If you aren’t currently the owner of a 100-year-old wood frame house, then those words don’t strike fear in your heart the way they now strike fear into ours.
We used to think dry rot was some flaky crap you scraped off the siding on your house before you repainted. We now know that dry rot is a MONSTER THAT CHEWS THROUGH YOUR DREAMS AND DEVOURS YOUR SOUL AND THEN DEPOSITS IT IN THE BACKED-UP STINKING TOILET OF HELL. Kinda like that one toilet in Trainspotting…
Ha ha. I’m just kidding. It’s not that bad.
WAIT. I’M BEING TOTALLY SERIOUS.
We bought our house knowing it had some dry rot issues. Visible dry rot issues. We made some big decisions right away to deal with the dry rot: replacing windows and doors, and we made the very big decision to rip the deck off and just throw it away (along with some siding around it). Start over.
And I knew when we did those things, that we might find some surprises. On a separate note, the MOST IMPORTANT thing on my list of immediate improvements was a complete seismic retrofit for the house (remember this?). And I knew that, too, was probably going to reveal some more dry rot. But hey — we had to start somewhere.
But oh, we had no idea how far down the toilet of hell the house intended to take us.
As soon as our building permits came through, the contractors ripped the deck off the house and tore it down. And when I say “ripped,” I mean it. Like, they pretty much RIPPED it off with their BARE HANDS.
Not a good sign.
The structural engineer who designed our seismic retrofit called for the back wall of the house to be opened and sheared, so before new deck construction could begin, that logically had to take place. So with the deck down, Randy, Travis (his son), and the rest of the guys stripped the siding off the wall (some of which showed signs of rot anyway and went straight to the trash) and discovered this:
You know what that is?
That is a COMPLETELY ROTTEN WOOD FRAME WALL with some ANCIENT, WATERLOGGED JANKY-ASS INSULATION not doing it’s job in between.
That wood is so rotten, you can literally push your finger into it in places. And look real carefully at the upper left corner of the photo…
THAT WALL IS HOLDING UP THE UPPER LEVEL OF OUR HOUSE.
AM I USING ENOUGH CAPITAL LETTERS YET?!?!?! THIS IS WHAT IT SOUNDED LIKE IN MY BRAIN FOR 48 HOURS!!!
I mean, I could go on and on… On top of it all, the deck was attached to that wall… The deck wasn’t footed properly in native soil, either… The whole thing was rotting and pulling and sliding and JESUS. People lived in this house for years, oblivious.
Most importantly, this all happened because some idiot — probably some idiot homeowner — had built the deck wrong in the first place. If you’re thinking of ever building a deck, learn this right now: you CANNOT just attach wood to wood. You MUST put a FLASHING between your deck’s ledger board and your house to keep water from running in that crack and basically SOAKING THE F#@% out of the side of the house. Water is the enemy of wood and if you fail to do this, you will be the enemy of me. I am now standing up for poorly-constructed decks everywhere, dammit.
So, I’ll put away the all-caps now. Many people questioned my decision (which quickly became OUR decision, because Trent is a SuperHusband and we stand-side-by side for all the big stuff) to play it conservative and spend so much money up front on big structural things instead of new furniture and appliances and the fun stuff. But am I glad we did all this now?
I am ALSO glad I hired the contractors I did. Because instead of holding me over the barrel, they’ve been tremendous in getting this mess fixed and keeping the project moving forward on schedule and on budget. I would be in that toilet up there with Ewan McGregor right now if it weren’t for them (and I love Ewan, but I’d prefer to be on a beach with him in Southeast Asia, or in a good pub in Edinborough getting sloshed — let’s be honest).
In fact, as of today, the wall is completely rebuilt, closed up, and pretty much ready for inspection. Once the inspector comes, we can put the new siding on and get on to building the new (well-flashed) deck.
Exciting progress pics taken by Travis…
Oh, and that bigger hole around the French doors reflects where our new, NOT ROTTEN bedroom doorwall will go eventually. 🙂
So, the moral of this story is…
All the decorating can wait. Start with the foundation and work your way up, even if it feels boring and expensive. IT’S WORTH IT.
And if you need a new deck, in my opinion (and I’m not just saying this because I come from a long line of contractors, although please — fill my friends’ and family’s coffers) it’s really best to hire a professional. Screwing up a deck is a bad, bad, bad, thing to do. In fact, I’ve got some really good contractors for you — in both Michigan AND California now. Let me know when you’re ready and I’ll hook you up so we don’t end up enemies.
Wanna see the whole 3675 progress story in pics so far? Check the Flick: here.