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the bottom five percent

Posted by pnbrown z6.5 MA (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 26, 13 at 14:47

of Americans are richer than the bottom seventy percent of the rest of the world. Taken from a book I just started titled "Brazil is the new America". If I was looking for books to make me glad I chose to learn Portuguese over Spanish this promises to be the one.

Anyway, that stat probably explains why there is surprisingly little serious unrest in America, despite the notoriety and publicity around the wealth distribution inequity. As well as why the so-called poor people have stuff to sell when they need cigarettes.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: the bottom five percent

I think what we Americans have is a surfeit of the "poor in spirit".


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i definitely agree its all relative. Ballparking figures, but the average square feet of retail for per capita Merkins is ~21. The next country on the list is about 3 per capita. We are required to consume carp we don't need to keep the econemeh going.


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While I can agree that we do not have what I know to be real poverty-having seen it in other countries-still that we have people who are as poor as our poor are in a country with so much wealth-and I am talking wealth of resources not bank accounts-now that is a national shame. It is an indication of our poverty of culture that it should be like that. To take comfort from the fact that our poor are not as poor as starving Ethopians is a sad state of affairs.


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I never realized how wealthy I am until I spent a month in Central America. I live on less than $20,000 per year, but I own a PU truck, house, and have a refrigerator.
I stayed with a family in Leon, Nicaragua that had several rooms to rent (bed and circulating fan), and shared bath. They didn't have a fridge, hot water heater, washing machine, dryer, TV, radio or even a clock. They washed their clothes and dishes in a sink in the courtyard. So did I, because whenever I would come in from my explorations, they would have food kept warm on their propane stove to share with me. They charged me 168 cordobas/day ($7) and I've never felt so at home while away from my family. One day, I bought a watermelon at the market and brought it back to share. They invited cousins over and we had a party: they carved it up and we had plenty plus they turned the rest into "frescas", (a drink). No waste.
That I had the money to fly into a different country made me a relatively rich man, money-wise. I heard but can't document, that a hard working man could make $450/year. Very little machinery, most jobs were manual.
They were the kindest, most generous, curious about us, happiest people I've ever met and I want to go back.


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I think the bigger picture is... we're heading in that direction on a definite downward slide... with homelessness up, and hardship aplenty... and the great divide growing... I think it won't take all that much longer before we are like those countries that have seen true poverty before us.

If the road we're on now continues to be traveled, we will be like Brazil and others were...


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I think it won't take all that much longer before we are like those countries that have seen true poverty before us.

Nah. Our guns will pertekt us.


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Steve, that was my experience in Amazonia too. People with nothing would share every amenity and food with me. I soon learned to travel with packs of cigarettes (currency of value), cans of tuna and tins of cooking oil. I'd start out with bags of green tomatoes and onions to contribute to the meals but those didn't last too long. When I left, I was in the habit of slipping a bit of local currency to the eldest woman for the courtesy of hosting us. These folks were among the happiest I ran into compared to their more urban poor cousins.


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The information I am linking is from a blog , but it does say the raw data is from Credit Suisse.

Patric I agree that we should not be taking comfort that teh por in Western nations are relatively rich compared to Ethiopia!

Here is a link that might be useful: information Americans may not know


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Although I have not intimately examined the kind of material simplicity Steve describes, we stayed a week once in a town in Colombia that turned out to be a traditional village of the Colonial style surrounded by wealthy resort homes. The hired family that maintained one of those that we stayed in gave a glimpse of reality: the woman did all the washing for the place in a giant hollowed stone block, with the laundry hung inside because of the totally unpredictable downpours. As Steve describes they were quite friendly though maybe a bit intimidated by hosting not only rich folks from Bogota but even a little collection of norte-americanos.

Across the street was a small sawmill where people were working actually dawn to dusk. Really annoying for neighbors, and why should anyone have to work at machines twelve hours a day? I suspect, just like here, it's the goad of witnessing wealth inequality. Farther from Bogota where people do not realize what they don't have my guess is they don't labor at some miserable mechanized task 12 hours a day. I'd way rather wash the laundry in the tub for a couple of hours and then do something else.


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Another aspect is the cost of living in these countries, which is why some of the more adventurous first world folks retire in places like Mexico, Costa Rica, Thailand, the Philippines, south-central Africa, etc. You can build, or buy a ridiculously nice house for $20,000. Food, medicine, everything else is far less expensive.

This post was edited by david52 on Tue, Mar 26, 13 at 20:39


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Don't be ridiculous, WxDano... one can't eat a gun for sustenance.


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yep, and there is no comparison whatsoever between 'living simply ' on your HOLIDAYS compared to freezing in some rubbish shack in the snow.
Cut the romantic crap, please (and the snide reference to the implied bad habits of the poor).

Relative poverty - absolute poverty - there is a difference.


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Wow, campanula, was the snarkiness justified? Personally, I was not on a holiday but working for a living in a land with limited amenities. The rest I leave for others to respond or not.


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If you are talking to me, Camp, I don't know what bad habits you might think I was referring to.

Also, it does not snow in the inhabited tropics, which is not a small factor when living without much energy input. It does get cold in the mornings at high elevation but clothing and blankets easily manage it.


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RE: the bottom five percent

  • Posted by ohiomom 3rdrockfromthesun (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 27, 13 at 9:33

Hey Campanula! Was thinking about you the other day and was wondering if you had finished moving in to your new home.

PNB I was thinking how many of us here in the NE would survive a "simple" lifestyle as described above without heat ... not something that would make me a "happy camper" and not sure how many of us would survive the cold/bitter winters especially in urban areas, not like I can go outside and build a campfire to cook and wash clothes.

I also think there is a big difference between "rural" and "urban" living in these countries. (I think Marshall (?) pointed this out)


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well hey - try 'the so-called poor people who have stuff to sell when they need cigarettes'.

I am so seriously sick of being hectored for our tiny little pleasurable vices in a world of worry.

Whaddya mean - so-called poor people? Are you some arbiter of other people's pain and fears?

Ohiomom, thanks for the thoughts - seriously stalled in cold and anxiety - my decision to move into a horsebox, for sure, but not one I would have taken if I wasn't facing eviction from my family home.

So yep, guess I am just not in the mood to hear some bloody piffle about the simple life and the lovely inhabitants living it!


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Yes, my experience of urban places in South America was not as rosy as were my wanderings up and down the tributaries of the Amazon River. Settlers in those parts did not lead idyllic lives; often only women and children occupied the sites because the men were elsewhere working. I guess I was often the most exciting event in these people's lives when I came through their area, bearing gifts and official greetings from the Peruvian government ag/agrarian reform departments.

My apologies to Camp for not realizing the stressful time in her(?) life of losing a home and moving into a horse trailer, not even a house trailer. I've been in similar situations but when I was young, not in middle age. Love your GW page; you might look to write more about your interests as a means of picking up a bob or two from time to time.


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  • Posted by ohiomom 3rdrockfromthesun (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 27, 13 at 9:57

....... guess I am just not in the mood to hear some bloody piffle about the simple life and the lovely inhabitants living it!

Campanula as one who was homeless once, I totally understand your fear ... and all these years later it is something that lingers in the back of my mind. Like you, I do not live in some imaginary tropical paradise where I can go out and pick fruit off the trees.

Although poverty in the US is hardly comparable to third world countries, the reality is that most of us are a "paycheck" away from homelessness.

There but for the grace....


