Monday, October 12, 2009

Build Up or Tear Down

My hubby is a real do it yourself type of person. I've joined him on many occasions in watching some of the instructional shows on home building/home repair. The host on "This Old House" once made a comment that has stayed with me for years. A couple was considering buying a really old house. It was clear that it was in disrepair and would need mega work. The couple asked him where to begin the repairs.

His answer was: "First assess if it's repairable; not everything old is." He then went on to talk about making an honest inspection of the structure. Was the foundation solid, or did it show cracks? How many cracks and how deep? Were the support beams still solid or were they rotting? Was it a question of one beam, which might be repaired, or were there many? And yes, he talked about money. Estimate what it is going to cost to repair an old house, to remodel it so that it can function with today's necessary items (electricity, indoor plumbing etc.) Now estimate what it would cost to tear down the structure and build a new one in its place.

Another interesting comment he made on a different episode was that people need to develop patience if they are going to deal with "old houses." It takes time to make sure that any changes or repairs are done correctly. Too many people dive in and try to do everything at once. Again, he said that you have to look at the foundation first--if that's not solid, if that's not correctly repaired then all the rest of the work is thrown out effort.

He also said this: lots of people won't buy an old house and do the necessary repairs or remodeling precisely because it is old. They can't see that some of the workmanship of the past was superbly done and needs only some basic refurbishing to continue giving value for years to come. They head straight for new without considering that the old will cost less to repair than the new will cost to build from scratch.

Not bad advice when it comes to houses---and not bad advice when it comes to community structures and infrastructure as well. It well could be that some of our community structures are past the point of repair. It could be that it would be cheaper and more beneficial to just start over and build a new model. Or it could be that some basic repairs would bring those structures back into solid working order.

And then there is this piece of advice that the show gave, useful to house buyers and useful when applied to community structures as well: If you don't do routine maintenance it isn't going to matter if your house is old or new--it's going to develop problems.

At last, proof that you can learn something of value from television.


Allen said...

You may have accidentally hit on a reason why so little gets done regarding fixing our community structures. Jews are no longer "do it yourselfers." Fewer and fewer of us can or will do even minor repairs around the house. That attitude carries over to community repairs that are needed. Our answer is to hire someone else to do the work. And just like with a house, sometimes those repair people know what they are doing and sometimes they don't.

Lion of Zion said...

i've been thinking for a while that the only way to fix the ills of some of our communal institutions is to tear them down (if the economy doesn't do that for us) and start from scratch. some of these institutions are so conversvative that nothing will ever change.