Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vinyl's Final

Well, not really.  Vinyl really isn't final, no matter what the salesmen will have you think.  You might not have to paint it, but you'll have to replace it when it cracks or otherwise starts to look shabby.  If you have vinyl siding near the ground on your house and you have a penchant for weed whacking, it's likely you'll crack the siding yourself the first time your power tool throws a rock into it.  

So, no, vinyl isn't final.  In fact, as a preservationist, vinyl is the enemy.  It is a covering that removes the architectural character from trim, windows, and gables of historic homes.  It holds moisture on the siding it covers, causing the original siding to deteriorate.  It lasts 20 - 30 years before replacement if you're lucky, but the wood siding that was covered will last many, many more years than that if properly maintained.  From an environmental standpoint, the chemicals and amount of energy used to make vinyl siding are certainly not green.  Vinyl siding cannot be recycled when it is replaced and so it goes directly to the landfill where it probably doesn't break down or is incinerated, releasing it's toxic chemicals into the air.

So why am I talking about vinyl.  It's because I have a confession to make.  We used vinyl on our project house.  <Gasp!>  Here's our reasoning:  The house had badly curled cedar shingles cover the attic dormer and ends (you can see them here). The shingles needed to be replaced.  The house is a bit of a hodge podge of vernacular construction, from the simple, non-matching windows to the asbestos siding.  We're going to flip the house and, frankly, we live in a rather depressed area, so we're looking to keep costs low and the house comfortable while still maintaining the house's character.  We wanted to keep the feel of the shingles on the third floor.  We priced out cedar shingles and vinyl siding that looked like shingles.  The vinyl was much cheaper.  We figured that since the siding will be so far off the ground, it won't be obvious that it is vinyl, it won't be damaged by rocks thrown up by the mower, and it's not detracting from the house's character by covering any existing details.  

So we did it.  We used vinyl.  We'll turn in our preservationist membership card if need be, but we stand by our decision.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What the?!?

Sometimes, we just see architectural "features" that make us scratch our heads.  Case in point is this chimney near our project house.  It appears to have been built at this angle and not that it has sagged to the angle over time.  Do you suppose the chimney continues at an angle inside the house?

(Addendum, 9/19/11: I looked over at this house yesterday and noticed that the chimney had fallen onto the roof of the house!  I don't know if gravity took over or if the earthquake we had a few weeks ago was enough to take it out.  Glad I got a photo when I did!)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A New Roof at Westview

In a perfect world, all fixer-uppers would have a new roof and those of us crazy enough to take them on wouldn't have to worry about that one little detail.  Unfortunately, when people give up on a house, it seems that the expense of replacing a roof is one of the reasons they give up.  The house we live in had multiple leaks when we first bought it and the remains of some really bad attempts at plugging up missing flashing with roofing tar and caulking.  We got the flashing fixed and a few roofing tiles replaced and we've been dry ever since.

At the Westview project house, we knew there were roofing issues when we bought the house.  The blue tarps were the first clue.  The old curling asphalt shingles that blew off in the mountain winds were the second.  We've had a roofer lined up for several months now, but since we're in no hurry, we told them they could put us later in the queue.  Well, this week, they finally got to us.  They took the old roof off Monday morning.  Fortunately, despite the terrible condition of the old roof, it hadn't been leaking enough to damage the oak decking so little work had to take place before replacement could begin.  As of yesterday afternoon (prior to the thunderstorms, fortunately), we had a new asphalt architectural shingled roof!  Very nice, except that it highlights the peeling paint on the attic windows. 

The other slight problem was that the power line to the house was rather precarious and the debris coming off the roof pulled the power line free from the house.  So, we called to have the power company look at it since the roofers mentioned it had sparked when it pulled free and we didn't want to burn the house down.  The power company came by, took one look at that old power line, cut it, and took the meter.  Sooo, now we have NO power.  We only had one operational outlet anyway because the wiring in the house was downright dangerous, but this sets us back a bit since we don't own a generator.  We're investigating now how to get minimal power for construction.  At least painting windows can be done without a power source!