Years ago the wife and I bought a “fixer” house. At the time we had a need for a band house able to accommodate 7 people, and their respective “others” on occasion. It also had to have a basement for a rehearsal and recording studio. And we had to find it fast since the current house we were renting had been sold and we were being kindly evicted.
The place we found fit all of our needs. It was a two-story, arts and crafts Portland bungalow with a full finished basement. It was classified as a 3-bedroom, but through some crafty remodeling over the years (and a certain amount of disregard to city code) there were 6 full bedrooms, a sleeper-closet, a band practice space, and a room that could be utilized for a recording studio control room. For the post-college band types, it was a dream come true.
As the band entourage numbers dwindled over the years, and it was left to just the two of us, it came time to start thinking on the remodeling of this old place into a home, and not a crash pad. And anyone who has done a remodel of a home, the primary function is to undo the remodels of the past. The deeper we dug into the ways the house had been changed over the years, the more horrifying the story became.
We had some clues, like we all do when we move into a new place, as to how bad the taste of the previous tenants was. When we moved in, there was the traditional ’70s wood paneling everywhere. There was bamboo wallpaper, tattered in spots, and coated with 30 years of dust. The shag carpet, a rancid-guacamole color,thoroughly matted from many years of use, was half-past disgusting on so many levels. The older rooms had so many coats of paint on them that the doors and windows wouldn’t close properly. Or at all. The tackiness of what you find when you move into an old place is natural. The place is old; the times and styles have moved on.
The horror enters in when observing the functional changes made over the years. There were walls where there shouldn’t be walls. Ceilings below door levels. Windows covered by closet space. Bare, live wires sealed behind drywall. Carpeting placed on bare dirt. Carpeting and padding placed on top of carpeting and padding, placed on top of linoleum. And everywhere there are Sheetrock walls where you can count every nail and make out every seam. My theory was that the entire job was done by a friend of a friend whose brother is a contractor, over the course of a weekend, in exchange for a couple cases of beer.
My theory was validated when, while demolishing another badly-framed closet for a bedroom remodel, we came across a couple empty beer cans sealed in the wall. Two Blitz-Weinhard (a local Portland brand) cans with the old pull-tab style openers. As with anyone who remodels a house, we all hope to come across the stash of money that some nervous person stowed away during the financial crash times. Instead I find physical evidence of shoddy workmanship. I would have preferred the cash, but I suppose I could sell the cans for $10 on eBay.