I BOUGHT A TOTAL DUNGHEAP OF A HOUSE: A Yard Full Of Machines And Sweaty Shirtless Men

A cornice is another one of those things that seems FOR REAL boring. When things are boring, it’s hard to spend money on them, like laundry detergent or floss. But you have to because dirty clothes and rotten teeth.
Publish date:
June 12, 2013
home, family, DIY, decorating, grilling

Calling the floors a bust, we had one more issue to tackle before The Big Move-in.

Not that it was necessary to be fixed beforehand, but it just worked out that we’d have half a dozen extra hands around. When there are extra hands willing and ready to touch your dungheap, you don’t hesitate AT ALL - you make a plan and run with it (as quickly as possible).

You also tell them how much you love them on repeat. Because when you are doing a project like this, lots of people say they want to help, but like, you don’t blame them for not exactly meaning it. So when they actually DO mean it, well, those are the extra special special ones.

Our plan was to finally rip out and replace the cornice. You’ve seen the progression of the stupid cornice, but a quick reminder in case you’ve blocked it out:

That wily bastard really mentally messed with us. Since it was originally covered up in an aluminum façade, we had grand hopes of tearing it off and revealing a pristine, old cornice. The thought was that the original cornice probably, definitely was cool and detailed, because the house is from 1875. Someone, at some point in the last 138 years had to have hooked it up, right? And then whoever put up the plastic-looking piece was a preservation genius, and now we would reap the benefits. Because we would rip the cover off and let that wood blare once more into the sunlight.

But we know that didn’t happen. Instead, at some point, the cornice started rotting. Maybe the cover went on to hide the decaying wood. But MAYBE it caused the rotting; because it leaked and let water just sit on it. I likely will never know. I want to say I don’t care, but some dumb part of me really wants to know if someone really screwed up an otherwise perfect antique with like, 70’s style aluminum.

I should preoccupy my mind rather with who cut out all the copper piping instead, but they’re probably long gone on a yacht somewhere tropical, because do you know how expensive copper is these days? (They’re definitely not on a yacht. I’m exercising my mild flair for dramatics.)

A cornice is another one of those things (hey insulation, rotting joists, plumbing…) that seems FOR REAL boring. When things are boring, it’s hard to spend money on them, like laundry detergent or floss. But you have to because dirty clothes and rotten teeth.

Our dilapidated cornice was trapping water underneath it. This had the potential to slowly leak water underneath our new roof, which in turn would leak into our new roof joists, and eventually, our bedroom ceiling (FOR EXAMPLE). I’m fairly sure I’ve said this before, but it kind of can’t be said enough: water in a house is a nightmare. NIGHTMARE, MAN. It ruins things and makes it mushy and then mold. And then you’re really up a creek.

Another reason we decided to do this project on a whim was because the house was outfitted with scaffolding. It had been up a couple weeks waiting for stucco to happen. Which is kind of weird. But it was borrowed from a friend and I guess instead of just letting it sit in piles you might as well construct it.

Oh right, the stucco couldn’t happen until the cornice was fixed. I forgot about that detail. Scaffolding was up, just waiting for us to squirrel up and get to work.

Cornices are boring but cousins aren’t. D had family come in from THREE different states for the last minute job. It was originally only going to be Ryan, but then he surprised us by showing up with a whole extra cousin, Kyle. Then extra cousin Kyle’s dad came from another state, on a whim. And a brother and dad. And 1.5 friends. Love people, love.

It was a hot, two day affair with lots of grunting and power tools. Sexxxy. I mean, sweattty. The front yard was filed with machines and shirtless men. I feel like all the older, single/widowed women on the block (by older I mean, like, 85+; D thinks we should drink the tap water here because there must be something creepy good in it for long life), should have thanked me because YOU KNOW they were all peeping through their blinds all weekend for the show.

The cornice, though it may seem like an ornate, possibly inconsequential detail of a house, is useful because it helps divert water away from the house and also from dumping straight down on top of you the minute you walk outside in a rainstorm. So we couldn’t just cut out the old one and leave things be. It has to be replaced.

We could have tried to resurrect hope and create something really sweet, like we had hoped had been underneath all along, but we didn’t have the time or frankly, the money to dump into it. Way too many other priorities. So we went with a clean, simple design using long pieces of heavy-duty building-grade plastic (I don’t know the technical term for it. Is there one?). Plastic was bees knees because:

• won’t rot from water over time

• animals/insects can’t burrow in it

• won’t deteriorate

• doesn’t need to be prepped- sanded, painted, etc

Despite the ripping heat, the guys killed it. Not only did they give up their weekend for us, they propelled us into getting the stucco started. We had hired someone to do it and we were eager for him to get started. We’d be busy working inside doing as much as possible to make things livable, while he worked away outside.

Speaking of making things livable, as we approached move-in, we created a shopping list of new home essentials. It included things like lighter fluid, charcoal, a solar (bag) shower, and propane tanks. We found everything we needed in the camping aisle. I can’t really say how either of us felt about it. I mean, we laughed, but it was kinda unsettling. Things were about to get rough. First thing to kiss goodbye was warm showers.

We were given a small refrigerator from D’s parents and a mini-mini-mini grill from mine.

See how it’s all kinda laughable but then scary, too, because it’s real life? It didn’t matter, because we were moving home, in all its splintery, undone glory. I had no idea what to really expect, but it didn’t matter. No stopping this train now.