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Chatting / Ritzy home observations

Met someone nice on ICQ last night - from the UK(!). We talked for hours. It was fun. UK girls rock. 😉

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Also watched some HGTV. Two shows stuck out. This Old House - Classic Homes, which was awesome, and Dream Builders, which to be honest is absolutely ridiculous.

This Old House showed a Massachusetts home. A ritzy one very near to Boston. Priced high, but needed a lot of work. It was one of those homes that's really tall but very thin like the ones you see on Beacon Hill. While having the priviledge of owning one of those homes is like no other, I would never own one due to the following factors which were depicted in very plain view:

Whiny neighbors. Think you got annoying neighbors? Try having annoying wealthy neighbors. They are the absolute worst and will nit-pick every single little thing they think is wrong with your house. Of course, they'll never tell you directly. They'll go behind your back and go to some hoity-toity community committee, cast a vote that you didn't know about, then send some messenger to tell you there are things wrong.

No room to work. If you have to rebuild a house in a city environment it's nothing short of a hell-spawned experience. The only time you can work (or have people work) is after 10am when people leave for work and you're only allowed so many hours, leading to massive costs later. It's almost not worth it.

Get used to climbing stairs. Remember, these houses are tall and thin. Five flights of stairs is not uncommon. Not only do you have lots of stairs, but they are short stairs very close together. Screw that.

Then I saw this other show called Dream Builders. This program shows ultra-ritzy houses, complete with pretentious owners that love to do nothing but tick off builders with outlandish requests. The stupidest thing I saw (and truly, it's stupid) is this guy who wanted a chimney built with no mortar. He wanted it built by stacked stone alone. When they interviewed the builder you could literally see the disgust on his face and said something to the tune of "Well.. (long pause).. we found the chimney challenging because we couldn't use mortar. One guy was cutting stone all day and the others were building the chimney. We didn't get more than three feet done per day. It was a very long build." Guy - I feel your pain. That homeowner is a complete dick for wanting something like that no matter how much it cost.

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I watch shows like this for ideas and moreover to learn what to do and what not to do when building a house. Since I plan on building sometime in the future, it's good to know a few things, like..

Working with stone sucks. I'm a native New Englander originally from Connecticut. In CT you see lots and lots of what's called "wallstone" walls, also known as stone walls. There are two types, done right and done wrong. A good stone wall has thin stone slats that made a perfect angle when finished so the wall is literally rectangular or trapezoid shaped when done. Bad walls have stone sticking out all over the place, or in worst case the stone is cemented together. Being that I know how utterly expensive this crap is, I won't touch stone walls. Ever. I'd rather use wood stake fences. While it's true it won't last as long, it's a helluva lot easier to tear down a fence compared to a stone wall.

Drainage is king. After seeing a lot of homes over the past few years, over half of them have their draining solutions done wrong. Driveway cracks, foundation cracking/crumbling, wall shifting/cracking and so on happen primarily from water damage. Water gets in, spreads/shifts things around and makes it all a living hell to repair later. Anyone with a water problem knows what a sump pump is. In the house I design (should I have the opportunity) I'm going to pay super-close attention to water drainage.

Windows count. Never skimp on windows. Always go for the best you can afford. All are not created equal. When in doubt, buy Anderson windows. Sure, you can save a buck or two with cheaper windows that look the same, but you'll be paying the price later when they wear out in less than ten years. Ten years may sound like a long time, but when the bill comes in, it will hit and hit hard. Better to get windows that last longer.

Anything labeled "designer" is worthless. As is shown on Design on a Dime, you can recreate just about anything for about 6% (literally) of the cost of the actual designer item, be it curtains, furniture or whathaveyou.

Stick to what works. Builders use specific materials for specific reasons. These materials have costs - and they cost a lot. Best option is to just pay the bill for a better home.

Watch the builders. Best example of this: Reliable Builders in Maine. Never trust a builder at his word no matter what experience they have. Need proof? Read that site and learn. And be shocked.

Buy books. Read them. Learn. Home Depot has extremely good books on home building, maintenance and repair. Get educated. Knowledge is power.

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