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ah, sorry for being such a grump - it is difficult to remain optimistic although I sailed through my 20s.30s and 40s without much to call my own and certainly no assets such as a house (I rent a council property which is too expensive for me. especially since I am now facing the 'bedroom tax' in the UK). Until recently, I earned a crust as a jobbing gardener and landscaper but when my partner was diagnosed with COPD (and the curse of the tradesman, a crocked back), I was forced to accept unemployment. My partner refuses to do so and currently earns a minuscule amount doing odd jobs. He had a small inheritance from his dad's house (not enough to do much with, but we decided to buy a bit of land since we could always grow food, keep chickens and yep, live in the horsebox (there are all sorts of regulations which make building even a cabin impossible in the UK). Even so, I am simultaneously thrilled at having space to garden (the most egalitarian hobby in the world) but completely devastated at facing up to leaving my home and the million memories, books and assorted rubbish gathered over 35 years of parenting.
We are at something of a crossroads in the UK too - while previous recessions barely affected me, this one seems different - the poor are facing an all out assault on every level and even my daughter, who graduated with a first class degree, has had to move 70miles away because the rentals in Cambridge are absolutely out of reach and there is no social housing........on and on, hence my eldest looking to live in a houseboat while my middle child is also living in a van!
We are cold, even in the house (cannot afford to heat the place) so the prospect of living in an even dodgier situation is really frightening.
But hey, once spring arrives, things always seem a bit better and at least I do still have a roof over my head.


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I am sorry you find yourself in such a situation, campanula.

I wish for you a permanent home and better days ahead.


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"Campanula as one who was homeless once, I totally understand your fear ... and all these years later it is something that lingers in the back of my mind. Like you, I do not live in some imaginary tropical paradise where I can go out and pick fruit off the trees.

Although poverty in the US is hardly comparable to third world countries, the reality is that most of us are a "paycheck" away from homelessness."

Much like Ohiomom, count me as one who has been there and understands, as well... and wishes you better and best, Campanula.

If it weren't for the tenuous jobs we do now, that are not easy when one is physically lesser than one once was, plus the help of a good network of friends, I don't know how we'd make it. I really want to go south to avoid the cold, but who can afford a move?

I, too, am sick to death of hearing the repeated rhetoric, with undertones of condescension... our economy will collapse under it's own weight... the weight of greed and lost ethics...


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I'm sorry to hear you are living without heat at this time of year. That's a drag. Perhaps you could move to southern Spain, what with the Union and all?

That is sarcasm, just to be clear :) As was the statement that you took umbrage with, that was a jibe at another poster we have here, mark james, regarding another thread which you missed. Mark James is of the opinion that the poor he knows have only themselves to blame. For example, some with a smoking habit who were selling their laptop computers to raise some quick cash but were to stupid to honor a verbal deal they made with him, the buyer of last resort for poor upstate new yorkers needing to raise quick cash. So sorry, I have a bad habit of not revealing when statements are meant as sarcasm or cynicism. It's most of the time, in my case.

I'm also a tradesman, also with not a lot of work, so I have an inkling of what y'all are dealing with. If I had not been able to build a house and pay off the mortgage while the economy was somewhat favoring me then we might also be living in a horse box or some equivalent. As mentioned here often, it's a thin line between getting by and having to give up something close to the bone, like heat.

Interestingly, this book I mention in the OP talks about how the author believes the US is now on the economic trajectory of Britain after WWII, except he expects we will be significantly poorer in 40-50 years than Britain is now.


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the author believes the US is now on the economic trajectory of Britain after WWII, except he expects we will be significantly poorer in 40-50 years than Britain is now.

That's right, IMHO: we're allowing the thieves to continue to steal and not putting rules in place to stop them.


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um, I thought MarkJames was some sort of parody.
How many cousins can a poster have?


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Some sort, I agree. Nobody could truly be so unselfconscious or disingenuous.


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Not quite understanding the comparison either. True, the postwar years were tough (rationing and so on) but we also ushered in a series of reforms (popular socialism, if you like) such as the 1944 Education Act, the National Health Service, a massively improved welfare state and en extended period of housebuilding and investment into nationalised companies.

However, under Reaganomics, we began a desperate slide backwards with an electorate seduced by ever-increasing housing prices (fueling second mortgages, cheap credit), a weakened workforce (having lost control of any of the means of production), paving the way for the most enormous heist - a move which had its genesis in the 1986 deregulation of Big Finance.

Many of us Brits look back to the postwar period with real fondness, feeling increasingly more vulnerable every month.

Of course, as an uneducated pleb, I have only the shakiest grip on economic theory....but I can surely see the evidence all around me as friends, neighbours and family are all struggling in a once lovely little city which has utterly sold us out in order to only build cheap apartments for foreign students ( terrific scam for developers since no parking or infrastructure requirements need to be taken into account...and you can really pack them in), rich businesspeople leaving us with an unprecedented rise in homelessness.
We have utterly failed to invest in our young, thinking a career as a barista or other service drone will always be filled with cheap unskilled labour, Our manufacturing industry has gone to the wall and there is now much handwringing about feral youth and paucity of ambition. Gah!


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I think the MJ character is definitely a parody character - I imagine the intent of the author was along the lines of "what a capitalist looks like when natural resources are depleted and all that is left to cheaply exploit is the poor".

Sometimes the author makes me laff, other times it is a miss.


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  • Posted by ohiomom 3rdrockfromthesun (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 27, 13 at 13:26

Actually Campanula, except for a few differences, you have just described the exact same thing that is happening here across the pond .... "We have utterly failed to invest in our young, thinking a career as a barista or other service drone will always be filled with cheap unskilled labour, Our manufacturing industry has gone to the wall and there is now much handwringing about feral youth and paucity of ambition. Gah!"

Spot on!!


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There was a topic awhile back asking what we got out of HT. This is one of those topic that makes it worth the time.

My daughter's extended education abroad in Brazil certainly made her appreciative of the little things.

We see it said here often how people do not have to be poor, it is their decisions that make them poor and I want to scream. I am aware I have had a relatively easy life but I have managed to keep my feet planted deep in reality. I will never lose my empathy for those that are not as fortunate. I would not be able to look in the mirror and think I was a decent person to blame others for having hard times.

Campula I am sorry you are having to face the world's ugly side.


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How many cousins can a poster have?

One of my aunts alone had 14 or 15 kids that we know of.

We have no idea how many kids her kids have as they're scattered all over the state and country.

Once in a while we run into some of the younger generations that we've never met, or even heard about.

I recently met a cousin's daughter and 3 grandkids that I'd never met although I own properties within a mile of where they live, plus I'm always in the area shopping, or conducting business.


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Speaking of the people selling stuff, many regions seem to have more and more of a pawnshop type of economy.

We're seeing more and more of these buy/sell/trade shops in regions where none ever existed.

I did some work for one of the shop owners that said their inventory was so low that they really had to step up their advertising.

Seems more and more people are looking to get cash for things that have little if any value - things many would throw away, or donate to Good Will or The Salvation Army.

I was amazed at how high their prices were. While I was there a customer paid $120, plus traded a Sansa Cruz MP3 player for an old Windows XP laptop that looked like it had been abused for years.


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Regarding our young, it isn't a problem just in Britain or markjamesland:

I have five daughters. One managed to get a decent state university education while it was just affordable for people of average incomes. Now she runs the rat-race in a lower-level management job in Boston.

Two is raising children, she and partner live in his parent's property. Zero security as far as I can tell, but they are young so who knows.

Three lives here on this faux-rural resort island, with boyfriend, rent and transport eats nearly every penny they earn at low-paying service jobs. I don't believe it will be possible for them to ever buy property here (go west, young man!).

Four dropped out of college - too expensive now in this economy - and waits tables and lives at home. I hope that won't be her permanent future but I realize there are much worse jobs than waiting tables.

Five is graduating high school and has the same very poor college prospects. That old saying that the only thing more expensive than going to college is not going to college is no longer true for most I suspect. You had better have pretty darn good and defined aptitude to justify spending/borrowing 100-150k dollars on a four-year degree.


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  • Posted by ohiomom 3rdrockfromthesun (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 27, 13 at 14:02

.....don't believe it will be possible for them to ever buy property here

Not just there. Was reading an article the other day bout' the "boomers" who by 2020 will be looking to downsize from those McMansions in the burbs ... problem is who is going to buy them? Not that folks wouldn't like to, but seem the author of the article thinks this will be the next "housing bubble" to go PoP!

This housing bubble here left entire middle class neighborhoods devastated ... and another to come in 7 years?

Ah well maybe we can knock em' down and burn the wood for our cooking/washing fires in this "new" world of ours.


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Property taxes alone in some local regions stop people from building, developing, buying, selling, renovating or expanding etc.

