This house has a tiny crack in the back corner of the garage foundation. I asked all the older people in the neighborhood including a woman who grew up in the house and it’s been there for decades. The garage was an addition to the house back in the 1950s so it’s a separate foundation from the rest of the house. The main house foundation is actually completely solid. But sooner or later the garage crack needs to be addressed.
I had a few contractors look at the situation and they all said it was a straightforward repair job, but no one would work on it without an architect’s stamp and the usual paperwork from the county authorities. Fair enough. So I engaged a local architect. Great guy. He explained that this type of work requires the additional expertise of a consulting engineer since we’re in a seismically active zone and we want to do it right. Sure. Fine. Whatever. Let’s go. The consulting engineer insisted on bringing a soil engineer on board for the job so we could get some core samples. Really? Really? This is a one story 1941 ranch house garage yet we need three different experts with advanced degrees?
I discovered that soil engineers have the highest liability insurance rates of all the related professions. Everyone all up and down the chain needs someone else to point to in a highly litigious environment and the soil guy is the last one with his fingerprints on the documents. “Cover your ass.” But hey… Suck it up cupcake. Let’s just get the job done. Months went by and when I enquired about progress the architect said neither the consulting engineer nor the soil engineer are returning his calls or e-mails. Evidently the project is too small. It’s not worth their time.
My neighbors across the street have an even smaller house and they’ve hired a local architect to put on a 1,000 square foot addition to accommodate two extra bedrooms and one more bath. The bare minimum construction cost in this area at the moment is $400 per square foot for plain vanilla cookie cutter work with no bells or whistles – and that’s when land and infrastructure are already in place. So they’re looking at a $400,000 addition. But they too can’t find anyone to actually show up and do the work. So they wait.
There are useful things that are also beautiful and so well crafted and loved that they endure for centuries. And then there’s stuff that just gets the job done in the here and now. Sometimes you need to pick your battles. Yesterday a shed from the big box store was installed in the back garden.
Preparing the foundation for a shed involves a bit of pressure treated lumber, some screws, and lots of sand. No architects or engineers are required. And the county authorities don’t demand permits or inspections if it’s under 120 square feet and free of electricity and plumbing.
I ordered a Tuff Shed on the Interwebs, scheduled a delivery date, and it was installed in a matter of hours. Done! It’s not the most magnificent architectural gem you’ve ever seen, and it may not last forever. But it’s what works under the present circumstances.
All the miscellaneous stuff that’s in the garage will be getting organized and transferred to the new shed. Then the garage will be given some stapled on fiberglass insulation, some screwed on plywood bead board walls that can be screwed off later if needed, and a bit of paint. None of the structural or mechanical parts of the garage will be altered. But the space will ultimately be cleaner, more comfortable, and more attractive. Come winter the garage will be pressed in to service as a play room for the kids when it’s too damp and cold for them to be outside. And whenever the stars align and the building trades decide to lower themselves to such unworthy projects we might just get the crack in the slab fixed. Maybe. We’ll see.