Confessions Of An Energy And Environmental Activist – Why a mechanic’s car never works,

a carpenter’s doors are never square and the wiring in an electricians house is always scary. Because you never do at home what you do at work. I never had this problem in New Orleans or when I moved back from Springfield. We owned our house in New Orleans and I put a lot of easy low cost energy improvements there. In Springfield, I had rentersitis and was working for Planned Parenthood, Lowe’s and the Sara Center and was not focused on energy issues.

When I moved in with Cathy in 2004 you would think I would have thought about maybe doing an energy audit but I was still working for the Sara Center and I was really absorbed by that project. I also assumed that if there were major problems Cathy would have found them by that time. She moved in in 1999 and had actually replaced the furnace with a really efficient one for the time. I guess by the time I got around to helping to start Community Energy Systems in 2007 my mind had been cleared by our fight to save our rather full and large (25 x 12 ft.) shed. That event marked the beginning of not only cursing the previous owner but realizing that there could be real problems with the house. I had never met a roof that I couldn’t get to stop leaking before I met this shed…

I tried caulk. I tried Plastic Tarps. The Leak just got worse to the point where something really had to be done. It was rotting away. In the interim Cathy and I had been discussing getting a metal roof for the house. I had reservations mainly because Cathy wanted the metal roof because she want a “clean water” cistern system to use in the garden. A conventional roof was about 6,000 $$$ and a metal roof was like 15, 000 $$$. Finally I said to her, look we got to do something about the shed or tear it down which means we are going to have to spend money to hold the line until we get our new roof.

So we tore off the roof and immediately found the problem. There were 3 sets of shingles on the roof. To get ready for the sale to Cathy the previous owners had put a brand new set of shingles over 2 old sets. It was the oldest set that was causing the problem. They were so old that they had become water ABSORBENT! So we had to tear off a perfectly good set of shingles to get at and out of the real problem which had OBVIOUSLY been going on before the sale of the house and the previous owners knew about it. Very nice folks.…

Scroll down to the post 5/30/2009 and you can see a picture of what the roof looked like under the new shingles. It was nasty. The water damage to the roof and the eves was extensive. Eventually however we got all that repaired and we put on a self adhesive roll roofing which cost about 300 $$$ and the cost of a laborer to help me was about 1,200 $$$. We had a lot of scrap lumber from our new and improved bathroom project. So we got off pretty cheaply.
But that got me to thinking. What else could be hiding in the house that had similarly been covered up? The answer to that when I found it was huge. After Cathy’s son moved out of the attic I had torn out the early 1960, very nasty carpet and cut it into strips so Cathy could use it as weed suppressing pathways in her garden.


The other area of the house that we were having trouble with was in the basement. We had a room mate living there for years who had a dog. She bought a house and moved out so I tore the basement apart and cleaned it up. We had water problems, drainage problems and the whole thing was painted putrid green.

So I shut off the HVAC vents, shut the door to the attic and sealed it. What a mistake that was. More tomorrow.


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