Archive for the 'architecture' Category

Up on the (porch) roof

March 30, 2012

This next installment of my adventures in having work done on my porch railings comes under the rubric of “Why having anything done on an old house becomes an exercise in dealing with idiosyncratic elements.”  Here we have inconsistent railing lengths and posts out of plumb.  So, we are still working on spacing of balusters to minimize the eye’s attention to such infelicities.

It occurred to me as I was taking a walk before the latest round of consultation with the carpenters, “Okay, Diana, you want to say, to the carpenters,  ‘It’s your job, I just notice the spacing looks wrong and there’s this trapezoidal gap where it should be a parallelogram, I shouldn’t have to do anything more than call this stuff to your attention from the sidewalk.’  But what you probably need to do is get over ‘the way it’s ‘sposed to be’ and get out there on the [flat] roof with a tape measure so you have some hard numbers to show them and some objective evidence of what you’re alleging.”

So, out the turret window and onto the porch I went with my tape measure and gathered my numbers.  Then the project manager and company owner showed up (without a ladder) and we all went out the window and had a measuring party.  Actually, it was quite civil, and everybody was able to agree that the right panel of balusters is spaced, shall we say, inconsistently.  And the owner and I were able to agree on the technique for finessing the post angle issue affecting a side panel of balusters that my computer guy (a civil engineer by original training, I think) had earlier suggested to me.  So, Monday we’re set to go on this.

What I found interesting was that pushing myself out of my unconstructive posture and getting out there and taking measurements really seemed to help.  Having a suggestion to offer on the angle issue also really helped.  Having the company owner come out and then acknowledge the angle problem and that there’s a way to improve it all helped, too.

The owner was wearing a silver earring in one ear, and he cut his long ponytail off not long ago.  Which may sound irrelevant to anything, but I know stories from the past about a guy with a ponytail and silver hoop earring, so it was for me kind of like having a recurrent character from nighttime dreams show up in my daytime life.  His acknowledgement that the job wasn’t yet done and that it could be improved — it was as if what used to be a large karmic impediment had dissolved with that shift, from his recognition of what I was claiming.  I’m sure the original scenario had nothing to do with carpentry or architectural design (I’m pretty sure it was a serious and traumatic experience for me), but I’ve thought before that these stories resolve on the smaller iterations of the patterns, like waves diminishing when they reach the shore — the almost trivial nature of the context is almost a sign that we’re ready to learn whatever it was we needed to learn.  And then it’s over.  Here, at least part of what I needed to learn was what was embodied in my getting out on that roof with my tape measure.


Porch railings

March 26, 2012

So they put up a section of railing on Friday, on the second floor of the porch, and it didn’t look right to me. (They also replaced the rotting columns, so at least we’ve got the structural part done.)

The balusters seem too widely spaced.  The on-site carpenter seemed annoyed that I was unsatisfied with it, tried to talk me out of it, we agreed to throw some paint on a few balusters to see if it was the white primer that made the railing look too light and airy to me.  It wasn’t.

I could see multiple contributing factors to the situation.  I hadn’t realized that the carpenters (including the project manager) and I weren’t on the same page.  I had assumed that plain balusters get placed closer together because that’s what I often see around the neighborhood.  The carpenter fabricated all the sections at the shop before bringing any of them to my house to install; there was no, “How does this look to you?”, for example, either on site or at the shop, after constructing one section.

The good news is that the project manager and I spoke this morning, and we seem to understand the situation similarly, and it sounds as if we’ll work something out, including in terms of the costs.  (I’m also hoping it will only be the second-floor railings that will need to be reconfigured.)  I’ve worked with Jim before, and we’ve gotten through other glitches.

For me it’s also interesting to find myself getting adamant about how I envision this porch and its railings, because for years it’s been lodged somewhere in my mind how I never really understood why Willy felt so strongly about how the porch should look — it’s like some unresolved lack understanding on my part, and now I get to experience my own version of what he apparently felt and maybe come to understand it better.

I have wondered whether that sort of phenomenon explains why I have had so much trouble getting help, including for my children, after Willy died.  My sister has always wanted me to take care of her, and I learned eventually that I can’t.  After Willy died, she said to me that now I’d have more time to take care of her (I think that came after her remark that I must regret having married).  When I’ve had, over the past eight years, extreme versions of people promising help and then canceling, or even adding to the difficulties of the situation, I’ve thought that maybe that’s how she feels, given the way she is calibrated about her relationships with other people — I don’t think the situations have to match in terms of objective facts but rather in terms of emotional reaction, so her situations don’t have to be so extreme on their objective surface for her to perceive them as she has.  I can find greater compassion for my sister from looking at things this way, and I can find greater detachment from my own situations.

Anyway, I’m glad that at least so far, the porch railings are just about the wood, not railings about the porch verbally.

Memorial to a porch

March 15, 2012

Two of the porch columns are rotted at their bases, and some of the balusters have rotted through, as well as some of the rails, so it seems to be time to do some work on the front porch.

This picture is about ten years old; I’m not sure what holiday the flag in commemorating, since the date on the back of the photo is April 1, 2002 and I’m pretty sure from the roses that are in the picture and the finials on the second floor of the porch that are not there that the picture must’ve been taken in the fall of 2001, maybe Veteran’s Day:

I put it up here to commemorate the turned balusters, because I think I’ve decided that their replacements will be plain.  The contractor who pulled the white aluminum siding

off the house (and found more windows underneath, like those two small ones on the turret) wanted to go with plainer ones back when we did the work back in around 2000, but for some reason Willy had a thing about the porch and wanted turned balusters and something like the original finials, which he figured out from discoloration on one of the walls:

He traced the discoloration and found a carpenter to reproduce finials something like it.

But the budget has changed, and I’m not convinced the house needs turned balusters — it’s not a delicate house, it’s kind of squat (which I actually find kind of attractive — kind of solid and stable in a comforting way).  I feel kind of sorry about doing it, though, so I figured I’d pay tribute to the turned balusters by posting these pictures, in memoriam, or something, before I commit to the project tomorrow afternoon.