Saturday, March 22, 2014


The day I look most forward to all winter long is the day that I start work again on the outside of the house. On that first day, it seems like all my big plans and dreams might actually happen, like anything is possible, and the year stretches out ahead of me full of potential.  Remember that feeling of the first day of summer break from school when you were a little kid?  That's how this feels.  This year, I feel even more like that because of the crappy fall and winter I had after I broke my collarbone. 

This year will be the year I finish the outside of the house.  I can feel it.  Light at the end of the tunnel.

Thursday I practically ran outside to start taking apart the porch.  In almost no time at all Dylan (my son) and I had the screen panels down and I was knocking them apart in the front yard so I can re-use the lumber. Now I have a nice pile of 2 x 4's and another nice pile of 1 x whatevers to use for something else. We're working really short days (like three hours) starting out because the impingement in my shoulder joint still isn't completely healed and I don't want to overdo it and end up having surgery to fix it.

So, at the end of the that first day, we had removed all the screen panels 

and Dylan had pulled down a little bit of the plywood ceiling.

That's much less than he intended to pull down, but whoever built this porch must've had a new nail gun that they were really happy to play with, because they put nails every inch or so all along every joist.  That means that even after Dylan gets one edge of the plywood loose, all those nails keep him from getting enough leverage to pull down the whole sheet.

Friday afternoon Dylan came over again, this time with an ax.  
This is his self-portrait, taken on the roof of my house.

That ax is serious business.  

He hacked away at the roof, occasionally looking over the edge to check his progress.

(Which, of course, is dangerous and a good way to end up pitching off the roof headfirst, so don't ever do that, y'all.)

By the end of the day a big swath of plywood was gone.

I was happy with our progress so far and looking forward to Saturday when, weather allowing, Dylan would tear down more of the porch.  We have a good system going--he tears it down and I clean it up.

And then I checked my voicemail.  I had a nasty message from the Codes Inspector.  She informed me that she needs to speak with me about my front porch.  She explained, as if I'm a not-very-bright child, that I live in a Historic District and I must obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission before beginning any exterior work on my house.  She said that I can't do anything without a building permit which she must issue.  She rattled off a list of things that I must include with my building permit application:  a site plan, a detailed framing plan, an explanation of how I plan to attach the porch to the house, exact dimensions of the porch.  (Emphasis hers.)

And I am livid.  LIVID.  (Emphasis mine.)

So I called her back and left her a voicemail of my own in which I told her that I do in fact already have a Certificate of Appropriateness, that as I explained on my application to HPC I won't know the exact dimensions of the new porch until I remove the existing one and reveal the ghost marks of the original porch, that I would be happy to provide her approximate dimensions based on the location of the original half-posts, and that she should call me back to clarify what she means by the "anything" that I can't do without a permit, because although I don't wish to get crossways with her, I do intend to work on my house.

That voicemail of hers knocked me sideways.  It took away every bit of the happiness and enthusiasm I had for this project.  I'm angry at her for that.  I'm angry at her assumption that I don't know anything about living in a historic district when I've lived in this house for over seven years and this is my fourth appearance before HPC.  I'm worried that she will levy fines against me.  I'm confused as to why I need a building permit to tear down something (shouldn't that be, if anything, a demolition permit?) and thought that the approval of HPC to remove the porch was all I needed to go forward with that part of the project.  I had anticipated needing a building permit, but thought I could wait on that until we removed the existing porch and knew the dimensions of the new porch.  It's difficult to provide a detailed framing plan when you don't even know the size of the thing you're framing.

So for now, the porch project is on hold.  I'll keep y'all posted.


  1. Unfortunately the type of people who end up on things like HPCs are frequently old biddy hens who love nothing more than interfering in people's business. They didn't get enough of it in their personal life, so they had to branch out into local government. Document the phone call in writing, and then also your response and reasoning behind the response (leaving out, for the moment, things like "old biddy hen." You can leave that in your "personal records.") If they've approved the concept, then the rest is just getting the paperwork in order, since it's a porch, not a structural part of the home. Don't let her steal your moment. That belongs to you. Get your Harper Valley PTA on and tell them how it's gonna be.

  2. Illegitimi non carborundum.

    I'm with Laura. Don't let one bureaucrat spoil your feelings about your wonderful project. The HPC people can probably help if it comes to that.

  3. Thanks for the support, Laura. The HPC has always been good to me and the current board is devoid of any biddy hens, which is certainly a plus. I imagine they'll not be happy to hear about this. And they will hear about it from me!

    Also, if I wasn't so mad right now I might see the humor in the fact that the codes lady is chastising me about paperwork while clearly not having her own paperwork in order.

  4. This is the kind of thing that keeps people from buying a house or restoring a house in an historic neighborhood.

    I can't tell you the number of times we have had to demo before we knew what we had to do, what we had to fix, and what we had to buy to complete the project.

    Since the porch is not original to the house, why would it make any difference to them if you removed it?

    I hope she doesn't get her panties in a wad and decide to bird dog your project all summer. Sounds like she drunk on some sort of power high.

    On a side note......our ground is so frozen and we still have snow piles everywhere. I think we had a high of 33 degrees today. Grrrrrrrrrr

    1. Exactly, Jan, exactly! It's very discouraging to try to do the right thing and have needless obstacles thrown in your way.