Feb 04

The Next Phase

I haven’t written about the Kamiooka Tea House in a while.


We finished unpacking most of the boxes by mid-October, after which I got buried in the rehearsals for Tartuffe.  Despite being crazy busy, and the house remaining messy for several months as we slowly started getting ride of things we didn’t need any more (an ongoing process), we settled in almost immediately, and we love the place.


The interior renovations were not a waste of money.  I’m sure we could have endured and lived in the house as it was (minus a few hundred thousand to change the disgusting first floor Tatami mats), the changes we’ve made were relatively inexpensive, and have made the house feel much more like it’s tailored just to us.  Oh yeah, and it’s safer, too.


We saved money by deciding to do the exterior work ourselves (myself).  My friend Dave was going to do the lion’s share himself while I was on tour in Canada over the summer, but he ended up getting too busy with other projects, so none of the the outside work got done.  I tried a couple of times to make a start on it before realizing that I was in way over my head.


So, in December, we called URBAN back in and got a few quotations for the exterior.


This is about way more than making the house look good.  Frankly, the way it looks now, it’s far less of an eyesore than a lot of Japanese houses that are half its age.  But we need this building to last at least another decade (preferably two) so that we can save up again to either rebuild or to sell and move.


We did the metal bit at the front right away.  You remember… the rusting metal monstrosity holding up about 30% of our yard?



Kamiooka Tea House

Yeah, that one.


Well, it needed the rust scraped off and some holes filled in and a fresh coat of paint to continue to resist the elements.  So we got that done right away.


Next, we spent a couple of weeks negotiating the cost of the rest of renovations.  They key elements being:


  • All exterior wooden hardware to be stripped and repainted to prevent rotting and wicking moisture into the walls and posts.
  • All metal exterior hardware to have rust sanded off and then be repainted to prevent rusting
  • Eastern balcony struts to be properly bolted to the metal deck (they aren’t right now!)
  • Roof de-moulded and repainted to avoid leaking through to the tin roof underneath
  • Cracks in the wall and hardware mounting sealed to prevent leaks and rotting wood on the windowsills inside the house.

The problem is that in Japan, you can’t have any work done to the second floor of a house without erecting scaffolding.  That’s right.  An extra 120,000 Yen or more tacked on to any job.  Why?  Ostensibly safety.


According to those in the know, these regulations are not National.  They are municipal.  And the scaffolding companies lobby hard for them.


Which is why we’d resisted doing the exterior renovations when we did the interior over the summer.


So, getting back to December: we asked URBAN for a quotation.  It included some additional things, one of which was painting the exterior walls.




Our wall aren’t currently painted.  They are some kind of pressboard nailed on to the house exterior.  To wit:




Why paint?


Well, since we’re dropping that money on bringing in the scaffold, and paint will help protect the building exterior (and might be a necessity later on in the house’s lifetime), it would make sense to do that now as well.


Also, we were told, if we went for the whole shebang, it would give the workers leeway as part of the painting prep, to fix little problems that might crop up without charging it back to us.  Not sure how true that is, and I guess only time will tell.


This did bring up the issue of colour.  After two days of agonizing deliberations over a very limited palette (since we were going as cheap as possible), we chose a light blue/grey for the walls, bright Chinese red for the hardware, and a reflective silver for the roof.


We had to choose from tiny swatches that were in a book (so we couldn’t even put them beside each other), so hopefully we didn’t cock that up.  If all goes well, we’ll have to live with these colours until the early 2030s.


Since I’m around this time, I will try to post photos and updates as the build progresses.

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