Renting is popular as property taxes are a fraction of what you'd pay as an owner, plus many people want to remain mobile due to job security issues.


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Not just there. Was reading an article the other day bout' the "boomers" who by 2020 will be looking to downsize from those McMansions in the burbs ... problem is who is going to buy them? Not that folks wouldn't like to, but seem the author of the article thinks this will be the next "housing bubble" to go PoP!

Maybe they can convert the McMansions to 4/5/6 Plus family homes like we've done to much of our larger older housing stock?


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"Maybe they can convert the McMansions to 4/5/6 Plus family homes"......

i suspect that there be a zoning issue or two to deal with.....


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  • Posted by ohiomom 3rdrockfromthesun (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 27, 13 at 14:29

Snort!! Yes I am sure that the outter ring burbanites will go for multi family housing on their 1/2 to 1 acre estate neighborhoods.

Good joke MJ, ya got me we that one

Hee hee hee


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i suspect that there be a zoning issue or two to deal with.....

This is why many people take on room-mates, boarders and/or section off interiors without permits.
This is really common in many regions as you need a rent or two just to cover property taxes, heating oil, propane etc.

Many people rent homes/rooms/units on, or near the lakes by the week during tourist season as well.


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Mark....that is not the likely scenario for the McMansions......


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Was reading an article the other day bout' the "boomers" who by 2020 will be looking to downsize from those McMansions in the burbs ... problem is who is going to buy them?

Why I do not see the McMansion as a problem as many more children are moving back home or worst not leaving. Many are moving their aging parents in with them. If health care is not fixed there will be more multi families living in one house. We will need the space and extra bath rooms.


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  • Posted by ohiomom 3rdrockfromthesun (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 27, 13 at 14:35

And the gated communities with their HOA's will handle this how?

Making popcorn...


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On my favorite TV show ,The Amazing Race, the contestants were in Botswana this past episode. Talk about a simple life style. The thing that struck me about these Bushmen was how thin and athletic they all were. Even the older ones ran and danced around. Not a fat one in the crowd. They were not malnourished either but looked healthy and active. The thing that I took away from this was how incredibly happy and smiling they all were.. If any of us had to live like them for one day, I can say this, we would not be smiling.

I know this is a reality show, but I think it's the best one because it shows us the world and it's not a stroll down Champs-Elysee's.This show which wins multiple awards every year shows the nitty gritty of life in places where we Americans will never visit. Mind blowing what poverty many live with daily.


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But what about the 7,000 sq foot 'cabin' in the woods?

Here is a link that might be useful: like this?


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Actually, a very likely scenario may well be that large homes get turned into duplexes-triplexes. Zoning is just zoning and can be changed - durable built environments do not change quickly. Folks have been talking about how we convert the U.S. built environment for the Next 100 Million for some years now.


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It's pretty common to see 3 or 4 generations living under the same roof these days.

Bathrooms, hot water and parking are issues as many of our older homes are large, but only have 1 bathroom, 1 small low recovery rate water heater and limited parking.


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I've told many that they should take advantage of lax zoning laws and/or enforcement.

I've added many apartments and set up many mobile homes before zoning was changed, or enforced, then was grandfathered in.

Zoning is still pretty lax in some regions, plus you can always buy something grandfathered in.


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Wx, that is true, zoning changes under pressure from economic reality but there is a long lag. Not likely to be in time to help my kids on this island - they'll have left by then.


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Pat, if an elected wants the zoning changed next month and they have the votes on Council, the zoning will get changed. It's not hard to change zoning if the political will is there (and the planning dept hasn't laid off all the staff and there is someone around to write the code).

That said, the Crested Butte house David linked to likely will have its zoning stay as is, as no one would risk p***ing off someone that rich (e.g., the political will isn't there for change).


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Well I don't know about the neighbourhoods in the States with McMansions but here in Canada a zoning change would be highly unlikely...I'll go so far as to say impossible.

Well it may be true that there are some "boomers" living in these homes there are also many, many very successful young entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors etc living there too and no way are they going to let the zoning laws change so that a few boomers can turn their homes into 6 plexes...bizarre!


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I'd bet that right now, if you went to any major university in any large urban area, that 1/3 the surrounding houses would have some sort of illegal renting going on. Because almost by definition, those neighborhoods are really pricy, and there are an awful lot of people with limited means who need to live somewhere close.


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Here it tends to be that those neighbourhoods are zoned as multi person dwellings and the entire house is rented out to students.

You don't tend to find that type of thing in the "McMansion" neighbourhoods.........grow house maybe! LOL


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This journal isn't the easiest to read, but this perspective:

Nelson, A.C. 2006. Leadership in a New Era. Journal of the American Planning Association. 72:4 pp. 393-409

gets at what North Americans in less-dense cities may end up doing in the future. A lot of us are doing urban policy work in anticipation of this, in order to maintain quality of life. I don't seem to be doing much work this week, but still...


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  • Posted by ohiomom 3rdrockfromthesun (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 27, 13 at 15:56

Well only time will tell if what this article predicts is true or not ... link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Boomer Bubble


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I worked on a heating system in the basement 1800s multi-family Colonial a couple winters ago. When I saw they had 9 meters, I thought how in the hell did they cram 9 apartments into this place?

They had 3 apartments in the attic alone and an unfinished apartment over the garage.

Apparently the previous owner used to rent a makeshift room in the basement, and the apartment over the garage to college students, plus had boarders in his owner's apartment.


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mmmm, planning rules are an opaque mystery to me - here in Cambridge, the average home costs around 15x the average wage - none of my children have a hope of ever aquiring any sort of mortgage since I cannot stump up 50grand for a deposit either. Back when I first started working, buying a property in Cambridge was a remote possibility but when I was given a council property to rent, I was no different to the third of Brits who did not own their own property. When I had a bit more economic security, it was a question of principle, not to buy my council house. I guess that was a massive mistake because the moment of affordability vanished during the housing bubble of the 80s and 90s when house prices were rising faster than salaries and everyone thought they were all rich. However, unless they have the sort of salary paid to lawyers, doctors, media types or celebs, there are no first time buyers who are mere nurses, teachers, police able to afford the meanest dwelling....and as for shop assistants, care workers, catering workers - most of them are still living like students in the 30s and 40s. Common sense tells me that this is not sustainable (my children are entirely typical of their cohort - working and barely getting by) and if it is a numbers game (which it usually is in terms of voters, hierarchies, minorities and economic factors), there will have to be some radical changes of the sort we saw in the 70s when the fair rent act came into play and independent housing associations gained enough traction to take over the social housing sector.
Along with property prices, the rental market is equally insane - young people may pay half their wages renting a room in a shared house. Consequently,the minimum wage jobs have to be subsidised, paying housing benefits as a top up (and often tax credits since wages are so far below poverty levels). Obviously, these 'entitlements' are nothing but subsidies for landlords and employers since the tenants or workers recieve no benefit from these credits. It does not take a huge intellectual leap to join the dots but clearly, the prevailing political ideology demands the shrinking of the state and the freedom of the 'market' while scapegoating the poor (feckless, lazy, 'skivers') is always a handy diversion to redirect ire and discontent away from the real villains (and possible equitable solutions).
I myself have found myself thinking hateful thoughts about eastern european immigrants (taking all the council houses) - I have had to interrogate myself into where and how and why these feelings have emerged - not from a vacuum, that's for sure. So yes, we are angry and feel powerless but we need to have our eyes open regarding where to apportion blame since there is no chance of a solution without some adult dialogue (not dogma).


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(and the planning dept hasn't laid off all the staff and there is someone around to write the code)

The realities of the great recession...


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Mark,

and all that without smoke detectors and exit lights?


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  • Posted by ohiomom 3rdrockfromthesun (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 27, 13 at 17:19

Can't remember the last time I saw an 1800's Colonial in a gated community, but I will sure suggest they turn it into a boarding house the next time I do.


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Real estate is all local. Location, Location, Location. A piece of land in one city can be dirt cheap another it is a fortune. You can run any game you want in one location another they will know what color your bedroom is painted.

