Having spent three years fixing up the inside of my house (in addition to the roof), this summer was to be the Summer of the Yard and, by extension, the Garage, and I guessed I might as well tackle the Fence while I was at it.
High on the agenda were a raised vegetable bed and expanded flower beds. But I was also moved to paint the garage by my friend Tony, who pointed out that all of this flaking paint was a sign of rotting wood. You better paint this, he said, or your garage is going to fall apart.
Then I received the gift of a lovely book called Private Places: Photographs of Chicago Gardens by photographer Brad Temkin. It includes photos of several garages with more personality than you'd expect (and by personality I mean color) and I realized that a freshly-colored garage can be quite a striking backdrop for a flower garden.
So I called in my brother Pete the Painter and said, we better do this now before I plant so you don't scrape paint all over my new flower beds. I was a little worried about the side of the garage where my compost pile is, as I knew that Chicago backyard soil tends to have a fairly high lead content; I was not eager to scrape many decades of paint into the compost that feeds my vegetable garden (¡Foreshadowing!). But he promised to use drop cloths, and so I sent him off to buy a couple gallons of Lewisville Green.
At the same time I began to cast a critical eye on the garage roof, which was flying off one stiff wind at a time. Ever budget-minded, I thought, this can surely wait. Yes, it looks like crap, but only when I look down from the second floor. And I'm sure my garage tenants can handle a little drip now and then. Wouldn't I rather put that money toward a furnace? Some landscaping help? A vacation?
However, Pete soon came to me and said, the wood is rotting because there is a hole in the roof. If you don't fix it, you will just have to paint this garage again next year.
A light went on: it turns out that the garage roof exists not only to keep the rain off the cars (of negligible value to one who believes that cars are overrated), but it helps to keep the entire building intact. A building is a system, and this one was failing. And my friends, there is nothing sustainable about painting more often than you have to or, God forbid, tearing down what was almost a perfectly good garage.
To me this served as a reminder of one of the blessedly simple principles of sustainability: if you take care of stuff, it will last longer, and you will save the energy, materials, and waste of replacing it. It may sound too simple to even mention, but in fact it is so simple that we often forget it. And if you're new to property management, you might not even think of it to begin with.
I am blessed enough to have not one but two handy brothers and both were available for hire. So Jim and Pete strapped on their tool belts and made me a new roof.
BEFORE (Summer 2008)
OFF WITH THE OLD (In case you are wondering: I did not manage to recycle the old roofing or do anything wonderful with it. I filled my trash cans with it for a few weeks and finally called a hauler to take it away to a landfill.)
If only I'd thought to call a barn dance.
TARPAPER SHEATHING, THEN SHINGLES
HAMMER HAMMER HAMMER