I spent most of this Saturday working with a new friend, together sanding his hardwood floor. It went very well. When we were done, he brought the sanding equipment to my house. I just spent the last five hours prepping the white oak hardwood floor in my sunroom, and the bathroom, to sand tomorrow. A week ago I pulled the (plain ugly) tan carpet off the sunroom floor to reveal the hardwoods; tonight, I pulled the (plain ugly) tan tile, from the front entry (part of the sunroom) and the bathroom floor.
Not long after I moved into this house I re-finished the maple hardwoods in the bedroom, living room and the dining room. That is, after removing the tan carpet, the carpet pad, the tan laminate, and the ancient carpet under that (asbestos embedded linoleum tile as the third layer in the dining room, which once had been the kitchen.) Prior to me buying it, this house was a flip house, common in the housing boom, the owners buying the house, adding a few thousand dollars in adjustments and then asking a few ten-thousand above the purchase price. I knew that, when buying it, and talked them down, though not nearly enough. The owners before that just piled flooring on top of flooring, presumably because it was too much effort to remove the old layer and dispose of it. Why anyone would cover hardwoods with synthetic crap in the first place, is intimately related to the toxic nature of everything, everywhere today. Last I heard, we are manufacturing 80,000 chemicals in America, of which our precious protectors in Government regulate about nine.
In the bathroom and the front entry, they tiled directly on top of the hardwoods. Five years later, most of the tiles were popping up. No professional did that. They likely hired a professional to carpet the hardwoods in the sun room. A professional? I spent not less than three hours pulling staples out of the white oak. Every time I thought I was done, I found twenty-eight more. I think I'm done now, but there are probably twenty-eight more. 'Get a real skill,' I kept thinking, about the idiot who put those staples in. 'I'm just doing my job, paying for my kid,' I heard in my head. 'That's admirable', I replied, 'Now go get a real skill.' There is nothing about a house I can't build or remodel, but I won't lay carpet, unless it's a responsible carpet tile from a company that is conscious about it's true impact in this world (I don't know what's going on with Interface Global at this point, but they were once a rare as rare can be model of corporate responsibility). There is hardly a more toxic example of environmental indifference, than the making of hum-drum, take-it-for-granted carpet.
I can sand my hardwoods without asking permission from my government, but I can't gut the bathroom. Too bad, it's already in process. The sink, toilet and floor tile are gone. I'm going to remove the ridiculous jacuzzi tub the flippers put in, the only virtue of which is, it's deep. I don't know what I'm going to do with it, maybe bury it under a downspout and make a raingarden. The pump however might prove useful, when I start experimenting with in-floor, solar radiant heating. As for what I'll do without a toilet or a functioning shower? I lived off-the-grid in this house all last summer. I'll figure it out.
I didn't ask permission from my city government to gut my bathroom, because I only have the sanding equipment until Sunday evening, and I needed to get under the toilet and vanity to get to all the tile. It turns out, however, I can't sand the floor in the bathroom, because the maple is missing around the toilet. The reader might be thinking, why would he want to have hardwoods in the bathroom, anyway? Well, let me tell you, hardwoods with about six or eight coats of polyurethane is infinitely better than tile on top of hardwoods, which is a recipe for mold. I didn't ask permission for what I've done, also because I can't afford permits; and I know what I'm doing, and I don't need a bureaucrat to hassle me about everything I do, every step of the way. Whatever I do, it will be infinitely more appropriate than anything the flippers did, and quite a bit more than I would be required to do under code. Which relates to the inherent flaw in the inspections process.