Our most expensive homes are located in the older established districts. Around here if you are talking about the neighborhood of H.J.Hinzes, Rockerfeller, you are not looking at new construction. The houses are 1800s early 1900s.

The newbie wantabes live in the new constructions. They built these Mcmansions on a postage stamp bit of land. The poor houses look like they want to fight each other for some breathing space. The new constructions will not be standing long enough to turn them into multi-anything. You have some dry wall with a skim coat of plaster. Some fake brick on the face of one side and some siding. Junk houses to impress their friends for a few years.


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"We see it said here often how people do not have to be poor, it is their decisions that make them poor and I want to scream."

It really is galling, isn't it, Marquest? I certainly hope those who utter such rhetorical fallacy don't really believe it to be true.


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The sad part Jodi is I think they believe that silliness.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Skim-coat plaster on drywall is a lot nicer than taped seams on drywall. Wish I had done the former on my place. Even the 5 million dollar houses do not have 3-coat plaster over drywall, what would be the point? There are much more efficient ways to get sound reduction.

So anyway, Camp, you have plenty of analogues over here, if that helps. Not necessarily on this forum, but all around the continent.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Mark, and all that without smoke detectors and exit lights?

The units we were in had smoke detectors, but not hard wired. Many smoking tenants pull the batteries.

We were only in 5 of the units which had radiators to inspect and bleed the radiators, so I don't know about the other units with space heaters.

There were exit lights, however there was only one shared hallway exit on the second/third floor and no fire escapes. It's a long way to the ground from the third floor attic units.

The wiring was a mess as well - a mixture of extremely old, very old, old and some newer wiring which is typical of many 1800s homes in the area.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Even the 5 million dollar houses do not have 3-coat plaster over drywall, what would be the point?

pnbrown, I was not saying there should be 3 coats of plaster I was saying there is a big difference of plaster walls to drywall new construction. When they remove a wall in the older houses. You have 3" of plaster, terracotta, more plaster and mortar rebar and then the brick. You have a 6" depth of wall. These houses were built to stand the test of time.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Camp's experience is bringing back childhood memories. We lived in a tent for a while in northern Alberta when I was a kid... yep, in the winter time, just like Campanula. Sleeping in sweatshirts, sweatpants, wool socks inside sleeping bags, all of us huddled together. My little brother and I discovered that if we zipped our sleeping bags together as one, our body heat would keep us warmer.

See, as a kid, this is some serious fun, like extreme camping. Something like a horse trailer would have been even more fun.

I betcha it was no fun for my mother though.


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RE: the bottom five percent

grief no, hamilton g. I recall sitting on my dad's wallpapering table cos we had burnt everything else to keep warm. Moonlight flits, numerous different schools - all an exciting adventure for me and my sis but horrible for our parents. My dad had been blackballed for union activities (eric the red) so we had to move around a lot to where he could get work...and my mum was an invalid (she died when I was 12). Compared to their hard, hard lives, ours really is a cakewalk.


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RE: the bottom five percent

We see it said here often how people do not have to be poor, it is their decisions that make them poor and I want to scream."

Who helps make the Afghan people poor?

Here is a link that might be useful: Afghans droned out of town.


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Things could be worse since you own a piece of land free and clear in southern England, I guess that is the bright side. And good for you for being willing to live in whatever to avoid throwing money away on rent. That is certainly what I would do (though I'd be doing it without wife, I suspect).

Marquest, I don't know where you have seen construction like that (have you in fact seen that, or is it merely what you suppose?). I never have. Even the traditional 3-coat plaster never came to more than about 3/4 of an inch at the most, whether it was over wood lath or hollow tile (which had a short run just before hidden mechanicals became common). Houses that were brick or stone on the exterior typically had wood studding, wood lath, and 3-coat on the inside. Around the 30's it switches over to "rock lath" and 2 or 3-coat, which persisted often into the late 50's or early 60's when taped drywall became the norm. Skimcoat over drywall is a bit of a return to a higher standard.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Was reading an article the other day bout' the "boomers" who by 2020 will be looking to downsize from those McMansions in the burbs ... problem is who is going to buy them? Not that folks wouldn't like to, but seem the author of the article thinks this will be the next "housing bubble" to go PoP!

Actually for many "boomers" that already happened. Now residential construction is back many areas but now it is focused on building even more McMansions.

The new customers are largely younger families led by those who rode the stock market gain yet did not own a large home that lost value in the bust. Instead they maintained their jobs and added to their wealth.

Now they are well positioned to take full advantage of a market with low interest rates and extremely favorable deflationary pricing. They also are well positioned to purchase homes from baby boomers who did not fare so well over the past few years or by purchasing foreclosed properties.

So who knew, but McMansions are back and growing again. It is just that there is a younger generation demanding them.
The culture of materialism not only lives on but it is feeding off the misfortune of those who fell off a financial cliff in the Great Recession.

I don't get the point of the OP unless it is meant to portray poverty in the US as something we should not be concerned about very much since it supposedly isn't that bad.
It is that bad and if you could see it you would be appalled.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Listen, mr holy, I have seen it. Why do you think you have a lock on perception?


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RE: the bottom five percent

Oh, and attempt to properly grasp what you read.

Let's presume that it's true that the poorest five percent of Americans collectively have more wealth then the poorest seventy percent of the rest of the world population. Even so, obviously it would not be true that every American is materially richer than every person in the other category.

Also, since American workers - and indirectly the unemployed - have to compete with people all around the globe, why do you object to a material comparison? This is where things are headed, people on this continent are increasingly going to be closer to global norms.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Kinda off topic, but... PNBrown, we once rented an old Victorian farmhouse with lath and plaster walls so strong and thick we couldn't get simple picture nails, plant hooks, or even thumb tacks for fly strips to push in or be hammered into it! Amazing construction!


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RE: the bottom five percent

Marquest, I don't know where you have seen construction like that (have you in fact seen that, or is it merely what you suppose?).

This is the construction of the house I am in now. I have been rehabbing this property for a couple of years. The first project was the master bath enlarged. The guy I hired had worked with his dad with new construction. He bid the job according to that experience. He came with his sledge hammer ready to demo and realized this was something he never expected. He filled a dump truck with just one wall.

As Jodi said I cannot hang a picture without using a concrete drill bit.

This is a piece of terra cotta that came from my walls. I saved all the terra-cotta to use in my cactus gardens.

 photo DSC_0003.jpg


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RE: the bottom five percent

Jodik, oh yes, old 3-coat plaster is a lot of hard dense material. Trying to put a nail through it will shatter it.

Marquest, I suspect you have a hollow-tile house. My folks had one in south florida, circa 1920. Superb for durability and sound control, terrible for mechanicals.


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RE: the bottom five percent

What is a hollow-tile? I am going through some of my pics to see if I can find a good pic of the inner works of these walls. It is a red brick tudor house. I suspect that they did not register it when it was first built because all the repair men have said they do not believe the built date to be correct. It is registered as1949 they think it is older.

Edit to add...
My experience was not shattered plaster. My experience was you do not go through at all. It is not the plaster it is the concrete behind the the plaster why I cannot get a nail through.

This post was edited by marquest on Thu, Mar 28, 13 at 10:26


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RE: the bottom five percent

Hollow tile is a precursor to a concrete block. It's a hollow block made from clay, like a brick. I guess terra-cotta is the right term, not sure. They had a textured outside so as to adhere well to stucco (exterior) and plaster (interior). So your plaster maybe and sounds like it is directly applied to the hollow tile. So yes, it would be very difficult to get a nail through without drilling. Whereas 3-coat over wood lath you can put a wood nail through if you hit it hard, and the plaster will shatter.

You'll need a very large masonry nail and slug hammer. Hit it like you mean it, and you'll eventually shatter through. Proviso, just in case: not a good idea.


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Yes pnbrown now you get the picture Now envision behind that tile concrete/mortar steel wire then bricks. Real bricks made back in the day not the thin brick composite they use today to give the impression that you have a brick house. The poor guy said he had never seen anything this thick.

He said he will never bid on a job again until he test with his sledge hammer.

