31 May 2009

This Old Motherfucking House: Episode VIII

Episode VIII: Shiver Me Timbers

Thanks to those who thought to call the authorities. I am not rotting among the worms and beetles in the crawl space. It's been sunny here.

My time in the sun, while incrementally addressing my Vitamin D deficiency, ultimately pulled me into yet another episode of housing woes.

There's a planter box in my front yard, about 8'x8', framed by landscaping timbers. The timbers go on to form a retaining wall that runs the length of my driveway. The previous owner -- you all remember him -- the guy who made $100,000 profit from a scant two years of home ownership? The guy who sold me This Old Motherfucking House about a week before the housing slump was announced? Yeah, well, he let grass completely overtake the planter box. Since moving in, I've been showcasing an 8'x8' square of monster grass. Oh, and a Japanese Maple tree. It's in the box, too. I wonder if my neighbors were ever able to reconcile their envy?

Male Offspring, adjusting his iPod about halfway through the de-grassing.

Male Offspring dug out all the grass for me, on account of my lameass frozen shoulder that can't operate a simple manual shovel. Grass roots run deep, people. Deep. Good thing the boy's got first class tickets to the gun show. We found Hens & Chicks (the plants, not the animals) buried in the grass. I rescued them, and replanted them. Took forever. Anyway, my yard was finally going to look nice! I bought plants. Perennials. Forget that annual shit. Go with the ones that come back every year. I also got mulch and peat moss and gardening gloves. Cute ones. The plants are still babies, but by midsummer that box will be bursting with bloomage.

Yeah baby, time for a little respect from the neighbors. That's right.

Right: rescued, replanted Hens & Chicks, plus other formerly buried plants.
Left: monster grass.

Anyway, everything was going fine, until I noticed the retaining wall was falling out toward the driveway at the point where it's supposed to connect to the planter box. Shit. Also the timbers at the front of the planter box were looking dicey. We took out a few pieces to assess the extent of damage, and found some serious rot going on.

Holy hell. I just wanted to plant some friggin' plants and lay some mulch. But that's not how This Old Motherfucking House rolls.

So I spent about $60 on galvanized steel brackets, a drill bit as long as my forearm, and some bigass galvanized screws. The plan was to remove enough dirt that we could pull the retaining wall back in place, reattach everything with the brackets, and call it a day.

Long story short, it didn't work. Apparently, a wood retaining wall is supposed to have vertical support posts sunk in concrete OR these things called "tie backs" -- pieces of wood attached to the wall's backside, buried in the ground, anchoring the wall in place. My retaining wall, of course, had neither.

Who chooses wood in this never-ending rainhole anyway? CheapAss former owners who make a quick profit and leave you with a fucked up house, that's who.

De-grassed dirt and rotting timbers exposed. See the wall falling out toward the driveway?

So we're going with the interlocking concrete block option. The DIY ones that don't need mortar. Yep. Time all is said and done, probably about another $500 dropped on This Old Motherfucking House. At least they won't rot before I sell this joint.

This shit was not even on my summer project list! Here's what was on my summer project list:

1. Re-tile moldyass shower tiles (this is going to be a bitch of a job).
2. Replace 80s wood vanity, fixtures, and cracked bathroom sink.
3. Replace linoleum floor with tile, and paint bathroom walls.
4. Install window blinds.
5. Replace rotting front deck.

Yes, CheapAss Former Owner used 1/2" thick untreated boards to build the front porch. In the Pacific Northwest. Bastard. New lumber and a nail gun or drill that can handle wood screws is going to be several hundred right there. I did not need another outdoor project, people!

Other possible items for the summer project list included:

6. Refinish wood floors formerly covered by urine-spotted burgundy carpet (another bitch of a job)
7. Replace fucked up, mismatched tiles of fireplace hearth.
8. Paint over uglyass dining room paneling
9. Paint TeenDemon's pink and orange walls. This requires some kind textured paint skills, since her walls were spackled by a blindfolded drunk at some point in TOMFH's history.
10. Install closet organization systems.
11. Replace 1980s ceiling fan in dining room.

None of this even touches my 1950s kitchen with its ancient wood cabinets shellacked in Paint Coats of Many Colors, and its olive green and brown laminate counter.

Seriously, I did not need this retaining wall bullshit. And it's got to be scheduled when Male Offspring is home, but he's working overtime on homework and finals so he can leave school early to go visit his dad in friggin' Oman until sometime in July.

Really, Son? You chose world travel, diving certification, and adventure over building a retaining wall?

For now, the front of my de-grassed, soon-to-be-beautiful planter box is not filled with gorgeous trailing plants. Rather, it is being shored up with big bags of mulch, so as to keep the remaining dirt and new baby plants from being washed into the street. Hello, Tackmeister? Nice yard.

I guess I'll have to wait a while for that respect from the neighbors. At least my new roof looks good.


  1. I think you should look into dating a handyman. or handy chick..a co-dependent handyperson would be best..always wanting to help, and take care. Yep that is what you need. They will do your to-do list and ask for more. COme to think of it I need to date a co-dependent handychick.

  2. Holy Shit, what else can go wrong, can you think of to do, blah, blah. Did you buy this MFH before there were disclosure laws? I would thing that some of this crap would have had to be told to you. We sold our house in '98, the basement that wasn't legal anyway, leaked when it rained. We fixed it with perforated pipe and gravel and disclosed it anyway. You did buy from an asshole. I have a single, rich brother-in-law but he is also a religious weirdo. I can call him if you want.

  3. Have been down this road...its hell...one day it will be all done, in a few years and you can enjoy...or enjoy it now but try to tune out what needs to be done till you can actually do it okay.

  4. Remind me to email you some pictures of the gaping hole in front of my house that caused a flood. I feel your pain, I really really do!

  5. Could be worse, you could be back in Ohio enjoying the yard scenery of used couches and car seats on the front lawns occupied by old men, drinking beer, wearing their stained wife-beater t-shirts and Bermuda shorts, with their testicles hangin' down and out one shorts leg, yellin' at the neighborhood kids riding past on their bikes. I'm just sayin....

  6. All: Handyman/chick welcome. Ghosts and religious weirdo rich brother-in-laws ... um, no.

    RG, only a fellow Ohioan would conjure up so perceptive a vision...


I've got a fever ...