HINKAMP: The Joys of Old Homes

New homes are for the weak of will, the timid of tool and the ignorant of equity. People who buy new homes are seduced by such trifle cosmetics as straight lines, level floors and plumbing that works seven days a week. They bask in the bliss of a three car garage with attached house.Sure, you can build a trophy house in the hills on Pheasant Hollow Lane (named after where the pheasants used to be before houses were built there, I guess) and you can revel in your virgin pine and Italian marble. You may even be written up in the paper, but you will never be able experience the abject joy of standing in your bedroom with an axe and saying "Hmm, I wonder what's behind that wall?"True, it's not always as much fun as it looks on This Old House. There are times when all my food tastes like plaster dust, my clothes look like paint swatches and I go to bed with my ears ringing from a circular saw. There are times when I'm just one mismeasured corner cut from using my power tools in a Freddy Krueger sort of way. Nevertheless, people who live in new homes do not understand "it's not home improvement, it's archeology."Like most owners of old homes I secretly hope to uncover a stash of $100 bills, hidden gold bars or at least clues to the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa during these carpentry excavations into my 1926 archeological dig. New home owners fear these types of ghosts.If I could talk to the ghosts in my house the second question (the first being "where's Elvis?"), would be along the lines of "What in the hell were you thinking when you were alive and built this place?"Unfortunately, old homes have no straight lines and seldom yield straight answers. I have no idea why there is a door to nowhere in the back of my closet. Who actually thought green shag carpet was attractive and why would anyone cover up wood floors with linoleum that looks like it was recycled from a truck stop cafe?I actually found bricks on the inside of one wall. I also found a quart jar worth of glass marbles, some Popsicle sticks and remains of what I'm pretty sure was the largest indoor marijuana plantation in northern Utah.(You see it was rental for most of the '70s and '80s).Who were these people who 40 years ago planted what were then cute little trees 10 inches from the foundation and thought one electrical outlet per room was more than enough? Why did they abandon this house and where did they go? What is the meaning of those strange floral wallpaper petroglyphs they left glued to the walls? These are the questions that keep me going back to Home Depot for more advanced research equipment.After all, a home is not merely a shelter, is a reflection of your personality. That said, wood grain vinyl siding is the toupee of building materials. Everybody knows it looks fake, they are just too polite to tell you. If you must get siding, have the guts to have a giant windshield wiper installed so you can just squeegee off your whole house. If you must get a toupee, be proud. Get one with a chin strap. Paint is like the makeup of your house, if you don't like the way it looks at first, make like a politician and change your colors to fit the mood of the neighborhood.

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