Shingles & Hornets

What did the eco-warrior do when the huge garbage bin arrived?
What did the eco-warrior do when the huge garbage bin arrived?

[UPDATE MARCH 2016: since this post was written, Leanne and I have entered into a contract dispute with Ridgewater Homes. For more details, click here.]

Last Sunday we had a work party. Our dear friends Jeff and Carole came out and put in some serious hours. Our neighbours came to visit and Ron helped out again along with my in-laws.

Shingles were on the menu. Our contractor, Ridgewater, brought in a skiff, assuming we would have a lot of garbage from clearing out the basement, taking off the shingles, etc. from the lower portion of the house. I took that as a challenge to put as little as possible in the thing.

We decided we couldn’t recycle, reuse or burn the shingles because they likely have lead paint on them under a few layers. Chuck from Ridgewater said he was going to have the garbage bin replaced with one just for rock and concrete on Monday. That lit a fire under our butts to get all the shingles off and into the skiff. It was a good thing Monday turned to Tuesday and finally Wednesday before we said goodbye to our giant garbage bin because it took some time getting those shingles off.

For a while there I was wondering what we could put in the bin. We’ll have some drywall soon. We have some chunks of mortar from taking the chimneys apart. Can that stuff go in? Apparently, however, drywall is more expensive to dump (there is a different rate for drywall) and you pay by the tonne at the landfill so heavy stuff like rock (and mortar) is a bad idea–that’s what a rock bin is for.

So what does go in at a typical construction site? My guess is wood. We tossed in shingles because of the lead paint and the tar paper under them, too, but there is also a lot of wood from deconstructing the walls that is difficult to reuse and has a lot of nails in it. The time it takes to cut it for burning, remove the nails to reuse it, or simply find a place to store it makes it cheaper to toss it in the landfill.

It’s going to take some care and hard work from Leanne and I if we’re going to buck the trend, but we’re doing ok so far.

Jeff and I started on the northeast corner where the septic tank still waits for me to empty it. Here is a slideshow of how that went:

Then we moved on to the left side of the front. The plan is to completely remove the porch and support the roof of the porch by the pillars. Sounds dicey…

For a closer look…

There’s a lot less to those columns than meets the eye!

By this time we were roasting in the sun so we took a break in the coolness of the basement…and removed the concrete sink!

It was the next day that I returned to stripping shingles. It was a cooler day so I started on the south side where all the wires come into the house: BC Hydro, Shaw and Telus.

I discovered various nooks and holes just under the surface that make me feel glad we are re-building these walls and insulating them properly. We think the hole below, roughly filled with a piece of styrofoam was where the old electric meter came through the wall. You can see how resourceful people in general, but Carl Whitehead in particular, were; the sides of the hole are made from an apple box.

Later, our remaining cat (“the cat who lived”), Odette, couldn’t resist exploring the hole. Leanne had to rescue her since she couldn’t get out but not before taking a photo or two.

Then I moved on to the front right side. You’ll tell me if these slideshows aren’t working for you, won’t you?

DSCN3110I had to take a break from the front of the house when a hornet got into my glove and stung my hand. I hate those things, they are such jerks! Apparently I had disturbed the nest at the bottom of the banister which had never bothered anyone before. There had been several wasp nests around the porch, but they were all dead. Two years ago I killed the largest one which was revealed in all its dead glory when we stripped the right pillar. It was huge, take a look!

One nest high, one nest low
Old dead yellow-jacket nest

While I waited for dusk so I could kill the new hornet’s nest, I finished up on the southeast corner. This section is under the walled-in back porch. There is a crawl space underneath and our neighbour Brad did a great job a few years ago of pouring a foundation wall to support it. This is also the corner where I went berserk on the carpenter ants and hacked apart a beam that was riddled with them. I’ll have to tell you about that sometime.


You can see the sawdust left behind by the nest-building carpenter ants and the beam Dave-the-father-in-law and I had to reinforce. It will feel good to get all of that replaced!

When I returned to the hornet’s nest, I thought it would be exciting to photograph my revenge. Instead, I got this sequence.

Yawn! I guess that’s what you want when foaming a nest: no excitement, just hornet death. The foam worked as advertised. Fantastic. I waited until the next morning to finish removing the shingles and get a look at the nest.

The banisters had obviously been replaced about 20 years ago because the shingles were nailed to sheathing of particle board which was disintegrating. Compare that to the ship-lap boards in the rest of the walls which has lasted almost 100 years!

With all the shingles removed and in the bin, I could sleep easy. The next morning, Wednesday, the truck showed up bright and early and removed it. I watched it sleepily from the window of the Little Yellow House.DSCN3133
Suddenly I realized I had not taken a photo of the final result! How would anyone reading the Hammond Forever House story believe that we hadn’t filled the thing with wood and household garbage! Fortunately, the driver put it down in the street so he could move the rock bin into the yard.

I threw some clothes on, opened the skiff and took this shot. See? Nothing but shingles and tar paper (ok and a couple of garbage bags and a piece of wallboard that has rat pee on it–you gotta forgive me for that one it was disgusting!).

Inside the skiff.
Inside the skiff.

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James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

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