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.07.2013 @ 5:31 PM
Chris Randall
@mitchell: Oh, holy fuck.

We decided not to blog this adventure. But yeah, same/same, for the most part.


Aug.07.2013 @ 6:04 PM
No doubt, nearly every first time homeowner's reality check. I seriously think that if everyone learned proper home maintenance as part of their mandatory education, people would not be able to get away with that. Or at least makes for fine points of negotiating. I think a lot of people get into buying a house thinking some magical fairy is going to come sprinkle repairs on the house for them, and once they figure out that isn't true, it comes down to hiring someone to do it (and supervising them to make sure its done right...!) or doing it yourself or with friends...who's quality control standards definitely slip as the beer goes on and the person in charge of the money dictates....

Aug.07.2013 @ 6:17 PM
Chris Randall
Luckily (or not, depending on your point of view) for me, my grandfather, father, and stepfather, as well as 3 uncles, were or are contractors, all of whom are perfectly capable of designing and building a beautiful custom house that could grace the pages of Architectural Digest (and in a couple cases with my father and one of my uncles, have done that very thing) starting with live trees and a copper mine. While I didn't go in to the family business, it was my summer job starting from a very (like 6 yrs old) young age.

So, in reading Mitchell's blog, I'm actually in a much different place. While I'm not very experienced with finish work (which I equate to anything involving 16 gauge or smaller nails or, gods forbid, paint) up to that point I'm actually fairly skilled. Not like "do it for a day job" skilled like my family members, but I have the basic knowledge, and a vast pool of family experience to draw upon for questions and help.

The point of this being that I knew what I was getting in to before we signed for the house. However, what's amazing me is the shit I'm finding that was physically impossible to discover prior to purchase. My experience is 100% new construction; I've never done a rehab before. Some of this shit is flat-out amazing to me.


Aug.08.2013 @ 5:55 AM
I feel your funk, CR, I feel your funk, been there done that...

Aug.08.2013 @ 11:36 AM
Alan Tomlinson
@seancostello ". . . Undoubtedly there were cheaper homes made over the centuries, but they collapsed a long time ago." Not nearly as much as you seem to think. Balloon frame construction is unheard of in Europe. It doesn't exist. At all. Yes, houses that have been hit by bombs do get destroyed, as do homes that are judged unsightly, but, by and large, things tend to get built once every few hundred years on a particular site. I live in Berlin, and despite the remodeling that was done between 1940 and 1945, the great majority of structures here are most assuredly pre-1940 and a large minority of the structures were built before 1900.

As to construction in the US; one of my personal pet peeves when I lived in the US was the now prevalence of so-called gang-nail rafter plates. These things are obviously faster to install on pre-fabricated roof trusses than actual nails. They are also so remarkably short-lived in structure fires that many fire departments will not attempt to enter modern single-family dwellings that are partially involved for fear that the roof will collapse. Which it will. Rather more quickly than you might think.

All that said, things were much better back then, I walked to school, and get off the lawn.


Alan Tomlinson

Aug.08.2013 @ 12:28 PM
@Alan: Are they still using timber framing in Europe for new construction?

I've been tripping out about the difference between old lumber and the new stuff. The steps in our "new" (to us) house are made of fir, and the wood grain is super tight. I guess they grew trees different back in 1929 - or rather, the trees grew themselves differently than the farmed trees of today. My wife's uncle is installing a bannister extension, and is using fir that he salvaged from some old bookshelves that were being torn down at the University of Washington. VERY different grain from the Home Depot bannister wood.

Aug.08.2013 @ 1:58 PM
Alan Tomlinson
@seancostello I've never seen timber framing in new construction here except for roofs.

With respect to virgin growth softwoods, yep, that stuff is of an entirely different quality.


Alan Tomlinson

Aug.08.2013 @ 2:15 PM
>No doubt, nearly every first time homeowner's reality check.

Yes, indeed. It's often "Well surely they wouldn't have...oh shit."

The people that owned my house over did everything in a half assed manner because they didn't know what they were doing. Simple shelves were put up with multiple giant 4 inch screws that were nearly impossible to get out. Those shelves weren't going anywhere, their tshirts were perfectly safe.

Keep reminding yourself; the bones are what matters. All the surface shit can be replaced. That's why it's cheap. I'm trying to buy a home in AZ right now and I was looking for fucked up surface shit. I don't want to tear up perfectly good stuff and replace it with what I want. It's a waste and I don't want to pay for it. And I'm lazy and would never do it if it was passable.

Aug.08.2013 @ 5:25 PM
Chris Randall
@bongo_x: Exactly the same thing here. The first house we bid on was that, basically. It was fine. Nothing offensive about it at all. And we were talking like "someday, we could think about this or that.."

(Ironically, the owner turned down our bid, which was a bit above fair for the house. Then once he started seeing the other bids come in, he called our agent back and asked if we were still interested. We were a week away from closing on our current house when this happened.)

The second house we bid on was too far in the other direction. Really cool curb appeal. (It was that mid-century-modern "Tunisian" style you see around here occasionally, with a courtyard and what-not.) However, inside it had 1800 square feet of Saltillo tile, the most hideous floor covering ever devised by man, and fucking impossible to remove. We were willing to deal with it, although in retrospect I know better now. So we lowballed the price, bidding what the house was worth. Their agent actually laughed at our agent when he got the bid. That house had been on the market for 135 days at the time. It's at 170 now.

The third one was just right. We bid just shy of their asking price, which was fair. Just enough to pay for what we wanted to do. They saw the logic of that and accepted our bid. It was ugly inside, but all the stuff that was ugly was stuff we'd want to change anyhow. Not too much work. (Although, as I said, in retrospect I might now consider a lot of ugly tile a deal-breaker.)


Aug.09.2013 @ 6:10 AM
Funny, I've always loved Saltillo tile.

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