Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Price of Being Distracted--

Well, we're moments from wrapping up the Inverness renovation (expect an open house invitation shortly!). It's taken lots of money and time; our focus has not been on the house here in Piedmont.

So while sitting down to Easter dinner in the dining room, I noticed that a corner of the beautiful barreled ceiling has sprouted a coat of peeling paint. Should I mention that it's just under the boys' shower, and that all of a sudden we have three boys actually TAKING showers each day? Uggh.

First, I ignored it for two months while overwhelmed with work and Inverness issues. Bad move. The paint peels started falling gently to the dining room floor (which I could ignore) and then the plaster wall of the adjacent staircase started to slightly delaminate (which I couldn't ignore). Finally I yesterday called East Bay Structural for a limited pest inspection ($125).

They gave me some level of comfort--no big deal, the shower tile and ''pan'' haven't failed, but nevertheless there's some source of water leakage under there that needs to get sussed out and fixed. Just a matter of ripping out some drywall in the staircase, completing the fix, and putting it back together again. The inspector made it sound so simple. But I can feel the slippery slope under my feet.

How 'bout that 25-year old carpet on the staircase that we thought we'd keep until the boys got older? And the wall paint with a thousand nicks from illicit climbing? And what about the boys' bath, renovated 25 years ago and sized for 6-year olds? And by the way, what's with the softness underfoot in our own bath from the '40s?

So here's a list of things to monitor to keep the dry rot at bay:

1. Check for water stains around tubs and toilets, and promptly fix any leaks in roof, faucets, and pipes.

2. Clean your gutters and downspouts. Be sure rainwater runs away from your walls and foundation.

3. Rake accumulated dirt and debris away from foundations.

4. Don't store lumber or firewood against your house, underneath it, or on a deck or porch. If you must store any wood under the house, put it on concrete piers or suspend it from joists.

5. Watch out for subterranean termite tubes and dry-wood termite pellets (they look like sesame seeds).

6. When building a wooden deck, leave about a 1/4-inch space between the deck boards, to ensure proper ventilation and avoid rot. Clean out any debris that accumulates between the boards.

7. In stucco houses, especially those with flat roofs, watch for leaks at corners and under parapet roofs, which can cause a lot of undetected damage.

8. Seal any cracks in the concrete on stairs leading to a front porch. If the wood framing supporting the stairs rots, replacement may be expensive. (I guess here in town, just make sure there's no ordnance stored under the stairs!)

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