of the lengthy background check for a position in the Biden White House.

          In some cases, staffers were informally told by transition higher-ups ahead of formally joining the administration that they would likely overlook some past marijuana use, only to be asked later to resign.


          What distinguishes those punished for their past behavior from Vice President Harris, who boasted about her own experiences with marijuana on the campaign trail in 2019?

          1. “That’s different because shut up!”, she explained. Jen Psaki is still circling back…

          2. To be fair, they said use of pot wouldn’t be immediately disqualifying. It’s been two months, so it wasn’t immediate. 😛
            A good Zombie Apocalypse novel is at least as believable as anything we’ve heard out of the ‘publick health authorities’ over the last year.

          3. It would really be something if we saw both Joe (diminished mental capacity) and Commiela (weed use and bailing rioters out of jail) replaced by a team even worse.

              1. We Know who is 3rd inline. Only by disqualifying EVERYONE in the democrats lineup, by one means or another, do we get out of this. Don’t know who on the Republican side could be worse or just as bad, tho wouldn’t surprise me if someone here lists a few.

    1. Before we bought our current house we looked at an 1880 house in a nearby village. Tons of work, of course, all of which we could have handled ourselves except for the rotted sills, which is what doomed that house. Anyway, one of the bathrooms looked as if it had been furnished with whatever happened to be in the bargain bin at Home Depot that day: blue tub, greenish toilet, pink sink, and those plasticky wall panels that they put up in bathrooms in order to avoid fixing the walls. The coup de grace was the drop ceiling. I’m sorry, but no matter how bad your ceiling is, a drop ceiling will always look worse. Popcorn ceilings come in a close second.

      The house we ended up buying isn’t actually very old (I wanted an old house), but it’s a typical New England Cape Cod so we have done all upgrades and repairs with an eye to making it look like a genuinely old house, inside and out. A few guests have actually been fooled, something that makes us proud and just a little bit smug.

      1. We looked at a Federal period house, built between 1820 – 29 and beautifully restored circa 1990. Unfortunately, the layout was completely unworkable for our family and the restoration details, such as faux wood paneling in the main house (the restorers added a kitchen, bedrooms and garage at the back) was extremely well done but perfectly not to our tastes.

        One other drawback was the house being named for the planter believed to have built it, a John B. Low.

        Seriously, does ANYbody here think I could live in the John B. Low House?

  22. “Only they can’t because the flaw is in the ape. The only only to eliminate the flaw is to eliminate our corporeal form.”

    The worst sins are spiritual, not corporeal.

    1. Funny – Jay Nordlinger at NRO had something very similar this morning, from a letter he’d received:


      I enjoyed your appreciation for President Coolidge in your latest Impromptus! I was actually thinking of that speech in the lead-up to your quoting it. . . .

      Yesterday, in a Clubhouse room centered on Teddy Roosevelt, I quoted the paragraph just before the one you focused on. “Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. . . . The people have to bear their own responsibilities.”

      Too many people want to use the government to create social change, and they miss this crucial fact. They’re going about it completely the wrong way.

      Emphasis added.

  23. I think the last I read about incremental repair abominations I came up with a fairly mad isekai into an alternate Earth where professional wizards built estate facilities that became death trappy after they passed.

    I’m perhaps a bit too tired this time to do anything.

  24. “ No. I’ve measured behind it, and that curve is about two feet not accounted for. It could be a body.”

    And the cozy home renovation mystery sub genre was born?

    1. Well, she’s already got the furniture restoration cozy mystery sub genre covered so why not? 😛

  25. The mention of ‘trousered’ apes (against the theme of the post) reminds me of Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. There are also seers like Peter Kreeft who predicted all this is unfolding 30 years ago.

    This sentence by the way is so true…just spend an hour at Trader Joe’s. It’s the most sickly collection of ‘trousered’ apes circumventing all COVID restrictions around congregation using the guise of grocery as essential services.

    “Or considering most of them are paler than milk, maybe we can find a suitable arctic island where they can worry about global warming.”