I am still looking or a pic. I will post one when I find it so you can see just how thick the walls were built back in the day.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Horsehair and portland cement were mentioned by the original owner's relative, PNBrown, when we rented the home. It had been built during the 1800's.


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Camp, thank you for sharing and you are in my thoughts along with Ohio and Jodi. My mom is "occupying" with my cousin as he has physical problems and is going to college, they both need roommates who won't steal and who will do dishes. Still, it's a struggle. I can hear it.

Hamilton, I spent a portion of my childhood "camping" as well, except mine was done in the tropics. There is a very large difference between being poor and warm... and poor and cold.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Yep, horsehair was an ingredient in plaster and cement still is, of course.


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RE: the bottom five percent

"There is a very large difference between being poor and warm... and poor and cold."

You got THAT right, Silver! Heat, warm clothing, and other winter needs can be huge expenses!

More and more homeless appear every year. Each time we drive into Chicago for a doctor's appointment, about every 3 or 4 months, we pass through areas where it's painfully obvious that whole families are toughing it out under highway bridges and overpasses... and this past winter was the worst we've seen so far. I don't think the city has enough shelters, or they aren't spread out where the need is greatest.

It's extremely disheartening to witness this... of all places, in the wealthiest nation on earth.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Yes, much better to be poor in the south than north.


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RE: the bottom five percent

I always thought so. If I was homeless I would definitely head to balmier climes,


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RE: the bottom five percent

The walls of my 1840 house are horsehair plaster on wooden lath and are virtually sound proof. You really have to pound hard to nail something to the wall. You can literally see the horsehair if a piece chips off. They can have their Mcmansions. I envy them the big walk in closets but little else. No character and most are on postage size lots. Not in a million years.....


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RE: the bottom five percent

Lily, do you have lots of smoke detectors and CO2 alarms? The problem with an 19th century house is the balloon-framing. When a fire gets through the plaster and ignites the wood lath and then gets into the chimney-like bays in the framing then it burns like, well, like a house on fire, 19th century style.

Not good. I would not sleep on the second or third floor of an old house without a ladder at the window.


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RE: the bottom five percent

I wouldn't sleep in any house without a choice of escape routes...whether one keeps a fire ladder handy, or has other multiple exits to the outside available.

Been there, done that... and there's nothing quite so disorienting as your own home in the pitch black of night, or within the smoke, during a fire.


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RE: the bottom five percent

This house is a good get out quick. There are 4 doors leading to the outside on the first floor. On the second floor there are 3.

I love the outdoors and part of my remodel was to have doors leading out to balconies off the bedrooms, study, dining, and living room. I enjoy sitting outside with a drink and watching the wildlife.

Since pn's post I see that was a good plan. I never thought of escape from fire.


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RE: the bottom five percent

  • Posted by ohiomom 3rdrockfromthesun (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 29, 13 at 9:42

Jodi it is why I live on the first floor of my building (circa 1920), this place would go up like a matchstick and even though there is only one door, the windows provide a way out.

Where I used to live (and managed property) the building was concrete and steel and was so well built that if a unit caught on fire it would not spread beyond the one unit. I know because we had more than one fire there (always carelessness by tenants).


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RE: the bottom five percent

Okay, now you've made me paranoid. I DO sleep on the second floor because all four bedrooms are there.. We have three working fireplaces ,but only use one but that's all the time from October to April with a woodstove burning. My bedroom overlooks a trellis which might or might not hold me. I worry that all my pets are on the first floor ,and the dogs are crated at night. We do have smoke detectors on every floor.

You're absolutely right....this house would go up like a tinderbox. It's a clapboard house , all rooms have the original wood floors ,and I have a lot of wooden antique furniture. ..


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RE: the bottom five percent

"But what about the 7,000 sq foot 'cabin' in the woods?"

Are you selling your home, David. :-)

Sorry, I couldn't resist. It's certainly pretty. Not my style, but lovely in its own way. It's basically a compound ala the Kennedy family, I reckon. It could accommodate a large family, maybe aging in-laws, and at that size you could avoid your in-laws for days or weeks.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Any home/DIY or hardware type of store should carry those ladders that you hook over the windowsill for quick escape... we have one, as we're currently in an upstairs apartment with only one exit. The fire ladder makes me feel a lot better!

In case of fire, I would just open the window, push out the screen, and throw the ladder over the sill... easy escape!

This frame home is older, a farmhouse built long ago, and would go up a blaze quick... and what with the weather, well... it's been a little dry...


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RE: the bottom five percent

Have you tested out the rope ladder? Might be a bit difficult, especially at night and disoriented. The rungs will be right against the siding. Not very like a rigid ladder at an angle.


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RE: the bottom five percent

A "rope" ladder is *very* difficult to manage! Better than nothing certainly, but not by a whole lot, especially for the second person waiting for the first to get down.


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RE: the bottom five percent

It's not rope, PNBrown... it's metal, and has a nifty design that kind of holds the top part away from the side of the home.

But in any case, getting out from a second story window wouldn't be that difficult even without a ladder... it's not that far of a drop from this particular house, because of the way it was built.


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RE: the bottom five percent

I have those ladders underneath the beds upstairs
I got mine at Sears


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RE: the bottom five percent

of Americans are richer than the bottom seventy percent of the rest of the world.

Curious where this statistic came from and how they determined it.

-Ron-


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RE: the bottom five percent

I've used many different types of chain, cable, rope and web ladders - built-ins and portables.

The hardest thing for many not used to climbing, those afraid of heights, or in poor physical shape is getting on the ladder.

The ones with stand-offs that hold the rungs away from the structure work better for inexperienced climbers as the stop the twisting and swaying.

Some have sleeving over the chains/ropes/web which is easier to grip as well.


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RE: the bottom five percent

I doubt many people have any clue what it's like to climb out a window and onto a ladder that is vertical, not to mention flexible.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Ron, the OP statement was apparently taken from Branko Milanovic's book "the have and have nots, a brief and idiosyncratic history of global inequity". No doubt we can view his credentials online, though we won't know how he went about figuring this particular factoid.


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RE: the bottom five percent

I think most people would be rather surprised at what they can accomplish in an emergency situation where adrenalin is pumping...

I know I have been a few times! I carried my husband out of our burning home when he fell in the smoke-filled darkness, no easy feat.. and, I recently bent a metal gate to help get someone's feet out from under it when he fell and was trapped under it.

One often doesn't know their strengths until called upon to use them to help others. So, climbing from a second story to the ground would probably be less difficult than one might think... especially when time is of the essence.


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I am slightly amazed at all the nail hammering - we use a drill in the UK - a hammer drill for masonry and a basic driver for timber. We always drill a pilot hole (unless we are drilling into softwood.)

It has been a long time since horsehair was used in concrete (or lime for that matter) but, if we were ever allowed to build a permanent cabin in our woods, we would be looking at cob building or even easier, a basic haybale and timber frame construction.

One of my rants has been concerned with the terrible state of construction in the UK - all prefabs and poured concrete and reinforced steel - whereas most people are still living in brick-built houses with plaster walls - if Mr.Camps didn't have a crocked back, he need never be out of work again since he trained as a plasterer (spread) back in the days of 3 year apprenticeships (although my dad did 7 as a painter and decorator). We have a generation of youths who are utterly unfamiliar with tools but even worse, we are not even keeping up with the tech needed - while computing is a requirement in most schools, we are only talking about using software - not actually building or programming (any fool can do a powerpoint presentation). We are importing engineers from Asia....and builders from Poland (although they have turned out to be a bit rubbish, but they are cheap).
Sorry to ramble ever further off topic.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Camp, I was wondering if a solution for y'all is to build a small house on your land, since you have the skills.

The hammer-talk was just to make a point: old time multi-coat plaster is thick, hard and dense in comparison to skim-coat over drywall and especially of course compared to taped drywall, which one can very easily drive a nail through into a stud without any damage other than a nail-sized hole. Through skim-coat can leave a small shattering so yes certainly a little drilling first is a good idea. And plaster directly on stone or brick is naturally impossible to nail into without serious drilling.

