In the spring of 2013, I bought a house for $10,000. Foreclosed. Leaking. Full of rot.
You can imagine it caused many adventures. You’ve already heard some of them. But today I have the story of a single wall. A simple wall, that’s it. Not even a particularly large or long wall. Not a fancy wall. Not a complicated wall. Not even a particularly attractive wall. Not a special wall in any way.
Just a wall that it took four years of hard work to find amid all the bizarrities of the home I dubbed Ye Olde Wreck.
Here is that tale.
Grafted onto the northwest corner of Ye Olde Wreck was this strange growth I dubbed the Not-A-Garage. Photos don’t begin to show how terrible it was. The mud floor. The rain that poured inside it. The deck your foot would go through if you weren’t careful. Above all, the crazy roofline. Look at the goofy roof on that thing!
LOTS of pix here, so I’m being merciful and giving you thumbnails. Click to embiggenate. (And I hope you will; the transformation is pretty awesome.)
Look at BOTH crazy rooflines, actually. The monstrosity was tied into two separate existing roof structures without a trace of rhyme or reason.
Worse, the ghastly Not-A-Garage was the only functional entrance to the house. You had to go through all this to get to my kitchen door.
How’s that for a grand entryway? Greetings, guests. I’d ask you to come in out of the rain, but it’s raining harder inside than out!
And again — look at that insane roof structure! What demented mind would even conceive of such a thing?
It wasn’t even useful for anything. Couldn’t park a car in it because there was only a walk-in door. Couldn’t store anything because of that little indoor-rain problem. Couldn’t use it as a laundry room because the plumbing for the washer and dryer was in the living room.
Naturally, the Not-A-Garage had to go. But that was no easy task. Getting rid of it took three years.
Although most of the structure was gone, it was impossible to get rid of it all because of the insane ways it had been grafted onto the roof. Roofs, plural. Making it go away would involve not only re-roofing, but re-designing rooflines. Oh, the nights I spent lying awake trying to figure out how to do that. Oh, the days I looked at that hideousness and wondered if it could even be done.
(And yes, in the above photo I appear to be living like the sort of person who is the product of generations of first-cousin matings. At times I felt like that, too. I’m increasingly convinced that the people who built the house fit that description. Maybe they even married their sisters.)
It didn’t look any better close up, but at least I finally got rid of the old water heater beside my oh-so-welcoming door.
For many years my home has been the gem of the neighborhood:
But … progress. I figured out how to re-shape the roof and some people smarter than I figured out how to translate my sketches into a structure that wouldn’t fall down on us.
Even after the not-a-garage was gone and the roof re-shaped, the west wall (the wall about which this entire saga is actually being written) was still a mess, though. It felt like it was going to be awful forever.
Naturally, when we (the Wandering Monk and I in one of the first jobs he did for me) ripped off the remaining bits, we found rot in the west wall. It was manageable, but for a year after that I lived with a patchwork wall covered in the Dreaded Tarpaper. Even as we began the final work this May, the west wall continued — and continued to continue — to look like hell.
May, June, July … pure ugliness. There was progress, of course. In the pic above of the Monk tearing off the corner you might notice the foundation has been replaced and raised. But not until this month did walls begin to look like walls.
When that happened, I didn’t get a lot of in-progress pictures, because when things finally began to come together, the west wall went from ugly to decent in about three hours. And during those hours I was minioning, holding up slabs of siding in the 90-degree afternoon sun and thinking only about getting done and cooling off.
That was a week ago. The Monk left and since then it’s been up to me. I’ve been hard at work. Nailing up edge flashings. Caulking. Priming. Painting. Stretching window screens. Caulking and painting some more. And finally measuring, cutting, and putting up trim.
As of this morning …
We have wall.
After four years of feeling like a tarpaper hillbilly, four years of labor, expense, splinters, trips to the landfill, brain-beating anguish, and hating the sight outside my kitchen door … I now have a simple, ordinary wall. Nothing fancy. Nothing complicated. Nothing out of the ordinary in any sense. Just a wall. A wall like the wall of any other house in town.
Except for the detail of having the side of a screen porch in it. That’s special. In a good way. Otherwise … it’s just a plain old unremarkable wall. That it took four years to find amid the rot and rubble.
Still needs a few finishing touches, some of which won’t be done until next year. I can live with that.
Now, I am off to conquer the north wall!