Wood & Bones: Chronicle of a Cottage, Part 7

May 21, 2010

Editor’s note: Here’s part 7 of Bill Smith’s blog chronicle about the restoration of a run-down cottage in Pasadena’s Historic Highlands neighborhood. Bill and his wife, Sheryl Scott, are both graphic designers and do-it-yourselfers who have expectedly found themselves headed for a year of home-improvement adventures. Look for a new post in the saga soon.

Poop in a Can

Mold, mold everywhere...

We began skinning the interior of the house today. I enjoy this part. It’s fast work if you don’t mind a little dust — and, in our case, quite a bit of mold. Mold can be beautiful to look at. Contrary to what some dishonest mold remediation specialists will lead you to believe, it’s relatively harmless — unless, like my wife, you are allergic to it. While no one wants it in their house, it’s often only skin deep and can be killed easily. The real problem is stopping the source of moisture that inevitably caused the mold. If you don’t patch the leaks, stop the condensation or stop peeing on your walls, you will end up with a situation like we have in our little cottage. In that case, there is very little choice other than tearing out the interior walls. Luckily, this house didn’t have a mote of insulation, so mostly we were dealing with soft, wet sheetrock… gypsum, damp and cleaved… (That was terrible. I apologize — even to Cher fans, who generally deserve no apologies.)

Dave setting to work

My friend and occasional collaborator Dave Shulman dropped by for the day to help me harvest penicillin. I don’t think he’d ever demolished a house before and seemed, at times, to be genuinely enjoying himself. With every wall we broke into Dave would say, “Wonder if we’ll find a box of money?” We’d chuckle, or not, through our dust masks. Dave is an extraordinary writer and editor, but the reason he’s got the time to help me today is that the economy sucks and journalism is in a terrible state due in small part to bloggers willing to write for free… [uncomfortable silence]. Anyway, finding a box of money would not be the worst thing. But with every sheet of mildewed drywall would come the muffled report: “No box of money…” Till finally I said, “Could be worse. You could’ve found a can of shit.” My glass-half-full comment prompted Dave to ask, “Is that based on an actual event?” “Well… yeah.”

The first house I remember my dad demolishing was a two-story in the countryside of Jefferson County, Pennsylvania. He was interested in the eight acres beneath the structure. What sat on the land was a filthy obstacle. Weeks passed as my young eyes watched him disassemble the splintery behemoth plank by plank. The house was left as-is (as-was?) by the two old bachelors who had inhabited it. Over the years, as the paint and shingles fell, their rooms filled. They left it all: bottles, books, furniture and, yes, cans of shit. Human. I’ll leave you to imagine why two grown men would save their waste in a can, let alone leave it behind with the house they sold. But I still remember my mother’s look of disgust and bewilderment as she explained what they had found — no box of money.

To read more about Bill & Sheryl’s renovation adventures, and to see more photos, go to Bill’s Wood & Bones blog, or stay tuned here for a new installment soon.

Mold like snow crystals, growing on the ceiling

The north side of the house, skimmed to the studs



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