August 6, 2013

And The Baby Jesus Wept...

by Chris Randall

Okay, no apologies for the lack of posting. I told you in the last post but one that we had bought a house, and that, coupled with some Big News coming on the Audio Damage front in a short while, is currently demanding about 138% of my waking moments.

So the main reasons for this particular post are two-fold. First, I would like to get that neckbeard in the YouTube video screengrab below the fold, because I'm tired of seeing it. (Mission accomplished.) And second, I need to vent.

My wife has often told me, in our nearly 19 years of marriage, that if something's worth doing it is worth doing right. That has never been more apparent to me than now. While my discovery isn't specifically (or, well, even generally) music-related, the same precepts apply, as it turns out. I have occasionally taken on remix and production projects. It isn't something I terribly enjoy, and usually the benefactors of my tender ministrations don't enjoy it either. The reason for this is that if something is done half-assed or stupidly, I have a knack for letting the person that did it know. Come to find out, people don't really like being called stupid. Go figure.

But this house... it was built in 1967, and was "builder-grade" (which is Real-Estate language for "the bare minimum") for its time. In the 46 years between when it was built and when I acquired it, it had two owners. In that time, both owners did various upgrades and repairs. And in EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE that the opportunity presented itself, they took the path of least resistance. This has built up in four and a half decades to a rather ludicrous collection of half-assed bailing-wire-and-band-aids fixes and upgrades. The most egregious example is the $3000 worth of new granite countertops laid over the original particle board kitchen cabinetry. Today I discovered a pre-hung door frame that was held in place solely by the trim. (I was removing the trim prior to painting the room, and the door and frame literally fell out of the wall.) It goes on and on.

I fully expected this, and was aware of most of the problem "fixes" prior to purchasing the house. We got it for an excellent price, and it is in a good neighborhood; our fixes prior to moving in (which mostly consist of undoing the previous owners' errors and making all the doorknobs match) will increase its value by several tens of thousands of dollars, lubricated almost entirely by sweat. In short, I got what I paid for and will make a lot of money off this house; we wanted a mid-century modern Atomic Ranch that we could bring back to a modernized version of its original state, and build a ton of equity in the process, and for that particular want, we couldn't have done better.

However, let this be a lesson: if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. This house is like the difference between using a pre-made drum loop someone ginned up (no offense, Wade and Huggy; much love!!!), and taking the time to custom record and synthesize your drum sounds, with which you make a well-produced and nicely grooving rhythm part. Sure, the loop will work. But 46 years down the road, don't you wish somebody knew you took the time to do it right?


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Aug.06.2013 @ 8:10 PM
congrats on the house.. sounds like it has good bones... and more importantly ou obviously have a plan.

the thing about construction work and demolition is.. it makes all the sense in the world to order pizza.

looking forward to the big AD news :)

Aug.06.2013 @ 9:15 PM
Chris Randall
I'm actually all fast-fooded out at this point. Really looking forward to the first meal my wife cooks in our new house.

Anyhow, we've just got to the top of the coaster; the whole uphill part was demo. (Ripping up floors, tearing out walls, etc.) Tomorrow, the downhill part starts with the first coat of primer. Then paint. Then 1200 square feet of porcelain tile. Then baseboards. Then door trim. Then LED recessed lighting throughout.

Then we move.

Then I get like a month of rest.

Then a new back porch.

Then the master bathroom.

Then the master bedroom.

Then a new kitchen.

Then the guest room.

Then I build my studio building in the backyard.

So, look for me again some time c. 2016.

Aug.07.2013 @ 1:16 AM
My house is exactly the same but 100 years older. You can probably imagine the scale of the bodges and shortcuts that we are unpicking. I feel your pain.

Aug.07.2013 @ 7:40 AM
I'm with boobs.

Aug.07.2013 @ 7:51 AM
One of the drawbacks of living in the US is the quality of construction. Go to Sicily and people live in 500 year old houses. They fix stuff when they have to, but you won't ever see wallboard hung the wrong way up, or open a wall to find they cheated on stud spacing.

Everyone from Europe I've ever shown the finer points of United States construction standards laughs themselves sick.

Aug.07.2013 @ 7:57 AM
Chris Randall
Well, custom homes are custom homes, and they're usually pretty good. Tract homes are tract homes, and those builders spent a lot of time cutting corners and paying off inspectors.

This is, needless to say, a tract home. I was surprised to learn, upon skinning a couple walls, that the interior walls are built with 2x3 studs. But it's a block house. Not like it's gonna fall down or anything.


