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Mike’s Meanderings

By Staff | Aug 28, 2008

If you haven’t seen my byline for the last two weeks, there’s a good reason.

I took a staycation for two weeks.

Now I know the word staycation has become the cliche of cliches, but you have to understand that I thought I was probably the last person who would put off taking a vacation this year. I had the money in the bank for the trip and everything, but when I thought of what I would have to show for the $2,000 trip out to the coast, I decided to put the money elsewhere.

Into my house.

Two years ago, I sided three sides of my house. What was remaining was the side facing the street. So for the past two years, passersby have been driving by, observing that three sides were neatly sided and painted in cement board while the front sported ghastly warped Masonite that should never have been put on a house to begin with.

I’d been justifying the two-year delay in finishing the siding since there were overhead utilities connected on the street side of the house. Since the city decided to put utilities underground this summer, the timing was right to finish the job. I also didn’t have a convenient excuse to put it off any longer.

So instead of fishing for trout or salmon on the Big Elk River a block from my property in Oregon or beachcombing at nearby Newport, I decided to finish my house.

It just so happens that Bill Hobbs, who bought the house just to the south of me for a rental, has been remodeling at the same time. He’s doing that house from top to bottom, and considering the amount of work he’s put into his house and what I put into mine the past couple weeks, undoubtedly the neighbors will feel a hefty hike in their property tax valuations come January.

Bill was kind enough to let me use some sections of scaffolding to do the job. It sure made it a lot easier, walking on a solid surface instead of hanging off a ladder and trying to reach over to drive in a nail.

If you’ve ever replaced siding or shingles yourself, you’re probably familiar with a common malady that afflicts many homeowners – yellow jackets.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve become a pretty good shot with yellow jacket/wasp/hornet spray. The trick is to be close enough to hit the nest and far enough away so when they come out mad they don’t swarm you. So I followed Mike Clarken’s advice and sprayed in the cool of the morning before they left the nest.

The tear-off phase went pretty quickly. I used a regular toothed roofing shovel which worked great on both the Masonite and underlying rolled asphalt. Then it was a matter of pulling and driving in nails.

The next part was a little tricky – putting on the vapor barrier. You certainly don’t want to do that in the wind, so the morning was the best time for that.

Then came the fun part – putting on the new siding.

I used cement board. If you’ve ever used that, you probably know that it’s a good idea to wear both goggles and a face mask so you don’t breathe in cement or get it into your eyes. That’s not fun at all. I wore out about eight drill bits when I predrilled the holes. And oh. If you’re carrying full 12-foot pieces of siding by yourself, it’s a real good idea to have a 10-foot 1X4 to grip against the siding as you carry it over to the house. Otherwise, if you’re not carrying it with the edge facing the ground, it can flop around on you and break.

I believe it was Aristotle who said geometry is the only true science. I’ve heard it said too that you can’t cheat at geometry. Well, I cheated in geometry well enough in high school to get a B. I used a protractor to measure my angles and then figure the formula from that instead of using the formula to figure the angles. Like I said, it worked well enough for me to get a B.

I did the same thing siding. You can see why I got a B in geometry when you look closely and see that my angles aren’t perfect. But most of those are hidden under the fascia board.

I found three tools invaluable – my angle finder, a level, and a steel square. I really couldn’t have done the job without them.

So as I stripped off old siding, I thought of what states I would be going through on my trip out west. As I put on the house wrap, I thought of walking along the beach. And as I put on the new siding, I thought of the trip back.

I realized too that if I had taken the vacation that I had planned that as I was driving out I would have felt guilty about not stripping off the old siding and as I was walking along the beach I would have wished I had been putting on house wrap and as I was heading back I would have wished I was putting on new siding.

I’m glad I made the decision that I did. While gas has dropped 40 cents from its summer high, it still costs too much. I’m willing to bet that everyone else who took a staycation this summer feels the same way.

I’ll feel a lot better about taking next summer’s vacation – and I will.

I’ve most definitely earned it by taking a staycation this year.