Buying a House: Your Practical Introduction to Entropy
Your house would like to be a pile of sticks and other thoughts on home ownership
The point of owning a home, as far as I can tell, is to keep it from falling down. And if you’ve recently purchased a home, the first thing you need to understand is that your house desperately wants to fall down. If you could ask your house what it wants to be when it grows up, it would tell you about a broken down shack in the middle of a field that it really admires.
Nothing prepares you for the tendency of a system to fall into disorder and chaos like owning a home, especially an “older home,” a term people use to denote a certain charm, individuality, and structural instability in a house.
As you may have guessed, my girlfriend and I recently bought an older home. Fortunately, there were no “big surprises” as the inspector put it, which is good news!
There were, however, many little surprises, which someone (me) will need to fix. A decade ago, we as the buyers could have demanded that the seller fix these issues before we would deign to take this heap of lumber, shingles, and cinder blocks off their hands. This is no longer the case. In the current housing market, you must be careful not to make any sort of noise that the seller can interpret as a demand. If you do, they will immediately reject your offer in favor of another one made by buyers who aren’t such a pain in the ass.
So we did our best to be passive and obsequious. Please, let us do the honor of buying your house from you, we asked, from our knees. To our amazement it worked — we own a home! Now all we have to do is make sure water never touches it. Because water, it turns out, is the mortal enemy of your house, especially if it’s an “older home.”
Water can safely make contact with your shingles, gutters, and the insides of your pipes (unless they’re galvanized!) and that’s about it. The rest of your house is basically gingerbread when it comes to water.
And water really wants to come inside! Water is hell-bent on entering our home and taking up residence in our basement like a surly teenager. Our house has a tile system (you’ll have to Google it, like I did) which is apparently tremendously successful at keeping water out of our…