I am a man of integrity. I am not going to do anything to this house, or any other house, that would compromise the integrity of it. Why then do we suppose that inspectors, with likely little common sense or actual building experience, and hardly a shred of discretion, to be flexible depending on the particular circumstance, are necessary to protect whom? There wasn't any inspector overseeing what went on in the flipping of this house, because the people who did this work lacked integrity and weren't about to involve anyone in the process but the people they bought the material from. The only time inspectors are involved, you can be sure the homeowner or the contractor has integrity, or, if they don't, they are simply afraid of the government. Most contractors these days know what is up to code and what is not. Most contractors are going to meet code or exceed it, whether the project is inspected or not. Codes are a minimum standard designed by inspectors to protect the job security of inspectors. Codes provide tyrannical like powers to supposed public servants, while preventing real innovation, and requiring a far greater expense in material and labor, often with less actual building integrity as the end result. You don't see many old houses collapsing, though built before anyone conceived of inspections. The stories of collapsing houses built after the inspections regime was established, are legion. As to the real cost, when I was contracting officially, I told my clients, if you want to involve city inspectors, expect the process to take a third as long and cost about 25% more. One hundred percent opted to skip inspections. I have never had a call back to repair anything that would have required inspections.
"Inspections are necessary to protect houses and homeowners from unscrupulous contractors," someone somewhere is thinking. Well, if a homeowner doesn't have sense enough to hire a man of integrity, then he probably shouldn't be remodeling his house. That, or he should do his homework to find a man of integrity. They exist (though it takes one to know one, and having the integrity to know integrity takes more work than just asking around). As to the moral superiority of government inspectors? That is a mythology that has been ruinous for America, which we can serve our country and community well, to divest ourselves of. I've known plenty of contractors who were not good men; plenty of others who are. There are honest inspectors, but I've met only one, of the few dozen I've had to deal with. Petty tyrants, and intransigent acolytes of the gods of calcified and inflexible understanding, mostly. That, or just plain useless. I'm recalling a job site, and a plumbing inspector we waited three weeks for, a delay which neither we nor the homeowner could afford. He showed up at ten a.m. randomly one day, so drunk we could smell him before he was halfway up the stairs he could hardly climb. Once at the top of the stairs, without being able to see anything he was there to inspect, he did a 360, said, "looks good", and stumbled back down the stairs, smiling like a sacrosanct mad man. Approved. Moving on.
It's hard to talk about these things without sounding like a Tea Party crank. The Tea Party loves to talk about integrity, personal responsibility, self-reliance, ya-da ya-da ya. In practice, however, these devotees of the free-market prefer a highly regulated world, with special concessions for the big dogs. As if corporations are the pinnacle of virtue, and not the dark-force entities they in fact are. If you can find a Tea Partier with a sense of responsibility toward the biosphere, and thus all people and all living things, I'll show you a few thousand who think natural-gas hydro-fracturing is a grand old American ideal. Rape the land as equivalent to apple pie. But I'm beginning to wander off-topic.
I haven't yet called JV, the city inspector who is targeting me about my driveway. In a way, I'm avoiding it, because really I just want to be left alone, as if that problem is simply going to go away. The more I put it off, however, the more the idea grows, that a crew of oblivious city employees are going to show up with a front-end loader and a dump truck, and cart my garden away, just doing their job on orders from above. Which is probably just me conflating this woman with the evil she represents. I'm resolved to call her Monday, and initiate who knows what.
As for gutting the bathroom, and the sanding of floors, that's me investing in this house, and this community, living in this space as opposed to simply camping in it, temporarily. Healing this house as I'm healing the land, with an eye on actually one day inviting an actual woman to share this space with me, which for me is sort of like, just about the most radical thing I can conceive of. I actually have a particular woman in mind, a true warrior woman valkyrie, though that idea, having not actually met her yet, is like almost all of my ideas, which begin as radical delusion, outside the pale of what is socially mainstream, which prove either to be delusion, or a curious bit of genius.
I hope you don't mind me interjecting a bit of the personal, but off-the-grid as I conceive it is more than just mechanical; and the only saving grace I can imagine is to cloak myself in the truth of my existence, as I live it. Which is why I so despise thinking tied irrevocably to code and regulation, which is stagnation and ego-inflation for those who otherwise fear themselves - in this universe that is vastly more mysterious than any of us can suppose.