I think the plaster over wood lath that was very common in north america in the 19th century was not common in Britain where wood-framed houses were unusual. Even interior partitions were often brick, I think?


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RE: the bottom five percent

Usually, when one rents a home, one is either discouraged or forbidden from drilling holes in walls or making any sort of permanent changes. Different story when one owns the home.

There are huge differences between the construction of yesteryear and what's considered home construction today... unless one doesn't mind and can afford the cost of better building.

In all too many cases, the more affordable homes built today are either prefab or built using inferior, cheap materials.

I grew up in a large brick ranch, built in 1959 by my Dad and a small crew of his friends who were in the home building business... everything about it was solid, well made using good materials... they just don't build 'em like that anymore! So, when it comes to renting or buying, I really prefer the older homes... since building one the way I'd like would be WAY out of any price range I could reach!


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Quality of materials or even workmanship is not the big difference between older houses and new ones (plenty of schlock was built c.1959). The big differences are that "affordable" houses now tend to be much uglier than formerly, and houses in the past 10-20 years are vastly better insulated, even cheap ones.

Where materials are directly comparable, the differences between now and then depends on the category of material and when? A brick now is arguably much superior to a brick from the 19th century, if you take down an old chimney and use the bricks for pavers they dissolve quickly. Of course wood from the 19th and early 20th centuries was generally far superior to wood of comparable cost now. What little old-growth softwoods are available now are probably 10-50 times the cost in adjusted dollars. A house framed in turn of the century longleaf pine is worth taking apart stick-by-stick just for the wood.

Late 20th century concrete is superior to older site-mixed concrete. Modern windows and doors are much superior and as nice-looking if one is willing to spend the money.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Modern windows might be far superior to my 19th century ones but I will never change them out. The only addition to my house in the past 175 years was a sunroom in the 1920's. Even in the 12 windows in that addition, the sills are an inch and quarter thick. In the 30 plus years we have lived here we have had very few problems with maintenance, probably less than a newly constructed house. All the random width floor boards are over an inch thick. The brothers who built this house cut the trees down on the property to use. Every clapboard is graduated from the widest to the smallest at the top to give the illusion of height, I guess. These guys were a black smith and wagon maker with no sophisticated tools in the1840.

My parent built their brick ranch house in 1950, and I would say it was very sturdily built. Aesthetically it was the opposite of my style.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Sounds like a great house, Lily. What are the windows, 12-over-12?

I've been maintaining an 1864 wood-frame Victorian since 1993. I love the house and so does the owner. The original builder/owner built most of the grand whaling-Captain's houses in the district. The carriage-house is still there, unchanged, with the second floor shop where is the workbench where he made the doors and windows for the house. Cowstalls still under the carriage house. I renovated the basement of the house most recently into living space. Brick and stone foundation - maybe I'll have to take back what I said about old brick because the brick on the exterior of the basement is still in fine condition. The basement windows are fully intact, incredibly, including jambs and sills in contact with brick - I only had to replace a few. The old-growth white pine is simply unlike anything we have now on the continent.


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pn, you are the craftsman and I won't argue with you. My house was built in 1906 and as you said, the timbers underneath it are huge rectangles approximately 12" x 8" x whatever. Some still have remnants of bark on the non-mating surfaces. My floors are planks over an inch thick. Some of the rooms are irregular in size: more trapezoid than rectangular. So the crown mold and base mold were cut with a coping saw to fit without any caulking. There are strange built in cabinets and recesses in walls with doors that are far from ordinary. Rumor has it this house (4400 sq. ft. without porches) was built by the sheriff and he might have needed stash places. There are huge hollow places in walls adjacent to chimneys that I have opened and made into bookcases. The 3rd story attic is so cross braced that when hurricane Hugo came through the house didn't even tremble, but I discovered how many friends and relatives suddenly felt the need to come visit me.


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RE: the bottom five percent

The old-growth white pine is simply unlike anything we have now on the continent.

I remember reading about someone salvaging some of this timber from the bottom of the great lakes, Looked for some info, and they're in business.

Here is a link that might be useful: link


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RE: the bottom five percent

Yeah, I've heard about that, Dave, sinker cypress, white pine, longleaf, etc.

Steve, actually all inside-corner crown joints are coped, even if the corner is 90. Lotta guys still use a coping saw, the hot-shots use a power jigsaw. I usually use the coping saw unless I've forgotten it in which case I'm forced to be a hot-shot. Yours sounds like a neat house also.


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Thanks, pn. When I find myself in a doctor/dentist office I often look up and see ill fitting joints and ill aligned receptacles, which I put down to modern/fast construction.
Habit built of 30 years as a machinist: if it isn't square to the door frames or perfectly round, my eye will pick it out. I'm sure you are the same.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Brown: "The old-growth white pine is simply unlike anything we have now on the continent."

Brown, what do you mean by that?


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RE: the bottom five percent

Most of the "old growth" was logged out - the replacements are neither particularly old nor equal in size.

We've got some pockets of old growth left here and there around the state. Of particular interest is the "Lost 40" - originally mistaken for swampland by early surveyors, it was left untouched.

The virgin old-growth white pine-red pine forest is considered to be the most significant old-growth white pine-red pine stand outside of the Boundary Waters and Itasca State Park. Red pine 240-250 years old can be found on the site. Minnesota's state red pine champion is here - 120 feet tall with a circumference of 115 inches.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Brown:The 42 windows in the house are 6 over 6, with the exception of the 12 in the 1920's sunroom which are 6 over 1 which I think was popular in that period.

House was built from old growth white pine, hemlock, and husband thinks poplar for the siding. The three chimneys are brick and the foundation, stone.


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RE: the bottom five percent

The places most of you have seem so truly glorious - treasures from another time, homes containing history of the many lives lived within those walls. As I read about them I was feeling quite sorry for myself as our small place is such a cracker box, built in the early 90s and certainly as cheaply as was possible to throw up and be legal.
It was, and is a most cheaply built tiny house in a neighborhood filled with cheaply built cardboard boxes but Im blessed that those at least on our block take very, very good care of their cheap little houses, keeping fresh coats of paint applied in nice colors, well maintained - not a house on our street now is left that hasn't replaced even those awful cheap windows we all got stuck with. Our lawns are kept trimmed and carefully maintained, our little flower beds always look cheerful, not a single junker or broken vehicle in any driveway to be found, all neat and tidy and quiet- all remarkable considering that honestly, this is the type of neighborhood where downhill is usually the trajectory maintained once the neighborhood goes through its first decade and second owner.

The only thing in our house that has not been replaced are the very walls and cabinets - every single floor or covering, countertop, sink, shower, toilet, windows, even those awful thin floor baseboards and cheapest of indoor interior doors and all its hardware, all detested on sight, have been ripped out and replaced with great upgrades, mostly by us or me alone if possible, learning as we went.
We never ever figured to stay here when we bought - we planned to make some most basic cosmetic improvements and then sell in six years, putting all into a much nicer, just a bit larger place where we would likely stay for good. Life and its complications had its own plans for us.
And then things started looking bad, then worse all across the town and country with absolutely no job being secure, all of us on this block (all middle aged or more) realized that odds were we would be in these houses a long, long time and made the best of it.

Because everyone maintains their little places so well, I am fine with it, I would detest it if this neighborhood went downhill and I do constantly worry that it will, but I have my small pension, he has his small military pension and we had to live in a place where we could manage to survive if the worst had ever happened and those two sources of income were it for life.
We considered ourselves amongst the fortunates that he has kept his job and we have been able to put away into our savings fund consistently for our non salary retirement years -and that if all goes as planned, he will have a reasonable monthly income when he does actually and finally retires from his federal job and no longer works for a salary. Its so much more than so very many because it is a roof I know I can always afford, no matter what, which was the point.
But I admit, there is a pang when I hear of / see pictures of such beautiful, graceful homes, a pang easily dismissed because my oh, so tiny home has been made our own by us and is appointed with beloved family pieces and treasures we acquired in our travels in the world during the military years, our neighbors are our friends who are just the best people, bar none - it is a comfortable life of contentment and for that I have great wealth.

