I tend to be skeptical about praising the next Great Thing the minute it comes along. Maybe that’s because I’m a fan of proven great things like public libraries, holding hands, and peace accords.
Or maybe it’s because our house is falling apart. It seems that back in the late 70’s when the house was built the U.S. decided it was in the grip of an energy crisis. The price of gas had gone from 36 cents to 86 cents (yes, a gallon) in just a few years. Heating oil, natural gas, and electricity cost more. People realized their homes were leaking out lots of nice warm air all winter long and suddenly everyone wanted insulation. The newer the product the better. Some advertisements practically guaranteed that their insulation would seal homeowners in all winter with nothing but each other’s exhale as an air supply. Every product was the next Great Thing.
I’m just imagining what happened when the contractor slapped our house together. Surely he (statistically speaking it was a he) promoted the house as featuring the very newest extra thick rigid insulation. It seems he didn’t assure anyone that construction workers had longer nails or the smarts to compensate for that thickness.
Fast forward a few decades. After years of repairing foundation cracks, water damage, and worse we realize that our back porch is ready to fall off the house. That’s because the beams holding up the porch rails, supports, and roof are only NAILED INTO THE INSULATION. Most nails never quite made it into the actual wood to necessarily connect the porch to the house. In fact, the (not Great Thing) insulation was applied to the exterior of the house in such a way that it trapped rainwater and rotted important structural beams. That the porch held up many feet of snow and ice winter after winter is some kind of scientific marvel. That it remained attached to the house at all, another marvel.
So next time you flip past one of those home repair shows, all of which should be subtitled “Look What Money Can Do,” notice that they’re designed around new products promoted as the next Great Thing. Strange composite countertops made from some sort of reclaimed materials or lighting that bounces off special reflectors to double the lumens. They may be great. They may not. I think any hairspray host with a tool belt could convince awed homeowners on these shows that compounds of spit and dust are the most revolutionary new products out there and they’d spend thousands on it. Happily.
Fortunately it’s all working out for us. We didn’t discover the porch problem until the week my husband got a job, thank you Coincidence Fairy, so now we can afford the repairs that insurance won’t cover. Added to the known blessings of public libraries, holding hands, and peace accords we now add the security that comes with a newly sturdy porch.