Thursday, September 4, 2008

Consequences of Cluelessness

As much as I love Britton's, it's not always the best store when you're clueless, like myself. I just realized that when I bought cedar clapboards the other day, they weren't cedar, and I paid top dollar for something that wasn't. They were spruce. Luckily, I only got about twenty feet, but it's still a lot. In all fairness, they would probably give me my money back, they are very cool in that way, but you pay the price if you are clueless. It's because they send you out to the shed and expect you to get it right, i.e., they don't hold your hand. My mistake, and now I know.

What I also know is that cedar clapboards are expensive. I bought a bundle and when she rang up $100, I was floored. Little did I know that it's a very good price. Paul told me that he pays $3/foot, where I'm getting about $1.80/foot, so I shouldn't complain. Even still, I hate when I'm stupid, and I'm always stupid.

My friend Gary (the other Gary) was commenting on how I'm being thrown to the lions in terms of home improvement, and in a way, it's true. I'm dealing with way more than I bargained for, but it's good. The best lessons are the one's you learn the hard way. Thankfully we live in Vermont, surrounded by do-it-yourself real men who are not only good at what they do, but are always willing to lend a big helping hand. It's the New England way, fiercely independent, but always neighborly and helpful. I love that.

Now that I'm a clapboard expert, I decided to pull off a few more and make sure the plywood was not thrashed. One thing I've learned is that it's difficult, if not impossible for me, to salvage clapboards that I've removed. They just seem to get really thrashed, and as I remove them in increasing numbers all can think of are the dollars going up in smoke, at $1.82/foot. Ouch. Mind you, I'm trying my best to be gentle, hoping, perhaps naively so, that by using finesse and touch, I can reuse these things, but no such luck. I've been successful a few times, but for the most part, it's goodbye clapboards. Once I'd given up hope, however, it was much easier to remove them, and in certain instances I simply ripped the damn things off. I'm beginning the process of staining the new ones, they smell great, BTW, and it's a long road ahead. I may still use the spruce ones, maybe in low impact areas, but like Balloon Gary (my mentor) says, it's your house, you're planning on living there for awhile, don't skimp and get the good stuff. Now if only I can convince Ruth of this.

It rained last night, pretty hard, actually, and I can't really complain because we've had such nice, dry weather, simply beautiful. The rain didn't help my pursuit of the perfect clapboard, however, and I had to scramble to just protect the dry siding from the rain. One thing that I've noticed and will ultimately guide me in our next home improvement endeavor is that the problem we are facing is a universal one-water coming down the slanted roof and splashing back on the house. The solution? Gravel. I spoke with Homesteader Gary and he said he has the same problem, as I'm sure all of Vermont and New Hampshire have, and he advised me on where to go. Yet another adventure for Fred.

The reason that I loathe water splashing on the house is twofold. One, you get rot. And two, when the wood is wet and rotted, you get carpenter ants. And carpenter ants we have. Two thing I've learned about them is that not to many people know very much about them, and the know even less about how to deal with them. Even the two Gary's were at a loss for an explanation, other than the fact that you don't want them and had sure as hell better deal with them. For now, on the advice of Balloon Gary, I will leave the clapboards off, let the wood dry, and spray for the little buggers. Total bummer, I just want to finish it and be done with it, but such is life.

Speaking of clapboards, I'm doing things to the house that I've never done, and it scares me. I'm actually cutting out sections of the plywood facing, whatever it's called, and it's not for the faint of heart. Balloon Gary was there to hold my hand, I couldn't have done without him, but it still makes me uneasy. The thing that's a pain is that I've got to repair the damn thing, now. Does it never end?

There are some silver linings, however. I was sealing our deck yesterday and managed to get the second coat on just in time to let it dry before the deluge, and you know what? It beaded water like a dream, I was impressed. Also, our picnic table is weathering the storm nicely, though it's only been a few months, but I can celebrate the small victories. Sometimes that's all you got.

Will mow out all the grass, we've decided the time has come to shave it all off, in preparation for Ruth's parents visit. Many things to do, not to mention being a parent.

Just a quick anecdote, when I went to Home Depot to find out about carpenter ants, the guy told me that I'll need carpenter and poison. Brilliant, but very appropriate for Home Depot. In all fairness, the guys at Britton's were not any more insightful. Carpenter ants, the big mystery.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

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