Monday, August 29, 2016

living in a landmark

I’ve been a landlord in my time and so I know how tough it can be to please all of the people all of the time and still try to tune it all to be profitable. Galloping taxes, rising insurances, service calls and salaries, insane utility bills, it’s amazing how everything eats into your bottom line. Major building improvements can be eye-wateringly expensive too, but sometimes they are unavoidable. 

Back in February when I first signed on my loft in #402 it still featured the old factory windows installed a century earlier. From the look of them--- cracked, warped and creaky--- they appeared original to the 1919 “upperfloors addition” that completed the ClockTower as we know it today. New windows in 402 were essential so the landlord readily promised and then installed them just before I took possession. 

They were beautiful. But like all new construction, there were teething pains.

The brick was stable. The metal window frames, however, expanded and contracted with temperature. A seam was opening up. Additional resilient caulking was a solution but how to caulk them now? Four stories above the sidewalk?

So early one morning, unaware and still in bed, my eyes blinked open and I padded off to the bath before turning into the main room to my coffeemaker and my desk. And then I almost died.


lol  Oh my God. What a surreal and terrifying moment until I shook off my sleepyhead and came to my senses! I swear, it took ten years off my life.

But this was great news. They had rented a basket-lift, known colloquially as a cherrypicker, a not-inexpensive line item that would be quick and efficient and avoided hanging scaffolding from the roof that would scratch and mar the soft brick surface.

The guys pumped pound after pound of gooey caulk into the seams smoothing it as they went along, scooping up the slop and trying to keep the whole thing as neat as possible but still achieve the unachievable, waterproofing century old brickwork.

And then they moved up a floor, to begin it all again. On 502.

The solution is not perfect. Turn of the century brick was manufactured porous on purpose to facilitate the less effective mortars of the day and so the rain this morning sees our ClockTower as one giant brick-colored sponge, slowly filling up. 

A passing shower---even a good drenching-- is no problem. The ClockTower brick easily absorbs it all and holds it until it evaporates again and we never see it. But a 2 day rain event as we are beginning today will prove more than Romanesque brick can bear. Like a sponge that can simply hold no more water, eventually the brick fills and then water begins to appear on the inside. It’s inevitable. No amount of modern waterproofing will ever compensate for 1885 building technology, a small price we pay for living in a landmark.
I love it here.

But I keep drip cups handy, too.

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