  26. I worked on one of those multi-layered wallpapered walls in our house in New Jersey. (Thankfully now someone else’s house in New Jersey). About three layers down was a rather pretty geometric pattern involving vertical stripes and stylized flower pots. That looked vaguely ’30ish. The bottom layer was pictoral and showed people riding old-fashioned bicyclea, the sort with the tall front wheels and tiny back wheels. I wondered if was a contemporary scene when it was installed.

  27. Um, you know how you comment on a hundred years of homeowners doing half baked work you have to deal with? Guess what? By your own description, you’re one of them. You are doing a disservice to the people you sell to. Eventually, someone is going to have to do it right, and probably pay a professional to do it. I know that’s not the point of your missive. But still…

    1. I see you’ve never actually renovated a Victorian. Most of the time you can’t “do it right” because the parts no longer exist. I DO do it as “right” as can be. But that doesn’t mean going to the studs.
      Unless you bought a former meth house.

      1. Just about every contractor we had look at our 150 year old Victorian wanted to do the “strip off the plaster and re-sheetrock” thing. The problem was that *every* room needed plaster work, and if we did the re-sheetrock thing it would have eaten up most of the equity and there’s no way we could live in it while we were doing that. And in any case no contractors were even available (I tried) and they were certainly not inclined to do plaster patching. A few prospective low-ball buyers offered $250k “as is”. We ended up selling it for $355k. So although it was a painful way to do it I think it did work out in the end.

        Meanwhile I had the 2nd covid Moderna shot yesterday and today I’m sick. Which I take as evidence that I did already have it back in February. We only got the shots because our sons believe the propaganda. So if you are in the same boat, try to schedule it so that being sick the next day is tolerable.

          1. Place has an *ancient* asbestos chimney pipe. Inspector said what it was and that the best policy was to LEAVE IT VERY MUCH ALONE. As long as it’s all bound up, no issue. Do *anything* to it and it’s “You bpoor bastard.”

              1. I think my grandfather’s solution for potential asbestos tiles was “don’t even ask the question of whether they are.”

    2. LOL! Your expectations of the quality of work done by “professionals” is almost charming. Most professionals are in the business of doing it quickly, not properly.

      1. Yah, Mike Holmes has made a career out of cleaning up the messes left by ‘professionals’. I saw one show where the original construction company had replaced the cheap sheet-metal bathtub in a new house THREE TIMES — with more cheap sheet-metal bathtubs! That one house cost them more than they ‘saved’ by substituting 40 cheap bathtubs for good cast iron bathtubs.

        I made sure to put in a cast iron bathtub when I remodeled MY bathroom!

        1. Exactly. We don’t go bling. But we do get quality.

          Early ’90s. Sister’s and I each bought wood play for our kids for each of our backyards. One sister went “inexpensive” at $1500, when they were done with it, it went to the dump/recycling. Other sister went mid-range $2500, theirs sold with the house, would have lasted longer, but not resalable, except came with the house. Ours … we went with the Rainbow Redwood set. We sold it when we were done with it after 12 years, for *$500 less than what we paid for it; they showed up to pay for it and dismantle it. Bought by a private campground facility (Oregon Coast) for playground that was put in, for not only the campers, for the caretaker had 4 children. It is now 31 years old. The only part they didn’t get was the swing set arm. Fort, tire swing underneath, swing “bar”, swing rope with seat, climbing walls, and bigger fancier slide.

          * About $1500 less than a new one after 12 years. So good for both parties.

          1. . Ours … we went with the Rainbow Redwood set. We sold it when we were done with it after 12 years, for *$500 less than what we paid for it; they showed up to pay for it and dismantle it.

            WE’re fourth family, and third state minimum, for our set.

            Had to replace two chunks of wood so far.

            The thing is almost as old as I am…..

          2. Note:
            We bought the replacement wood from a lumber yard.

            But we made dang sure to talk to the guy selling the Rainbow stuff, at the home improvement place, and LOUDLY tell him about how the stuff had been second-hand when I was the age of our kids, and that family had given it to us and it was going strong.

            We ARE looking into various upgrades.

            1. We looked for a used set for a couple of years, before we bought. They weren’t to be had. When we sold it, the family that showed up, was almost giddy. Took one look, wrote a check, showed up the next weekend with helpers to deconstruct and pack it off. Bonus we had the instructions, not that they didn’t mark the pieces anyway.

