I also cry when a woman who has doused herself in perfume stands anywhere near me. Or if I accidentally touch polyester. Well, not cry exactly, but I let everyone know through my use of extreme facial expressions that I am not happy.
I have a similar reaction to one particular aspect of our new house: the vinyl siding. Vinyl was a fine substance with which to make phonograph records, but it really should not be considered a building material. I get the whole “maintenance-free” aspect of vinyl siding, and it’s good that you don’t have to paint it. If only you didn’t have to look at it. Or touch it.
It’s kind of like a transvestite: it looks pretty good from a distance, but the nearer you get, the more you realize it’s not what you thought it was. And you want to be really careful how you come into contact with it.
What I mean by that is, when I lean against it (I’m back to the siding now), I can feel the hollowness of it and the plasticness of it. It’s so unnatural. And the fact that they went through the trouble of extruding it with fake wood grain somehow makes it even worse. It’s not only offending to me; it’s offending to trees.
My wife Barbara doesn’t mind it as much, but then she’s not as sensitive as I am.
So we went to a “home show,” which is when a bunch of home improvement contractors get together in a hotel and set up booths to display the latest in home improvement innovations like paint and windows, and to give out candy to anyone who stops by. I don’t know what the deal is with the candy, but most of the booths had it. Do they think someone will choose that company to build a $40,000 deck because there’s a tasty caramel involved?
Barbara and I went from booth to booth touching siding products like they were cantaloupes, and we liked something called “Hardie Board” which are a pair of teenaged brothers who go around solving mysteries.
No, wait. Those are the Hardy Boys. Hardie Board, unlike the Hardy Boys, is made out of “fiber cement,” which, of course, is no more natural than vinyl, but it’s more solid feeling than vinyl and requires less maintenance than wood, and is more weather-resistant than encasing the house in Saran Wrap.
We also noticed, while collecting delicious hard candy, that most of the companies that do siding also do roofing. As documented in many earlier posts, our gutters don’t work very well. I’m not really sure how something that operates entirely on gravity can be broken, but there you go. Whenever it rains, water pours out of the gutter by our front door, despite my best efforts to spread various sealants on the seams. (My “best efforts” in home repair, it should be pointed out, are usually only a tad better, and frequently much worse, than doing nothing.)
After it rains, I’ll get out our new 128-way adjustable ladder and spend several exciting minutes trying to wrestle it open in any way that allows me to peer over the edge of the roof. Then I gaze into the gutter looking for an obvious cause of the leak, such as a giant hole. I’m really hoping for this, so I can dismount and impress my wife with my gutter expertise. “I have discovered the cause of the leak,” I would say with a manly voice. “There is a hole.” Then I’d call someone to fix it.
Unfortunately, there is no gaping hole in our gutter. Nor is there anything blocking the water flow, like, say, a large, dead rodent. That I could fix. My entire family, I’m proud to say, relies on me for corpse removal.
Alas, there are no bodies in our gutters either. I just can’t figure out why water is coming out. Our gutter is like a ride in one of those water parks but there’s a defect in the design so that when people go around one of the curves in the water slide they go flying up and out and land face first in the “lazy river.”
Anyway, we figured we’d get a few companies in to give us quotes on both the gutters and the siding. Barbara, meanwhile, thought we should also ask about getting some stone trim around the front door, which I think would be fine if we were The Flintstones, but…well, let’s just say I needed to be convinced.
Barbara found one company on Angie’s List, and I made the mistake of using Service Magic, which is a convenient website for locating contractors if you don’t mind having dozens of people calling you for the next few days.
We had three guys come out to the house, and they all said different things about what needed to be done. The problem is, like always, you can’t just do one thing to a house. If you replace the siding, you have to replace the window trim, and then there are a couple of windows that should be replaced. If you replace the gutters they want you to also replace the soffits, which is really upsetting to me, because I have no idea what a soffit is. I know where it is, and I could point it out to you, but I don’t know why it’s there, or what it does, or why Little Miss Muffet sat on it.
And now we have the estimates, and I can’t tell you how much I love our vinyl siding. I enjoy the way it gives when you lean against it, and the valiant attempt it makes to imitate wood, and the way it sounds like the lid of a metal garbage can whenever it rains.
I don’t know what we’ll end up doing. Now we’re getting estimates on just the gutters. Or just the windows. Or just a couple of rocks strewn about the entryway. I don’t even know if anything actually needs to be done, or if we’re just going through some perverted version of the Stockholm Syndrome.
You know what that is, right? When hostages grow attached to their kidnappers? We may be having withdrawals after going six months without having any workmen walking around playing loud music.
See you soon.