But oh, for nice plastered walls and decent closet/ storage space!


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RE: the bottom five percent

Well, big houses are a lot of maintenance and small houses are less. I'll be replacing my roof in another 5 or 6 years, so I'm glad my house is not huge.


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pn, after the last roof I put on one of my rental properties I too was happy the house was small.

My house has a slate roof I have another 50 years. So the next owners can deal with that. I have a slate roof inspection once a year that is cheap a couple of dollars.

mylab, a house is just a house. It is a home when you are happy inside that house. Just having a Mcmansions does not make it a home.


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I have never owned a home nor wanted the responsibility. When I was married, we had to move a lot and had little money to spare and not family help with making a mortgage. My only regret, coming later, was not having bought acreage for farming and alternative lifestyle to which I was attracted but not likely have be successful. I am just too independent and not a good team player.


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I might have nice plastered walls, mylab, but I surely lack the closets that most people today expect. I have them in every bedroom but the kind that people had 175 years ago when they had two dresses and two shirts for the man. Armoires are my friend.

Don't be envious of my big white elephant. I love this house and have for 30 years but it won't get easier to maintain as one gets older. My husband does split six cord of wood a year and paints the house as it needs it ,but that can't go on forever, so be glad for your little house. You've probably made it very charming.


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I'm just the opposite, Marshallz... if I didn't have to rent, I'd without a doubt own. I can't justify paying monthly for something I'll never be able to call my own... plus, I feel that purchasing is a decent investment... depending on the area, the home on the property, and other considerations. I like setting down roots... if it's the "right" place. And since I have to garden, I need a place where I can do so without fear of having to move and begin all over again. It takes so long for a nice perennial garden to mature...

The only reason we rented in the first place was because our own home burned in a fire, and we were unable to rebuild. Long story...

But, anyway...

PNBrown, I suppose it all depends upon the age and workmanship, but I love an older home with decently solid bones. I realize that not every home in history was constructed well using good materials... that goes without saying. But overall, I find that too many modern tract houses, and even many Mcmansions, are built like crap.

My niece bought a home in a new subdivision several years ago with a base price tag of about $160,000... expensive for the area... and it was the worst, cheapest built home I've ever seen. You could literally stand inside her home and hear the neighbors talking in the home next door! Within one year the construction began to fall apart. The half wall next to the basement stairs began to lean, the floors began to buckle, the woodwork and door frames fell apart... and it lost quite a few shingles in the first storm following its construction. It was an expensive piece of junk, and she regretted purchasing it.

A house is just a house... it's people that make it a home. But home can be where ever you lay your head at night... where ever you feel comfortable. And everyone has likes and dislikes when it comes to houses and property.

For instance, I just couldn't live in a city or suburb... been there, done that... hated it! I much prefer the wide open spaces of rural or small town living.


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RE: the bottom five percent

"the floors began to buckle, the woodwork and door frames fell apart... and it lost quite a few shingles"

All these kinds of things can be issues in expensive structures as well. This thread could go on for years if we talked about all the problems that come up in residential construction. It has mostly to do with installers not knowing their materials and the inevitable speed with which projects are expected to move, and that applies just as much to the multi-million dollar projects as tract housing. The plutocrats are not known for being patient.

Just for starters, consider this: wood-frame structures are generally built out of certified lumber, IOW, the supposedly kiln-dried spruce or mixed hemlock and fir. In fact, MA made that code a while back. If you want to build something out of non-graded lumber from out of state you have to get special permission from the building inspector (if it's sourced within MA you don't). But kiln dried wood is all over the place quality-wise, and on average it is so inferior to the wood that houses were built out of a century ago that there is no comparison. Kiln dried or not, the wood shows up at the job site almost always soaking wet from rain in transit even if not poorly cured (but it usually is poorly cured). After the frame is up, there is a lot of shrinking and moving. In the old days, when jobs moved a lot slower, not only was the lumber vastly superior and less prone to move, also more time went by for it to settle down before plastering. This is one reason that engineered lumber for joists and rafters has become very popular here in the last decade.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Particle board instead of decent plywood... cheap drywall and poor tape jobs... rushed building to meet schedules... inexperienced laborers instead of real craftsmen... cheaper materials to obtain bigger profit... yep, I've seen a lot of shoddy homes and condo or apartment buildings go up within the past decade or so. It's such a shame.

I think it all depends on county codes, and what a builder can get away with. Some counties are quite strict in what materials must be used, and others don't really have a lot of codes.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Codes vary substantially by region locally, plus code enforcement is almost non existent in many rural regions.

When I went to apply for a roofing permit, fence permit and curb cutting permit for one of my village properties recently I was told I didn't need permits.

In a city about 5 minutes away we need plans, permits and inspections for just about everything, however much of the work is still performed by unlicensed/unqualified handymen, side jobbers, trunk slammers and diy homeowners without plans, permits, inspections, variances etc.

I've owned quite a few structures and/or additions with that weren't even listed on the tax rolls as they were built without plans permits or variances and reassessments were many years apart.

The same applies to many multi-family conversions. Many are still listed as single family homes, or additional units haven't been added.



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RE: the bottom five percent

But I admit, there is a pang when I hear of / see pictures of such beautiful, graceful homes, a pang easily dismissed because my oh, so tiny home has been made our own by us and is appointed with beloved family pieces and treasures we acquired in our travels in the world during the military years, our neighbors are our friends who are just the best people, bar none - it is a comfortable life of contentment and for that I have great wealth.

*

Mylab, you still have your husband and a roof over your head, and your treasures, you are richer than me, and you know it, and I'm so happy for you that you are and that you realize it.

Of course nice materials, good construction and a beautiful home are nice. Having a well built older home is nice.

But life is a series of tradeoffs and we simply do not have all the same lives--who are we to disparage someone a "McMansion" or an "old house" or "shoddy workmanship?"

I lived in two Perry Homes in Texas.
They were the upper tier of builders--but believe me, they went up in no time and weren't what I would call great construction.
Last house we were there seven years and after a freeze I looked at the ceiling over the fireplace and it was wet--I accessed that part of the attic (through a small door in the upstairs guest room--we didn't use that attic for storage, but the upper attic for storage). I found a water pipe that had not been tightened at the joint and for the seven years from the new construction we bought, there had been a continual small drip drip drip on the parallel strand beam (13 inches thick) that was the main support beam in the house. It was 70 percent worn away.

A structural engineer had to come out, shore up the house with support from downstairs in the middle of my living room, and the entire beam was removed and a new one installed.

That's what you get.

But you know, we had good memories, it was reasonably priced ($176,000 for 2998 square feet in 1995) and where my girls have the most memories, being there the longest.

So what? My quality of life didn't suffer.
I didn't need to impress anyone.
Still don't.

We do the best we can with what we have, when we can.

Enjoy your home, as I'm sure most people here have learned, and if they haven't they need to--I learned this earlier--there is always someone smarter, richer, prettier, nicer.

We are who we are for a reason and our job is to learn to embrace and enjoy life and make the best decisions we can.

Whether we live in a 5000 square foot home with marble floors, or a tract home in an older neighborhood, or a mobile home--it's our job to do the best we can with that situation and try not to judge others when they ARE doing the best they can.

Peace.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Another negative aspect of many large older local homes in addition to maintenance, repairs, upgrades, lead/asbestos abatement and heating/cooling costs are property taxes.

My highest property tax rates are in areas where many of the homes are large older homes. They really sock it to ya' if you fix up your larger older home.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Location is everything to me personally.

If a structure isn't on the water, it has little value to me other than an investment, utility or rental value.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Location is everything to me personally.

That is key. Everyone should strive to live where they feel personally comfortable and happy. When I look for a home I want land around the property. I do not enjoy living close around people. I always want at least an acre of land. I do not want isolation but hate what I experienced when I first married and coming out my door and looking in my neighbors yard and their face. But it was what we could afford.

I like privacy. Older homes appeal to me because it has character. It feels comfortable a pair of your favorite broken in shoes.


