Too MuchTuesday, May 8th, 2012
Author: James the Wanderer May 7, 2012
This starts as a tale of time, several decades, and gradual overload. What applies to houses applies to governments…..
My house was built in the 1920s, when things were simpler and houses were built reasonably. It is a fairly small house, my lot is about 1/10 acre, and the house was nothing fancy. It has single-layer walls (a crack developed from settling, and my daughter noticed a tiny trace of sunlight where you could look out the dining room wall). It was built with an eye for economy as well, as the roof trusses were 2×4 (back when those numbers were real, not nominal) but more than sufficient when the only roof load was a layer of cedar shakes, and light winter snow.
Sometime shortly after, electricity came in, and the house was (sort of) wired. Up in the attic, ½” holes were drilled for hollow ceramic spacers, and the separated wires (a foot apart, one hot, one neutral, no ground) were run to power lights and outlets. Again, nothing fancy; not sure why the ceramic spacers were necessary, unless they didn’t trust the insulation enough to prevent contact / grounding or fires in the attic. Whatever, that’s how they did it, and the system worked well enough for the time. Some are still in place, all these years after they were put in.
Years pass; an owner needs to stop roof leaks, and puts a layer of asphalt shingles over the cedar shakes. Nothing wrong with that, saves time and effort, and the trusses (although weakened somewhat by the drilled holes) still had plenty of strength to support it all.
More years pass; more layers of asphalt shingles accrue.
I come along in 2006, and can see from the roofline that there’s trouble. It sags, hills and warps in weird ways; clearly a new roof is needed, and I’m prepared. It takes me until July 2007 to get it together enough to find a local contractor, and his Mexicans take the old roof off, preparing for the new one.
They took off FOUR layers (each a different color) of asphalt shingles, as well as the original cedar shakes. They go back with plywood decking, tar paper and one layer of new shingles. The roof load probably drops 75%.
The trusses and joists were allowed to relax back into something like a reasonable position. The kitchen ceiling, covered from beneath two or three times, sags in several places. This is from the splintered joists, weakened by drilling which also created stress concentration points, refusing to carry the extra loads they were never designed for. I have ripped down the kitchen ceiling, all the way down to the lath-and-plaster, sistered the splintered joists back to structural functionality, re-routed some of the antique wiring, and am getting ready to re-do the insulation, install a new outlet for the microwave, and restore the kitchen ceiling (now that it’s been jacked and reinforced back to something resembling level and plumb) to something like aesthetic appeal.
It took a rather severe tear-out-and-restoration to return my house to decent condition, but it’s weathertight, plumb, level and liveable. I had to remove built-up layers of accumulated junk, pull out broken and bent items, put new, stronger materials back in place and repair the results of repeated “Let’s just pile on more and cover it up, we don’t have the time and money to make it right” solutions. Fixing it the right way was mildly expensive, took a lot of time and muscle and “sweat equity”, but the payoff is there, and I can see it.
It’s time to do the same in Washington.
No related posts.