As I was working away on my house recently, I began to wonder several things.  Why is my house built the way it is? My mind does this often; when I’m engaged in something that requires no thought, the brain goes off on its own.  If no thought is required, the brain goes on thinking anyway and will go in some interesting directions. Interestingly enough, there’s a New York Times article about this very thing.

I noticed as I pulled off the trim that my house is made with cedar siding.  I know a bit about wood and cedar is certainly nothing I would choose to side a house with if I were given the choice. It is weak and porous and splits easily.  Add to that the fact that paint does not adhere well to it. From a purely engineering standpoint, it is a poor choice.  It does have the advantage of having a scent that is pleasant and which keeps insects away but that’s about it.

The surface of it was rough as if it had just come from the mill without having first been through a planer to smooth it.  But again, I’m familiar with wood and that roughness was not due to saw marks.  It was artificially roughened.  So at some point, a mill cut the wood and then went to the extra effort of sending it through a special machine to make it look rustic.  Rather than just leaving it rough from the saw, it was sent through a special process after that.  This seems incredibly silly to me.

But whoever built the house wanted it to look that way.  They wanted a sort of rustic look.  There are a huge number of homes built in my area that date from the late 70’s and just about all of them look this way.  But why? Why did everyone in the mid-to-late 70’s want such a rustic look?  As I worked, my mind began to hypothesize a series of events that may have led to this.

I’ll bet it goes back to the Great Depression.  Both my grandfathers were builders back then and my Dad told me how things were built back then and they did not use rough timbers.  But during the depression, the government created lots of work projects to stimulate the economy and get people back to work.  They build lots of things like parks and the associated buildings: cabins and such.  Being the government, I’ll bet they tried to get by as cheaply as possible and since they were building cabins in the woods, they probably figured that rough timber would be not only cheap but appropriate.

Maybe the outlook began to shift back then to the point that by the mid 1970s, everyone thought this was the way things ought to look. And they started to make artificially roughened things.

Maybe.

Maybe I should just keep hammering and focus more on getting my house fixed up.

One way or another, my house looks like one of the many ranch style monstrosities from the 70’s and I wish it looked different. One thing I can do is sell and buy something better.  As soon as Erin is out of high school, we’ll start looking.  Should be paid for by then.

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