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Township Roads - New tarpaper on the shack

Fri, Nov 15th, 2002
Posted in Columnists

We just completed another home improvement project. This is not the story of one of my usual do-it-yourself debacles. This time, we hired a local carpenter, a sheetrock taper, and a seamless gutter installer to do it right with a minimum of story-generating missteps. It seems to be working out. Despite my procrastination on starting the project, it is done before the major cold and snow comes. All the parts fit the way they were supposed to. It cost about what I thought it would. It couldnt be better.

I reserved two parts of the general contracting for myself. Our son, Matt, is a highly experienced landscaper and he needed something to do for his school senior project. I suggested that he could help himself and us by building retaining walls on each end of our house. He enthusiastically did almost all the planning for the project. I got involved when it came time to estimate the number of concrete landscaping blocks required to do the job. My involvement was critical in this as I was the one who had to pay for the blocks and cart them home.

After careful measurement, we decided that two hundred blocks ought to do it. My pickup could just barely haul one hundred of the twenty-four pound blocks at a time. That isnt too bad for a half-ton pickup, but it made for several slow trips home. Our estimate on the number of blocks required came up just a bit short. It took five hundred fifty five blocks to complete the wall. Matt wanted me to return three blocks to the store. He thought we could do without those last three, but I made him use them. It isnt vitally important, but now I can tell people that there are as many blocks in our retaining walls as the Washington Monument is feet tall. So, if our retaining wall blocks were all stacked end-to-end vertically, the stack would be just five inches shorter than the Washington Monument. Of course, stacking blocks end-to-end vertically is quite impossible. That missing five inches bothers me a little, but there is no sense getting compulsive about such minor things.

The other part of our home improvement project that I reserved for our sons and me was taking the old cedar siding off the house. Mike, our carpenter, replaced the cedar with some of the new tarpaper, often referred to as vinyl siding. It is all made of petroleum so there isnt all that much difference, although the old style tarpaper didnt come in colors. We chose the same color vinyl siding that most of the rest of the free world has on their houses. It was a daring decorative move to install blue shutters, but it seemed like a good idea to me because then we didnt have to repaint our front door. That is called a decorating decision based on laziness.

In the process of this home improvement process, it came to my attention how much extraneous stuff we have been collecting around here. In the past, I would have tried to save a lot of the scraps from a project like this to use for some unknown future project. This time I decided to throw it out. It has finally come to my full awareness that all these pieces and parts that I saved over the years will be rotten, rusted, or lost by the time I think I might need them.

A single event made me decide that a limited-storage policy was needed. The completion of our siding project coincided with Matts eighteenth birthday so we had a party for him. When I went to our storeroom to get some plastic forks, I found an entire ice cream bucket filled with plastic spoons and plastic knives. There was not a fork in the bunch. Why did we store all those plastic spoons and knives? Were we expecting a worldwide table utensil shortage? If so, we had a good start on cornering the market. I decided to chance missing out on this tremendous boon to our personal economy. I made a special trip in my bare feet across our gravel driveway to throw the excess plastic ware in the dumpster. I was irked that we save far too much useless stuff.

On the other hand, during my cleanup efforts, I found an old padlock without a key lying on my tool bench. I threw it in the old nail bucket and patted myself on the back for tossing out something that might be useful, but in its current state was useless. The next day as I dug in my dresser drawer I found a key ring full of old keys. Wouldnt you know it? One of them fit the padlock in the nail bucket. Now I have an old padlock with a key that is perfectly good and I will save them both for sometime in the future when I will really need them. If I can find them. If they arent rusty.

There you have it. Always throw everything away except for the things that you might need some day. Another lesson gained from new tarpaper on the old shack.

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