              At the time Rainbow had a dealership locally. They always were at the home show too.

              1. Reason they didn’t get the swing arm piece was we didn’t get that section … Kid is a climber.

              2. Yeah, ours was 1000% because mom was basically foster grandmother to the kids, as in “mom was in the hospital for weeks and my mom ferried the kids back and forth to bio grandma who can’t drive” level.

                Helped by being in an area where they’re rich so second had is evil, but still!

    3. Eventually, someone is going to have to do it right, and probably pay a professional to do it.

      To boldface what several folks here have said:
      I highly suggest you find your favorite licensed electrician, and go talk to them about the issues from other licensed, bonded and insured professionals they have had to fix.

      My uncle has been electrocuted THREE TIMES because fully licensed professionals apparently dumped their brain in the toilet that week.

  28. For any major renovation, move out! We recently finished a 100 year renovation of our house. We left in November, 2015, and returned in September, 2017. In the interim we lived in a borrowed condo for six months, on our boat for the following summer, and finally in a rented condo.
    We went out to the studs, replaced all the wiring, plumbing, exterior doors and windows save one, did four-and-one-half baths in tile, marble, and granite, tore down a one-floor section and rebuilt up two floors and around the corner for our kitchen, informal dining room, laundry room, mud room and powder room. The appliance bill was astronomical. We added a third A/C unit and converted from hot water heat to forced air. We reused a fairly new boiler furnace by adding radiators in each air handler fed from a manifold that reacts to the demands from the three thermostats. There are eight gigabit Ethernet appearances around the house as well as an eero mesh WiFi system covering the whole house. There are six TV jacks around the house two of which have behind-the-wall HDMI runs.
    The house is so tight that we cannot run the fireplace without having a window open. Needless to say that we are now house poor.

  29. Aw now Sarah, admit it: deep down, you love bringing good old houses up to glory again, whether that be improved functionality or aesthetics. I’m the same way. I can put up with any renovation hell if it results in better efficiency or more attractive features. We’ve had a 1939 Art Moderne concrete block house & a 1956 mid-century modern to revive.

    Currently living in a nondescript 1970 tract house — we wanted the challenge of taking a nothing house and making it into something great. Not as intense a job as a fire hazard Victorian, sure, but there are no style clues to work with in a bland 70s tract house: no pretty features to restore, 8 foot ceilings, insipid woodwork. Plus outdated infrastucture that is underpowered or not up to code for the current times, & kitchens designed for cooks who only opened cans & heated frozen food to feed people.

    I like reading house sale inspection reports! (You DID get an inspection before you bought the houses, right?) The great designer Nancy Lancaster once said, “I like getting the essence out of a house.” You & me too, evidently.

    1. Oh, I do love it. The proof is we bought a 20 year old house, and we’re reflooring it ourselves, which tells you we’re nuts.
      But still…. I also want to write.
      Otoh, I’m getting dragon naturally, so I can write and renovate…. It’s a thing.

  30. I do NOT like dealing with things electrical. Houses, airplanes, cars . . . I prefer sheet metal, engines, hydraulics (plumbing), carpentry. You know, where you can see the problem? By the time I see where the electrons are leaking out, well, it’s a pretty big problem. Hydraulic leaks are easy-peasy in comparison! Wiring diagrams and I don’t play well together. But that’s just me.

    1. Even better, ISO-style wiring diagrams, which show the components where they’re “electrically adjacent” instead of physically adjacent. So the connector for the sensor is four feet away on the other side of a bulkhead instead of on the sensor…

      Those are essentially anti-information as far as troubleshooting.

      And the ISO-tard who thought it would be a good idea to rate wire sizes by cross-sectional area instead of diameter should be torn to itty bitty pieces and buried alive. In the whole world, a few hundred EEs might find it occasionally simpler to deal with wires that way; for the rest of the world the rest of the time, it just makes it a pain in the ass to identify a wire size.

