Thursday, December 7, 2006

Demolition, dust and decisions

I pride myself on being extremely organized. I began this project with research, an extensive library of books, magazine articles and a tabbed filing system of all my ideas. So when demolition day rolled around, I felt like I was ready for anything.

Well, I'm proof that, in spite of extensive preparation, you can't possibly anticipate everything that you uncover when you start removing walls and molding. While I figured there would be some dry rot, I never thought I'd have termites in an interior hall closet. It probably means that we have termites in the foundation. And how do you deal with that in a green and natural way? It doesn't mean that you tent the house and fumigate it with chemicals as is so often done. My contractor suggests that we bring in a natural termite expert who can guide us on how to lure away the termites from chomping on my delicious birch framing wood to something else-- equally compelling we hope. A sort of "pied piper of termites" approach.

My reading on the subject:

A bit about my contractor. He's actually my partner in this expedition. I've described Cemil ( to friends as a cross between yoga teacher and contractor. He's the perfect blend of expertise, green knowledge, practical thinker and artisan. Cemil is really the Renaissance green builder. We share ideas, we muse over what could be, and together we find innovative solutions. In short, we are completely in sync. I'm so lucky to have him for my first foray into this new green world of renovation because it means that I'll learn and contribute in ways that few would have the time or patience to allow.

Back to my house carcass. That's what I have now. No plumbing, no cabinets, no fixtures, and gaping holes where closets and the utility room used to be.

What has become certain is that the washer and dryer get relegated to the garage and become stackables: saves space and energy. I'm a family of 2, with "several" cats and don't have massive loads of wash going every hour. I had a tankless water heater ( installed earlier this year because my large tank water heater was always running out of water when we had more than 2 people shower. I love this new water heater and am now glad for the space that it saves. I also got a rebate. And it means that my washer/dryer area can be expanded in the garage to the space that the former water heater took up.

I am excited. By reorienting that room, I can now have a butler's pantry of sort and include a small wine refrigerator and an extra sink....... and have enough room for all my baking utensils. I've learned that to be green also means to live comfortably in small spaces. While I'm not suggesting we live according to the U.N.'s recommendation of "usable space per person" calculation, I am acutely conscious of how Americans have come to think bigger is better. Well, unless you live in Texas, there's no reason for enormous mansions that take up land, consume energy and are a testament to waste rather than taste. Cemil and I both take extra delight in discovering a use (and it doesn't always have to be completely practical) for every bit of space.

I am thrilled with the emergence of these new decisions. And while it means that I have to add a few new tabs to the "notebook," it also means that this truly is an adventure. So surprises are to be embraced, not feared.

End note: While removing one of the window sills in the bedroom, we found a 1993 penny, the year the house was built. I plan to add a 2007 penny to it and return them to their resting place. I wonder what materials and technology the 2020 remodel will entail? I hope they realize that that was the year that the climate catastrophe was reversed and this generation made sure that the next one would inherit a sustainable and healthy environment.

1 comment:

mashenka@dc said...

Hi Celia,

I happened on your blog when I was researching tankless water heaters, and am following your link to NORITZ. Any tips on what you did that makes having a tankless water heater work that you could offer? Our plumber is *not* happy with the fact that we're planning on a tankless water heater and is being less than helpful about the whole set up ...