Friday, May 12, 2006

Covering Up The Past

When I first looked at the house with the realtor 4 years ago this month the place was a dump. I mean really a dump. There was literally a big pile of garbage in the backyard and a half dozen old stoves, washers, and dryers piled up in the side yard. There were several broken windows and others had plywood nailed up on them. From the outside there were few indications that the house was at one time a grand old home.

Even though the inside was in bad shape it was easy to see the elegance that was once there. The grand staircase, the great mantles, and all the high Victorian millwork that was mostly covered in paint. From the outside though, you would never have guessed this was once a great home. There were a few indications for the trained eye to see. The 3 stained glass windows were not something that would have been put on your basic, run of the mill home, especially the big front window. Then of course the over all shape and size of the home screamed Queen Anne but you couldn’t tell anymore after they Eisenhowered the house.

The last indication could be seen on the side attic gable. If you leaned back against the fence and craned your neck back you could see that a small section of one of the asbestos shingles had broken away to reveal a few fish scale shingles. You could see one whole shingle and a few partials. The owner was walking around the exterior with myself and the realtor and when I pointed them out he said, “Hey look, it’s those curly Q shingles. I wonder what they’re doing under there?”. I kind of shrugged my shoulders and didn’t say anything. Inside I was thinking, “Holy crap! This guy has no idea what’s under the asbestos siding. Just keep your mouth shut or maybe he’ll use it as an excuse to try and raise my offer during negotiations.”

It never came up again. After the close of escrow all I could think about was what could be under the rest of that asbestos siding. I knew enough about Queen Annes and local architecture to know that if the fish scales where on the attic gables there was most likely some other type of shingle on the second story. It could be staggered squares, notched squares, diamonds, octagons, tear drops, or it could even assortment of different styles. It was eating away at me to get that hideous asbestos siding off. First, though, I had to get the apartments rented. I don’t think my mortgage company would have the same enthusiasm as me and understand if I was late on my payment because I had taken off the asbestos siding instead of renting the apartments.

The rest is history. I spent 3 or 4 months fixing up the two apartments over the garage and as soon as those where rented I started ripping off the asbestos siding. I took 5,300 pounds of asbestos siding off the house. It was a spectacle as a revealed this spectacular house to the neighborhood. Crowds gathered out front. People honk at me driving by as I was on the ladder taking them down. Most people were stunned by what was underneath. There were a few weeks when I was working on the front facade where it was hard to get work done because so many people wanted to stop and talk or ask questions.

The previous owners had painted the asbestos siding green and the trim to match. When they did that those few fish scale shingles where the asbestos shingle had broken off were painted green. The original wood shingles were brown so the house has been this weird brown color with green trim. I’m not sure if anybody notices that those few fish scale shingles are green while everything else is brown, but to me they’ve stuck out like a sore thumb for more than 3 years now. You can see them in the picture below just to the left of the window. Those are the “Curly Q” shingles that started it all.

And now I’m finally painting. I’m amazed I didn’t do it sooner but other pressing issues took center stage. The electrical and plumbing in the house was shot and that needed to be taken care of. But I’m finally painting and it really feels good. Today I painted over those few fish scale shingles that peeked out from behind the asbestos siding. I’ve covered over one more indication of this great house’s torrid past. It’s like a long term rehabilitation. It’s a long process and there are those little things that may seem like an insignificant thing to many, but in reality they are a milestone to those that go through the whole process start to finish. Now I just have to paint the rest of the house.


Anonymous said...

Greg, I just finished reading your blog from start to finish and boy is it inspiring! Your craftmanship is impeccable. I think your paint colors are's nice to see that ugly brown covered up (I wasn't a fan of the brown).

Maria said...

It's looking absolutely wonderful!! Certainly a diamond in the rough to start, but it's shining up brilliantly! Well done!! Can't wait to see more!!!

Jocelyn said...

Nice post Greg. So fortunate that the diamond was still there under the rough so to speak. If I get up your way someday I'd love to see it in person.

Suzanne said...

Congratulations, Greg. I've been folowing the house painting, but didn't want to keep gushing about what a great job you are doing. You are doing an amazing job. You wouldn't be able to pay anyone to take that kind of care and attention to detail. It's beautiful!

Now take a break, and open a bottle of champagne.

Greg said...

Hey everyone,

Thanks for the kind words. I couldn’t be happier with the colors. And of course, if anyone is planning a trip out this way let me know. I’ll give you the grand tour!

Anonymous said...

It looks great. How did you dispose of the asbestos siding? My house is covered with it.

Best Regards,

Greg said...

I was able to dispose of the siding at the local land fill. I did have to pack it in boxes and plastic but the disposal fees were the same as for normal garbage. Call first to make arraignments.