      1. *Facepaw* Oooooh yeah. It must have taken a special kind of genius to decide that those were good ideas. The kind that designs buildings that violate the laws of physics and materials science. “What do you mean you can’t make steel I-beams do that?” [whined by an architecture student who failed a major project. I was on my way to a hydrology course in the same building and heard the whine through the classroom door.]

        1. Yeah, I’ve been wondering about the bridge that came to mind this afternoon.

          My intuition is that the middle supports can be provided by rockets, and also that anchoring the ends would then be the problem.

          It is possible that I’m not even remotely cut out for architecture or civil engineering.

          I start with an idea that no one could possibly want to build, then get interested enough to think about it…

  31. Speaking of renovations, I don’t know if anyone here has re-read the so-called Anti-Federalist* papers recently, but since it has turned out that they’re right…

    Sometimes you cannot do that the whole house. Some bits are rotted so badly the best you can do is save the part that isn’t. Many of the States still have within them every bit of the foundation that made the United States great.

    Just remember the federalist principle: let a thousand flowers bloom. People can vote with their feet. And most importantly, the greatest power exists at the level where the rules-makers have to live close enough to said rules to eat what they cook — and have angry neighbors giving them the hairy eyeball about the menu-!

    *The so-called Federalists literall co-opted their opponents’s name in support of the U.S. constitution and creation of a strong imperial (called national!) government.

  32. “And if you’re saying “Why the emphasis on hiding. Shouldn’t you be making it over again, and sound?””

    That is a business decision based on use.

    If you’re going to -live- in it, it is better (and often easier) to rip it back to the studs, insulate, shim the crooked framing and install nice fireproof drywall. Especially in kitchens and bathrooms. Just rip it all the hell out and do it over. Try not to do that while you live there though, because it sucks.

    If you are “passing through”, doing a spiff-and-flip of a reasonably sound house that needs cosmetics, then adding another layer of embossed paper on the crappy plaster and painting it is prudent. It’ll show nicely, and it prevents you from finding where the floor joists were cut away for a heating pipe 70 years ago by some moron. If you don’t know about it you don’t have to spend $40K fixing it.

    On a plumbing note, I have found Sharbite fittings and plastic tubing are now the standard in Ontario, where such things are very tightly controlled. This makes replacing Victorian iron pipe (or shitty copper) easy and cheap. All the old pipe gets cut off, capped and left there. The new pipe is bendy plastic, you just drill a 3/4″ hole in the floor and feed it through. Super. Easy. No more soldering, no more elbows except for 90 degree corners.

    Electrical, I’m very much not an electrician. But, if you make sure the power is off and you don’t try to get fancy with circuits, electrical is shit-simple. I’ve replaced house service boxes, I’ve wired whole houses and barns with 120V and 240V, all sorts of things. I keep it simple, I don’t try to go fast, and I never work with energized wire. Ever. I know lots of electricians do, but I’m not an electrician.

    When buying a Victorian, just make sure ALL the ball-and-tube wiring is gone. That stuff is a hundred years old, and it is a fire waiting to happen. You still see it some times in attics, basements, outbuildings and crawl-spaces. If in doubt, you snip EVERYTHING right at the box and run a new line. And replace the box too, some of those things are senior citizens. Anything that still has fuses, chuck it. Spending a couple of thousand on wire and boxes is cheaper than a house fire.

    1. THIS… My father was an electrician and had to rewire a house (not a Victorian) that was old enough to have wax paper around the electrical wiring. It ALL had to go. This was in the 70s I believe.

    2. Nah. Those decisions were made on LIVING in it. i.e. the walls were okay. But stripping it to the studs would be prohibitive, release hazardous materials AND not get a better result.
      We are not and were never flippers. Usually we moved for some other reason. In fact the house before this, we stayed for 14 years, and it was flipped before us. I THINK we fixed all the stupid “hide fixes”.
      Mine aren’t to hide, they’re to make things whole without releasing lead, arsenic, etc, since we had to live in the house while doing it.

      1. Yup. Lots of folks have experienced the joy of being exposed to arsenic paint, arsenic rat poison, arsenic….

        Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers is not supposed to be an experiential guide for renovators.

