Monday, November 10, 2003

Ah, homeownershiphood.

I've discovered a surefire way to make it rain. All I have to do is move.

Earlier this year we moved from a one bedroom apartment to a two bedroom apartment in the same complex. We asked two friends to help, and they generously obliged. On moving day, it rained.

This past weekend, we moved into our new house. We had scheduled a truck and one of the aforementioned friends to help us move. On the day (Saturday), it rained. A lot. We moved quickly, though, dodging raindrops, so there's no water damage to speak of.

The funny thing is that it doesn't rain very often around here.

Anyway, we're sleeping at the new house now. We're still battling to get phone service hooked up, which is worrisome since we have all sorts of deliveries and service installations coming in the next few days. Plus we need to hire an electrician to deal with crappy wiring and pest control to deal with minor dryrot and some engineers to do seismic retrofitting (all of which which we knew about when we bought). Plus we should figure out what's up with the garage door (it doesn't open consistently).

On the plus side, the baby seems to love the new house, and has had no trouble adapting. 'Course, maybe she just thinks we're on vacation and is expecting to return "home" soon. Or maybe she's too distracted by all the boxes and general disarray, and the fact that her parents are too busy to say "Emma, don't climb on the pile of CD's, DVD's, VHS tapes, and casettes! Stop throwing them on the tile floor, I don't care how cool the sound is." It's like a field day for her.

Plus the stairs. She loves the stairs. And she's surprisingly good at using them, for somebody who can't even walk consistenly yet. We still stand nearby as she goes up and down, but we pretty much never have to intervene. Survival instinct: check.


  1. Wow! Didn't realize you'd moved already. Lemme know if you need help with anything. Y'know, if that Zombie infestation turns up or anything :-)

  2. How much work do the electricians need to do? (i.e. what's wrong with yo' wires?) Also, can you explain "seismic retrofitting" for us tectonically-stable?

  3. > How much work do the electricians need to do? (i.e. what's wrong with yo' wires?)
    The main electrical problems that have to be addressed immediately are 1) many (most?) of the outlets in the house are ungrounded 3-prong outlets; and 2) many of the outlet/switch covers in the house are loose, which is bad for baby safety. I haven't had time to check the covers to see if I can tighten them myself. It's not a matter of tightening the outermost screw, but maybe I can tighten the screws behind the faceplate. I suspect, however, that the junction boxes themselves may be loose, which is more of a hassle.
    The previous owners were also incandescent-crazy, in that several rooms have way too many high-watt bulbs in the ceiling. Because of other less-than-professional wiring work around the house, our general inspector suggested that we check the gauge of the lighting wires to make sure they have the capacity for so many bulbs. And eventually we'd like to replace them with something more efficient. But in the meantime, we just won't use those lights.
    And, while I'm mentioning lighting hassles, the inspector noted that the ceiling lights in Emma's room (which poke through from the attic) have no insulation-safe casing. Though the insulation in the attic is pushed away from the lights, it's still a fire hazard. I suspect I can find and install covers myself, but it's still another hassle.
    > Also, can you explain "seismic retrofitting" for us tectonically-stable?
    Despite all our engineering and predictive research, earthquake-resistant construction is an evolving science. After each major earthquake they learn something new, and building codes change to factor in the new knowledge. Today's codes come from the early 90's (I'm pretty sure) in response to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. That was the first decent sized quake in this area since the 1906 one, and before the early 90's very little was done specifically for earthquakes.
    As it happens, the Bay Area is 1) popular; 2) full; and 3) sitting on several major faults. Because of 1 and 2, most houses were built in the early-to-mid 1900's, and so have very little in the way of earthquake provisions. This means earthquake retrofitting is, like, an industry. I don't think it's a particularly big industry (because retrofitting costs a lot of money and most people live in denial), but it's there.
    Our house was built in 1985. The good news is that it's relatively modern construction, and it has a nice foundation. A solid foundation is #1 on the list of earthquake requirements, and a lot of older houses need foundation work. The bad news is that Loma Prieta hadn't happened in 1985, so earthquakes weren't exactly on people's minds when the house was built.
    #2 on the earthquake safety list is bolting: the house's frame must be securely bolted to the foundation. Our house has some pseudo-bolting, but it's not up to modern codes. So that needs to be fixed.
    #3 on the list is shear protection: walls can't just support what's above them, they must resists side-to-side shear forces as well. This is particularly important for walls that support second-story rooms. Our house comes from an era in the 80's when houses were built as wooden stud frames with stucco on the outside, but no plywood frame walls. Thus, the shear properties of our house are not great.
    All of this sounds grim, and indeed almost made us back out of buying the house. But if you want to buy a house in this area, it's hard to do better. It's really hard to find houses built in the last decade, and when you do they're a lot more expensive than older ones. We did the math and decided that this house with some seismic improvements would still be cheaper than a very recent house.
    Yay, earthquake country!