Aug.07.2013 @ 8:48 AM
When it comes to homes, most people don't even know what "doing it right is" anymore, and they don't really understand the cost value. They just want the problem "solved". Or out of sight.

Previous owners of my house did all kinds of somewhat appalling things. I rectified some when I moved in, but lacked the time and cash to fix all of them. Now that all our stuff is in here, some of these items are just not going to get fixed.

Hell, I need new carpeting or flooring downstairs, but the thought of moving everything out so I can rip the old stuff up is just...*sigh*. Maybe next year?

Aug.07.2013 @ 10:09 AM
The impassioned rants that I occasionally go into here about reverb theory? This is NOTHING compared to my current passion/anger about houses and the care/lack of care given to them. I'll keep it short:

We lived in a dumpy rental for the last 7 years. What Chris says about "the path of least resistance" applies to the house we were in, with the main difference being that "cheap upgrades" usually meant "no upgrades." The kitchen had the same avocado green linoleum since 1968 or so, the wood floors have needed a refinish for who knows how long, the ceiling in the master bedroom looks like a giantess had her period on it, the "wallpaper" in the master bedroom was pale green Naugahyde, and I found 40+ yo green shag carpet in the heating ducts when we had them professionally cleaned. The upgrades that were installed were always the cheapest available.

The house itself was modestly sized. However, I've seen similar houses in the neighborhood, that are really nice on the inside, due to the care given by their owners over the years. As tenants, we put as many improvements into the house as was reasonable (new paint, replaced the bare lightbulbs on the ceiling with decent lamps, stuff like that), but it is impossible to overcome several decades of neglect without ripping stuff up and staring over.

Why didn't we move? We were saving for a better house to buy. Plus, moving with kids is brutal. And the economy went to hell while we lived there, so we were stuck for a few years.

A few weeks ago, we bought a house built in 1929. The bones of the house are much nicer than the rental we lived in. In Seattle, most of the homes that are older will be built with timber that is much higher quality than what you can get nowadays. More importantly, all of the remodeling decisions were made with care. The basement was refinished in a nice way, the kitchen has good cabinets and tile, the trim paint is gorgeous, stuff like that. The house has been beautifully maintained, with the original glasswork and mahogany trim still in place.

I wonder if the difference is that the first house has been a rental since 1984, while the new house has been owner occupied its entire existence. It seems easier to neglect a place when you don't live there.

@chaircrusher: My guess is the 500 yo homes in Europe are evidence of "survival of the fittest," which is really a tautology that means "survival of those that survived." Undoubtedly there were cheaper homes made over the centuries, but they collapsed a long time ago. For that matter, there were probably homes that were made with care of the finest materials, but were unable to survive the wars of the last 500 years. For a home to survive that long takes a combination of good materials and building, consistent maintenance, and luck.

Aug.07.2013 @ 5:21 PM
Chris.... bought my 1963 Vegas atomic ranch a year and half ago, and ran into MUCH of the same stupidity (my own version of the mantra I came to adopt is "any job worth doing is worth doing wrong"). Lucky for you I've documented the whole mess so far... read and learn!
link []

Aug.07.2013 @ 5:25 PM
Chris Randall
Elle and her parents primed the two main rooms today (just got back from that; had to be there all day to wait for the gas company anyhow) and, pursuant to Sean's comments, having lived in rentals for the last... well, hell, most of my life, actually, it is _astounding_ the difference a well-applied coat of high-quality paint makes. I was almost moved to tears, truth be told. I took off all the baseboards and trim, the which had been painted over at least a dozen times, to the point where there wasn't a clearly defined difference in plane between the baseboards and the wall itself.

After filling every hole in the wall, removing the wiring and wall boxes for 45 years of questionable decisions involving various forms of telephony, cable TV, and satellite TV, patching all those holes, and fully dressing the walls and ceiling before painting, now that it has its first coat of three, this shit looks brand new. I can't wait to see how it looks once the tile is in and the trim and baseboards are back on.

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.

Tomorrow's adventure involves removing the shit lighting, filling and patching the holes thereof, and putting 3" recessed cans throughout for LED floods. I'm spending a lot of money on the lighting in this house, but since I have the opportunity to have it the way I want, I'm taking it. (I was, for most of my adult life, a lighting professional, so this is a particular point of honor for me. This house will be well-lit even if nothing else goes right.)


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