The Joys of Home Ownership #217

The former owner of my house didn’t keep up with the exterior maintenance as well as she should have. As a result, much of the siding is deteriorating. Last year we had the worst parts on the front of the house and the garage replaced. Partly because we’ve kind of given up on finding people to hire to work on the house we decided to replace the remaining siding on the front of the house ourselves. We started Saturday morning; it’s now Sunday evening and we’re about 3/4 of the way done, aside from the painting.

It’s not a bad job, really. Digging up turf is worse. We were somewhat surprised to discover that underneath the siding on the garage there was, um, nothing. Whatever nimrod built the garage apparently was short on chipboard and/or had extra sheetrock, because they used chipboard for one side of the garage (appropriately enough) and sheetrock for the other (not at all appropriately). So we made yet another trip to the hardware store–the third for this project, and counting–to obtain some Tyvek house wrap. Here’s our garage, freshly wrapped in Tyvek:


You can also see that we removed the siding from the half-wall on the left of the stairs. That’s because we had to detach a drainpipe from the gutter which passes through the landing, and the only way to do that is from underneath the landing. To get underneath the landing you have to go through the half-wall. (If you’ve been reading my website for a long time you may recall that some years ago we detached that half-wall altogether to shore up the stairs, and re-sided parts of it when we reattached it. I’d really like to think that this is the last time I’ll put siding on this half-wall.)

That’s as far as we got on Saturday. Today we put the new siding on and caulked the seams. Tomorrow Adam has to go back to work and Tracie has a physical therapy appointment in the afternoon (entirely by coincidence–not because of the weekend’s activities), but in the morning we’ll start to remove and replace the siding to the left of the door.

This job has been made considerably easier and more pleasant by a pair of ironclad(TM) work gloves I purchased before starting. They fit well enough that they don’t interfere with my dexterity the way old-fashioned leather work gloves do; e.g. I can easily pick up and start nails while wearing them. They don’t, however, protect you from hammering your fingers, which fortunately I’ve done only twice so far. You can take a look at them here if you’re interested. I definitely recommend them if you’re doing any sort of construction work; they really reduce the wear and tear on your hands. Tracie got a pair also, but they’re a different brand and I’m too tired to go upstairs to find out what brand they are. Here’s a picture of me at work with them:


While working away, it crossed my mind that being able to do stuff like replace siding is one of the issues alluded to by the essay I posted not long about about being a kid in the mid-20th century. I can do things like replace siding–which involves some degree of aptitude with hammers, power tools, measuring instruments, etc.–in large part because my dad showed me how to use tools when I was a kid, and I went off with the tools and built skateboard ramps. Without that experience I wouldn’t be able to perform this sort of maintenance and reconstruction on my house; I’d have no choice but to pay someone to do it for me. If fewer kids are building skateboard ramps (or treehouses, or forts, or whatever) than in past decades, then fewer people will grow up with the possession of skills that enable them to repair their own houses.

In many living situations this is irrelevant; e.g. folks living in apartments in Manhattan will never have to replace siding. But it is not irrelevant to consider the situation of a home owner without these skills. Under normal circumstances, yes, you can always hire someone to do this work for you. (I’m ignoring the fact that a big part of why we’re doing this particular job ourselves is because of our dissatisfaction with the work done by people we’ve hired). However, in these post-9/11 post-tsunami post-Katrina, pre-bird-flu pre-whatever-else-global-warming-brings times, “normal circumstances” for kids growing up in the early 21st century are looking rather different than the normal circumstances of the latter half of the previous century. If I had kids, I’d teach ’em how to hammer and saw.

By adam

Go ahead, try to summarize yourself in a sentence or two.