  33. I couldn’t live in a Victorian– just because I would have a lot of allergy issues. I was in a house in SLC for a few hours (belongs to my cousin) that was built in the 1940s and I could smell mold in the walls. My sinus closed and I had a hard time breathing. No one else could smell it– I’ve walked into some old buildings in Virginia City, NV (built around the 1850-60s) and I couldn’t stay in them. Severe allergies again.

  34. hi:
    I really enjoy your morning entries on instapundit with my morning coffee – please keep it up.

    I feel both your pain and your triumph on renovations. I’m a IT consultant by trade, now retired so when we bought a built-great but now run-down west coast style bungalow here about 15 years ago i set about learning how to do woodwork.. So far my greatest failure was with embossed wallpaper (aka anaglypta ). It stretched when wet, shrunk in place, and now looks worse than then the wall below it.. when I get up the courage, I’ll replace it.

    One idea you might find useful: I did not contract for plumbing/electrical. Instead I developed relationships with two small companies: one in plumbing and one electrical, and then brought them in on a discounted hourly basis as needed. This cost a bit more than one shot contracts, but allowed designs to change as the overall fix-up went along and gave me access to better-than-box-store products at low volume wholesale prices.

    I also agree the country can be saved – and am looking for an audience on my idea on how to do that: see .

    1. We couldn’t do that, on the electrical, because we both work from home (even husband did though not for main job) and we needed to change the electrical upfront, so we could actually work.

  35. Hey Sarah. Maybe it’s time to look at Red states. In Tulsa area, you can get a brand new 3 or 4 bedroom 2 bath 2 car garage home for $150k. Not Victorians, but great insulation, brick walls, double pane windows and decent back yard. Increase writing productivity by 25% (that extra day a week?). All the best.

      1. We took the leap of faith. Picked our destination, sold the house, everything in pods, and off we went halfway around the country–immediate destination was a KOA near the new town. I flew there a few weeks ahead of time, walked through some houses (including the one we ended up buying), and put down a deposit on an apartment so that I knew we’d have walls and a roof once winter set it. Not necessarily recommending that.
        Like I said, I lost 20 pounds from the stress…

  36. Okay… did everyone but me know that John Byrne has drawn 20 issues of X-Men fanfic following up on the Dark Phoenix Saga, and that it’s all up on this “Byrne Robotics Forum” that he has for his fans?

    Twenty. Penciled. Digital. Issues. It’s called “X-Men: Elsewhen.”

      1. Aargh. He’s been doing all kinds of odd projects, apparently, like photoplay books of his own original, classic Star Trek stories, authorized and everything, and styled just like something from the late 60’s/early 70’s. (Photoshop and old stills from the TV show are your friend, I guess.) Star Trek: New VIsions is what it was called. They look super-duper nerdy, and I’m probably going to have to order some compilations.

        I mean, sure, it’s important to tell me the cruddy comics news, but people could have told me the nice stuff. That’s another bad thing about the breakdown of organized fandom, fannish news sources, etc.

        1. … it’s important to tell me the cruddy comics news, but people could have told me the nice stuff.

          I leave it to your judgement as to which category this falls:

          Marvel to debut gay Captain America character during Pride Month
          Marvel Comics unveiled its first gay Captain America character this week — and is set to debut the role in June during Pride Month, a report said.

          The character, Aaron Fischer, will be included in the upcoming “United States of Captain America” comic book miniseries, Entertainment Weekly reported.

          In the storyline, Fischer, who protects homeless youths and runaways, is discovered when Steve Rogers and three other characters launch a mission to find Steve’s missing shield, the report said. …

          1. Note: the wording there is a trifle unclear, so here is a thousand words:

            A look at Aaron Fischer’s illustration of a gay version of Captain America which will debut during Pride Month in June.

