Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Good House Cheer

I've been sitting here reading Simcha and trying to laugh quietly so that the baby doesn't wake up, only it comes out as little snorts and guffaws and then my nose starts running. Now I feel bad that all I do around here anymore is complain, so I'm going to try to dredge up something cheerful to discuss, like our new house.

First, let's talk about asbestos! Asbestos is the stuff that gets in your lungs and kills you in a horrible gurgling way, but not before you hire a high-priced lawyer and get a settlement for mucho dinero from The Man. Less widely known is that it has fire-resistant properties, and so it used to be used in homes for insulation, I guess. At any rate, that's what it's doing in the basement of the house we want to buy: insulating the pipes. If that's all it were doing, it wouldn't be a problem. Modern practice is to just seal the stuff up and let it keep working its fire-proof magic; it's only once it gets into the air that it seeks to embed itself in your lungs, like so many small children trying to worm their way into your nice cosy bed on a cold morning. But when, for example, it's crumbling off the pipes, it has to be removed.

Good news: this only takes one day.
Middling news: the health department needs ten days' notice.
Bad news: it costs mucho dinero.

We knew all this before making our offer on the house, however, which should tell you how much we like it.

Now, let's talk about the basement. The house is 150 years old, but it was given a complete renovation about sixty years after it was built, so in the 1920s. It's got this Hollywood Tudor look going on, which makes you forget just how old the place is. When you go in the basement, you remember. It's so old it really has to be called a cellar. The massive stone foundations are a bit unsettling, but moreso is the toilet room. It has no door. What it does have is padded walls. Someone, in the distant past, thought it would be cozy to put up some kind of padded fabric, studded with upholstery tacks, in this tiny toilet cell. The toilet itself looks like it might fetch mucho dinero on eBay or Antiques Roadshow. I worry that someone might break into our house and start filming Saw XI.

Our burglarizing filmmakers would be delighted as well by the room next to the bathroom, which, though not original to the house, was added far enough in the past to give me the creeps. Like the toilet room, it has no door. What it does have is the remnants of a chain lock on the inside. Also, it has a closet-like door that opens only to the stone wall.

So that's a little weird, but okay. It does not adequately prepare you for The Boiler of Doom. I have never before seen such a massive heating element in a basement, because they can only reside in cellars. There is another boiler downstairs, added later, for which they just ran the pipes through the original behemoth, so the two are intertwined in an ungodly embrace. On our second visit to the house, I moved to open one of the hatches on the beast, then stopped. I just didn't want to see what was in there. Let it keep its secrets.

There's the egress for the laundry chute in the cellar, but the previous owners were wise enough to move the laundry room up behind the kitchen. We'll close up the drop to the cellar, even though that will leave an open disused passage in the walls in which something could nest.

Speaking of disused passages, about the time of the kitchen renovations (early 80s, if the style is any guide) someone closed up the back staircase. Upstairs, you have an odd closet with a high ceiling and a transom window, in which the floor suddenly changes texture and becomes uneven towards the back.

Downstairs, in the kitchen, is the ugliest pantry ever, with a side wall that begins at the top of a step.

Kitchen, with glimpse of ugly pantry side wall.

So, closed up, is an empty staircase. Walled up. Silent. Alone.

But we like it! Look at this awesome bathroom!

Oop, wrong bathroom. How about this one?

Pretty vintage, what? These are but two of the five bathrooms* in the house, so we should never have a line -- or any water pressure.

We have our inspection today. Light a candle in front of St. Joseph and please pray that there's nothing unlivable about the house -- other than the asbestos and the haunted laundry chute and the Empty Staircase of Madness. Home sweet home!

*The toilet cell in the basement is not included in that number. Perhaps it's not a room if it doesn't have a door?


Anonymous said...

Aw, no picture of the toilet cell?

Buying a house is so many different kinds of purgatory. It seriously is like having a baby- you just keep thinking, "I can't believe people actually DO this!"

Will say a prayer! The front door alone is incredible.

Unknown said...

Can't wait to see it. What a great place for big family gatherings.

mrsdarwin said...

Simcha, when I had my first baby, that is exactly what I thought. I don't remember the purchase of our first house being so onerous, but then it was so basic there just wasn't that much that could go wrong with it.

Meredith said...

My heart is racing a little (in a good way) just looking at these photos! Such an exciting adventure for your family.

Emily J. said...

Our last house had exposed asbestos, which the previous owners "abated" as part of our purchase agreement. From the appearance of the abatement, all you have to do to contain asbestos is wrap old garbage bags around the offending insulation and secure with duct tape. Maybe a DIY project for Darwin? (while wearing appropriate protective gear, of course)

mrsdarwin said...

I guess normally you'd just cover the asbestos up, but in this case it's actually fallen off a few of the pipes, and the recommended course of action in that case is removal. Some of the tile in the basement also has asbestos, and we're not certain if the attic floor does as well. Good times!

Bill Hoog said...

The BIG concern with asbestos is it being in small particles. pipe insulation is usually bad about this. Asbestos floor tiles are usually fin as long as you don't create asbestos dust via grinding or drilling. Our "All or nothing" litigious society has created the asbestos scare & will end up cause more harm than good about this.