Home Improvement Hell

Best of the season to you, my five readers! Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and I’m sure there are some other, made up holidays that I’m forgetting here.

Siding Project
Maybe I should leave it like this.

Where the hell have I been? I’ve been fixing up da turkey coop. Yeah, it’s a big time consumer, even though the major portion of the work is contracted out. There are several subjects I want to catch up with, such as the Blue-White game this weekend and the NLRB ruling with regard to unionization, but I won’t be commenting about them here. Nay, this post is strictly blowing off some steam about the home improvement project. So, read on at your own risk.

“Cardboard over Cardboard”

My house was built in 1980, and it’s a two story affair, with brick over concrete block on the first floor and wood frame with siding on the second. For years I’ve seen the Masonite siding deteriorate, getting mushy in spots. This year, I decided to bite the bullet and replace it.

It should be noted that Masonite swells and rots over time when exposed to the elements, and may prematurely deteriorate when it is used as exterior siding. In 1996, International Paper (IP) lost a class action suit brought by homeowners whose Masonite siding had deteriorated. The jury found that IP’s Masonite siding was defective.

Of course, I bought the house in 2000, and the previous owner probably pocketed the money from the class action suit. And, yes, parts of the siding had swollen and rotted, as per the court’s findings.

One contractor described Masonite as “cardboard”. He asked me if I knew what was behind the siding. I didn’t. It turned out to be Celotex, which is another fiber board product that is known to deteriorate and is no longer used for this purpose here. So, Masonite over Celotex = particle board over particle board = cardboard over cardboard.

The job here will consist of removing the Masonite siding and installing new 1/2″ plywood over the Celotex, which is very difficult to remove, as it falls apart. It will provide me with additional insulation. As the plywood is installed, it is covered with a plastic moisture barrier. Then comes the siding, which is James Hardie formed concrete stuff. Encased in concrete, I can make a bunker out of the place to forestall the forthcoming Zombie Apocalypse.

Three days into the job, the crew has removed siding and put up plywood on about 20% of the upper floor’s exterior. There were only two workers — a third guy had a death in the family, and he’ll be joining the party next week. The hammering and thumping will resume promptly at 7 am Monday.

Playing ‘Possum

On the first day of the project, the foreman apprised me of the presence of a family of opossums living in my back yard. I had never seen them there before. Perhaps they heard about the impending siding job and were looking to pick up some work.

So, yet another chore to be handled — ‘possum removal. I could remove them quite easily with any of several firearms I possess, but there are several problems with that. Like, what do I do with the carcasses. I don’t think ‘possums make for very good eating and I can’t just leave them for our numerous vultures. I don’t believe that the bears will eat cold meat, either, although there are certainly enough hungry bears around here to admit the possibility. I don’t want to expend the energy to give them a decent, Christian burial, particularly around Easter. What if they’re resurrected?

I guess I’ll have to call a wildlife removal outfit. That’s automatically $300 or so.

An Outlet for My Excess Energy

The guys plugged their compressor into one of my outdoor electrical outlets and reported that they “didn’t get no juice” from the bottom one of the duplex. That was on Day One of the project. I told them that I would replace the outlet after they left for the day, so they would have a good source of “juice” in the morning.

Now, that particular outlet had been a problem for years. It is not a GFCI itself, but it is on the end of a run with a GFCI between it and the service. The GFCI is in the downstairs bathroom. I have noted through the years that everytime it rains, that GFCI trips. I suspected that the outdoor outlet was the cause, but I never got around to checking it out — until Wednesday.

So, the guys left and I opened ‘er up. The first thing that happened was that the outlet fell apart. I noted that the rubber gasket on the supposedly weatherproof outlet cover had gotten old and was cracked. It would obviously not do a very good job of weatherproofing anything. Upon removing the remnants of the outlet, I found the interior of the switch box filled with a pile of rust. The actual galvanized box had rusted out due to all the water intrusion through the years.

And thus, it was the case that the 10 minute job I had anticipated turned into three hours, including two trips to my favorite home improvement store. I had to replace the damn box and the outlet, as well as installing a new weatherproof cover. When I volunteered to do the job, I knew I already had an outlet in my junk box, so no big deal. Yeah, right. I also had a switch box in my junk box, but it was the type that is used for old work in drywall and with the projections that were designed to secure it in place in a hole in drywall being too large to fit in the hole in exterior brick/block and with me being too lazy to chisel out more of a hole, I decided to get a new box.

So, after I installed everything properly, paying strict attention to NEC grounding requirements, I was all proud of myself. I went to get my caulking gun to lay a bead of silicone around the outside of the rubber gasket to finish the weatherproofing and found that I had no silicone caulking compound. I forgot that I gave the remaining tube of it to a guy who was working on my windows last month. Oy, vey! Another trip to my favorite home improvement store.

Oh, and my caulking gun. Cheap Chinese piece of shit that it is, it decided that it wanted to stop working properly in the middle of this job. What should have taken two or three squeezes of the trigger required a constant pumping effort. Jaysus! But in the end, I was happy because I had been meaning to get around to doing something about that outlet for maybe 10 years or so.

Yeah, I procrastinate.

I might blow off some more steam here soon. Or I might not. This home improvement stuff sure soaks up my time, and the non-stop pounding from 7 to 2 sure makes me want to be somewhere else!



  1. K. John says

    Welcome back TNT. Good luck getting the homestead in order. Doing the same myself but did attend the Blue White game yesterday. Don’t let the nay sayers say otherwise, if they can solve the situation at Guard, and I think they will, this team is cocked locked and ready to rock. Could be the best Penn State squad since 09.

    • Joe says

      You’ve got to be a Cubs fan.

      Yeah it could also very easily turn into a 2000 or 2001 season just as easily and let’s hope it doesn’t hit the nadir of 2003 and 2004. I don’t want to feel like I did after those seasons ever again.

  2. Joe says

    Well I think we’ve all been through one of those “home improvement projects from hell” so you have my sympathies. A good friend and co-worker of mine from years past would always say “This too shall pass!” when we would be working on some time constrained, big bucks capital project that had problems at every turn and you know what, he was right.

    Now if I remember correctly Granny Clampett was always cooking up some delicious Possum Stew on the Beverly Hillbillies, so don’t discount the possibility of some good vittles with the wildlife living in your yard.

    To that end, I offer this link to what appears to be a variety of delicious possum based recipes. Pay attention to whether you kill or just stun the possum before you cook it. Might be worth considering the next time you have your group over to watch a PS game.


    • says

      With all the commotion, along with a couple of ladders being stored in their living space, the possums seem to have departed.

      However, I shall keep the above link with my bookmarks just in case they return and there’s a need to make marsupial bourgignone.



Leave a Reply