  37. Somewhere close on to 1990 with finally two professional salaries coming in we were looking at a serious domicile upgrade, actually considering buying new.
    Found a spec house a developer was building as a showpiece about the time they poured the slab and started framing so we could see the general outline of the floor plan.
    Made ourselves known as serious potential buyers so had some small input into the details, particularly after some healthy earnest money.
    Caught some things on our frequent visits such as holes in the vapor barrier on external walls which we insisted they tape up. “Suggested” they downgrade some fancy chandeliers and apply the savings to installation of a whole house fan. Made right pests of ourselves.
    Whole house fan saved us a bundle in utilities spring and fall, could change out entire air volume of the house in a minute or so. Key fact, you don’t really want one if anyone living there has allergies or hay fever, otherwise swapping stale for fresh air is a very good thing.
    Two irritating things:
    They built the slab about two feet below street level so the driveway sloped down to the garage entrance. Had to cut a channel and ad a french drain to keep from flooding every heavy rain.
    And within two years I had to reconnect every switch and outlet on any external wall. Fixtures were all dual connection. Either push the stripped wire end into a slot or form a loop around a screw post. Slots saved valuable electrician time, probably a couple or three hours over the course of the entire house. Thing is push connections do not handle temperature variations well. They work lose over time. So they saved a few bucks in construction that cost me much aggravation every time a circuit went dead downstream of a loose connection. Track it down, shut power off, fix the connections properly, then cuss out the developer.
    Side note, developer eventually went belly up. Our home was the last of his builds that did not wind up with a mechanic’s lien against the sale. At least five done after ours did as he tended to stiff subcontractors when things got tight.

    1. When/if we build, we will be *hovering over contractors. Well electric we might subcontract the oversee to my cousin’s husband … The electrician. His company (as in owner of) doesn’t do homes (he might have wired their home and their son’s) but big industrial installations. We aren’t fancy people. But we expect things to be done *right”. That includes paying attention to the sub floor materials … particle board sub flooring where there be water (bathrooms, kitchen, utility room, etc.) not happening, has to be plywood. I might not know the ins and outs of construction, but I do know sturdy. I do know quality finishes. My husband does know construction (he helped his dad build their retirement home, his dad the engineer); won’t want to do construction, but he knows it. FYI, that includes runoff off of driveway … We’d have walked away at the onset, French Drain works, but shouldn’t have been needed … Sister’s house has one, but their driveway is very steep down to the garage based on how their house sits on the side of the hill. We wouldn’t have chosen that location on the lot for the house.

      * Paying close attention to at least.

      1. See my comment about “professionals” elsewhere this page. Making your living doing something does not mean a person is “professional” so much as it once did. See, for example, school teachers or federal epidemiologists.

        We had a friend some years back who had gotten licensed as a house inspector and who reported that houses in nearby Winston-Salem, built back around 1900, had been found to use tongue and groove subflooring. Of course, the available quality of wood these days renders that a non-affordable option.

        As for driveway slopes, I suspect that depends on where you are. Your attitudes likely differ if you live in Arizona vs Florida vs Michigan. Having had to climb an ice-sheeted drive of any degree of slope is not a calming experience.

        1. Having had to climb an ice-sheeted drive of any degree of slope is not a calming experience.

          Too true. Also depends on how much water a location gets. We’ve rejected driveways for Both inclinations; toward the house, away from the house. As little snow/ice that sis gets, being slightly east of Vancouver, WA, their driveway is a hard, hard, no from us.

          We learned this lesson with our house in Longview. Driveway wasn’t particularly steep, what slight slope it had sloped away from house. But the access to the driveway, either direction was Steep. Street name: Canyonview, came directly of off Hillcrest. When icy/snowy, we slid into the driveway, had to back down the road to make a run up; if didn’t make it, backed down and tried again. We were at the top. I don’t know how many vehicles in homes below us had to make a run from the start from East & West Canyonview branches. Full disclosure, I didn’t do anything. If caught out. Parked at the top of the hill, hubby drove it into the driveway. If home, I didn’t drive anywhere. This was the location where, when snow/ice, the car was parked in gravel on side of house, 4×4 pickup was hidden in the garage. Just past the house drivers had to take east or west Canyonview, or head toward the top of the canyon (trees/heavy-brush kept them from going far into the canyon). Too many requests for the 4×4 to pull them out. Parking out of the driveway prevented the few that didn’t make the slight turn the road made from sliding into our vehicles when they slid across the driveway. Happened every year we were there, from ’80 till ’85. But the snow/ice we got was nothing compared to where snow/ice is a matter of winter life.

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