The Best Laid Plans Of Mice And Men

Home remodeling is a popular subject what with all the DIY shows and H&G “reality” shows.  I then to like The Property Brothers since the one thing that makes them stand out is their willingness to let the prospective home owners help with some of the demolition process.  The other thing that they do is that they are sometimes forced to reuse or recycle material in order to save a bit of the budget.  Now Nicole on her show, I have forgotten the name of her venture but it is set in Detroit, does a fair amount of recycling because she is doing more rehab that new construction.  Also her projects aren’t the upscale upper middle class type of project.  The two people in Waco Texas also do a fair amount of recycling and tend to save their clients a bit of money.  Not a lot, grant you, but still, compared to Love It Or List It, it seems those people have money to burn.  Of course the major problem is that so many people have such little ability to see in their minds the potential and the general idea of the project.  If you asked the average person to picture a cube in their minds with six different colored sides and then rotate it, they literally can’t do it.  Actually, it takes a bit of practice to see and manipulate three dimensional objects in one’s mind.  Those of us who have had mechanical drawing training, I mean the old training where you actually have to use pencil and paper on a drafting table, figure the dimensions and use the t-square and the two different triangles as well as a compass, well, you really had to be there.  The computer aided design does all the work and you need not bothering rotating objects in your mind.  I mean, that is so old fashioned.  It is akin to using a decent watch or clock, a compass, and a sexton to find out exactly where you are in the world.  North and south is really no problem since you are dealing with the curvature of the earth in relationship to the angle of the sun.  East and west is a different problem.  One needs a reference point and that just happens to be Greenwich, the meridian.  That is where the sextant comes in handy as well as the ability to understand trigonometry and have reference to a set of Trig tables.  So you have your iPad or whatever, some electronic devise and perhaps it can connect to the geosynchronous satellites that will give you a fix on your position.  But what happens if you can’t charge your batter?  Electronics is only as good as the batter or other power source.  But back to home improvement.

Most people have no idea how a house is build.  They have no knowledge of building codes.  And even electricity, a simple three wire device, hot, neutral, and ground,  eludes their understanding.  Plumbing is even worse.  Sweat solder into a copper joint?  Surely you must be kidding.  Threaded pipe, that should be easy but the threads don’t allow you to take the piece out in the middle.  Chances are that you never grew up watching the carpenters, the plumbers, the electricians and the HVAC people putting that house together.  Us old guys are the last of a breed that know how to make things work.  Any vehicle that is pre eighties I can take apart and rebuild.  If it is pre 1970 it easier still.  I learned how because I didn’t have to money to buy new vehicles or pay mechanics.  So I had to learn on my own how to take something apart and repair it..  And always under the deadline of making it work come Monday morning so I could get to work.  Hell, give me an old 1953 GMC straight six (235 cubic inches, good torque) with a three speed manual half ton or quarter ton pick up.  Hell, I’ll take a one or two ton truck.  The things are reliable and I can work on them.  So it is with remodeling and building codes. most of which are based on common sense, but not always.

The problem with remodeling is that it requires a bit of thought.  You want a second story addition to your house?  Does your present foundation support that extra weight?  I’ve got a house that was built in 1950, moved to a quarter acre lot and placed on a new foundation according to the building codes for 1953.  The exterior is wood siding so the foundation only supports that weight requirement.  I can put up a brick face because the foundation won’t support that weight and because it is not wide enough to accommodate the brick.  The brick is suppose to be cemented to the foundation.  That means that the two by four framing should be set back from the edge of the foundation by the width of the brick.  If I wanted brick, I would have to drill a number of holes in the existing foundation walls on the outside of the foundation and then place the rebar stubs that would connect the new concrete poured into forms so as to add the width needed to set the brick on the new portion of the foundation.  Brick would be nice but the material is expensive compared to wood siding.  But if I want to add a second story to my present house I would still need to add to the foundation.  Now I could add piers that are attached to the foundation, either interior or exterior on the foundation that would support structural columns that would hold the weight of the second floor.  In a way, this would allow the second floor to “float” about the first.  Structural or mechanical engineering is a fun subject.  One learns problem solving in a manner that other disciplines cannot teach it.

When one is confronted with the need for more living space the question is always one of do you expand out or expand up or a combination of both.  Remodeling often needs to address the mistakes of carpenters, electricians, HVAC, plumbers, and others.  Remodeling means that you are often cleaning up the mistakes of others.  I have a village house in France and let me tell you, if I have known just how bad the previous owners over the years had screwed it all up I would have gutted the place.  I remember when Ford Motor Company came out with the slogan, “Good Enough Isn’t, Quality Is Job One.”  Well, too bad they abandoned that attitude.  So the wife and I have been through a dozen different plans or ideas, looking for the right combination that will give up the best expansion of square footage for the buck.  I’ll do a fair amount of the work myself, from demolition to electrical (hell, it’s only three wires for god’s sake), to plumbing (yeah, PECS and CPVC is the way to go), to a little HVAC mechanical.  I’ll pound a few nails framing and roofing, but sheetrock is best left to contractors, they do it faster and cheaper than you can.  I figure I can save maybe a third of the labor cost by doing a fair amount of the work myself, and that includes clean up.


One thought on “The Best Laid Plans Of Mice And Men

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