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RE: the bottom five percent

One of my first single family homes was a very large 1800s Colonial I bought when I was 22.

I grew up on the lakes and on acreage, so it never felt like home to me as it was in the city, plus I had close neighbors.

My lot was actually 3 X`the size of many city properties, but still tiny by comparison to the homes we grew up in.


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RE: the bottom five percent

As others have mentioned, structures age and we do too. When I bought this house in '84, I was able to do all the maintenance myself. Now in my 60's working on attic dormers 3 stories up is not a great idea. Besides, my kids are grown, have their own homes, visits are brief and usually concentrate in the garden. Other than being a warehouse for everyone's stuff, 80% of this house is wasted.
When I bought it, my house was outside the city limits. I got annexed in 15 years ago and now have the privilege of paying city and county taxes. Last year, several houses on adjoining lots were demolished and I now have a bank and an eye clinic as neighbors. I recently had my property rezoned to business-residential from residential because the handwriting is on the wall. I value my privacy so there won't be any tacky "For Sale" signs going up, but it is for sale.
My next home will be no more than 2 bedrooms and at least 5 miles out of town with a minimum of an acre so I can have my garden and critters.
PS - I would love to have enough to buy a winter home in Nicaragua or Guatemala that I could share with kids and grandchildren.


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RE: the bottom five percent

I value privacy as well and one would wonder why I live on a busy street. When you enter my yard, you have the feeling you are waaaay out in the country. This old house is good insulator of traffic sounds, and all the trees and vegetation soundproofs as well. I like living on a corner lot..actually three lots plus the house lot. I am bordered by two streets plus an alley so only one neighbor, and they are two lots sizes away. Especially over half the year when the trees are in leaf, I have a hard time seeing out side my yard. I cringe when I see these McMansions literally so close you could spit on their house from yours.

We're like you, Steve, living here since 1982 when we were three decades younger. Husband's TWO major falls from roofs and trees tells the story. Two broken arms, broken back, concussion, punctured lung....


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RE: the bottom five percent

Hmmm, the building debate definitely has personal resonance for me - sweetheart is a builder and my dad was also a tradesman. These guys did a full apprenticeship (my dad did 7 years painting and decorating covering everything from stippling, woodgraining, sign-writing, material usage (pigments, stabilisers, paints and glazes), even design and history. Mr Campanula was a plasterer and his apprentice piece was to raise a fluted column, in situe.
Plumbing, sparkies, bricklayers - all had the same extensive training. Now - a 6 week course if they are lucky. My son pays 400pounds every 10 weeks to gradually build up his welding skills - it is going to cost him thousands of pounds...and he still will only have a couple of weeks experience, considering actual time on the tools. There are advertisements for 2 week plumbing course!. Yep, I know building and construction have been massively deskilled (prefabs, plastic lock and grip, kits) yet the majority of housing stock in the UK is still pre 1950 and we have a generation of youngsters with only the most rudimentary understanding of practical skills.....while we have foregrounded a college degree and failed to consider vocational skills as worthy of either a decent wage or any status. The cruel scam played on our children (the worthless and expensive college degree and the absolute failure to foster trades skills) has left us with a legacy of utterly crapulent modern housing, built (sort of) by the barely competent (and badly paid) and yet even these houses are beyond the reach of nearly everyone on an average wage in Cambridge.
So, change is often generational - our generation was gulled by a huge housing bubble (everyone thought they were all doing much better than they were) but their children are now finding themselves priced out of everything...and parents just aren't dying fast enough either, so bang goes the inheritance. It is not a minority of the feckless poor priced out of a roof - it is the majority of working adults - interesting times ahead because the traditional divide and rule tactics really do not work when the scapegoats are me...and you...and our children...and most people we know.


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RE: the bottom five percent

I just composed a long, very heartfelt message to Demi and it was rejected because this thread evidently no longer exists * lol*


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RE: the bottom five percent

Huh?


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RE: the bottom five percent

Nice word that: "crapulent". So what about building yourself a tiny house, Camp?


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RE: the bottom five percent

Speaking of short-term crash course type training programs, I talked to a heating service tech that was working solo after zero classroom training and 3 months of working with another heating tech with less than a year of experience.

Together they had destroyed some very expensive electronics and dry fired a very expensive boiler. They didn't know how to solder, so they were using compression, shark-bite and pro-press fittings which are quite expensive.

Their employer expected them to perform so many annuals per day that even highly skilled, multi-skilled, multi-tasking techs with decades of experience and the best tools and equipment available couldn't keep up without cutting corners left, right and center.

Overall this is no worse than much of our low skilled low paid CNAs, PCAs and HHAs taking care of humans with little classroom and hands on experience.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Posted by mylab123 z5NW (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 2, 13 at 17:29

I just composed a long, very heartfelt message to Demi and it was rejected because this thread evidently no longer exists * lol*

*

????


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RE: the bottom five percent

I had the same problem with a post recently. I had a message saying the topic no longer existed.

After refreshing my browser, the message went away.


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RE: the bottom five percent

This may explain the gibberish in front of our user names that was here very briefly yesterday.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Wow, HVAC "techs" that can't sweat pipe? Obviously that employer will shed them or go out of business soon.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Many that have worked in the heating business for many years still don't do a good job of sweating pipes, or tightening threaded fittings which is odd since we have so much soldering and threading work due to the number of boilers, steam boilers and tanks in many regions.

We encounter lots of nasty looking soldering jobs and lots of leaking threaded fittings that haven't been tightened enough.

Many don't do a good job of flaring, so we see many leaking oil and gas lines. The same applies to automotive brake lines.

We see an awful lot of jobs where they've used teflon tape on flare fittings or unions as well.

You're not supposed to use teflon tape on oil lines, pumps and fittings, nor gas lines, however we see hundreds of these issues per year.

We see a lot of illegal compression fittings used on oil lines and brake lines as well.

I bailed out some techs on a commercial boiler installation where 2 of the helpers one company employed didn't have soldering skills, or flaring skills after 3 to 4 years of employment. All these tasks were performed by others, or they used a pro-press, compression or push-on style connectors. The lead tech had badly galled the flaring job, so all the fittings on the oil lines were leaking.

This company has more work than they can handle and come highly recommended by many customers.

Much of the problem is that you don't have to be licensed or certified to perform much of this work in many regions.


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RE: the bottom five percent

I've never heard of that kind of thing around here, just basic skills missing. Poorly designed systems, OTOH, or nonsensical ways of putting components together isn't uncommon though.

One guy I know does most of his business re-building the absurdities that the 2 or 3 most prolific HVAC outfits leave in their wake. You'll like this example: one building I maintain had the air intake and exhaust for the furnace taped up to the inside of those typical basement vents that have wells around them on the exterior. So for years they had been mostly plugged because those wells fill up with debris in heavy rain. In fact they fill up with water, which means water and debris was backing up into the insulated duct lines. It would have gone on forever if I hadn't noticed it.


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RE: the bottom five percent

I wish we had more skilled people that work on Boilers. I refuse to switch over to forced air for this size house. The couple next door switched and they are complaining that they have thousand dollar gas bills in the winter. You do not heat these houses with forced air without paying a high price. The ceiling heights, amount of rooms and room sizes cost a lot to heat.

Paying a couple thousand a month for utilities when it can be kept at hundreds is a waste.


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RE: the bottom five percent

I could make a full-time job of just correcting illegal and dangerous venting of furnaces, boilers and water heaters.

We see a lot of equipment vented too close to open windows/doors/vents, below the snow line, in window wells, under porches/decks, blocked by bushes etc.

Many sequence of operation safety devices used on direct vent and power vented equipment have been bypassed as well.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Camp, I have thought about you all day as I went about my appointments and chores.

There is something wrong with a world where in a family the parents can have two full time positions and yet, through a single disaster, still end up living out of a car. Even if those positions are minimum wage, when has there been a time in my country where two people can have those full time jobs and yet, with the cost of living being so high that a one bedroom apartment plus the living expenses associated is not affordable? Or, our children with a college degree cannot find a job that will reasonably be self supporting much less pay off the loan for the degree.
That, across the pond two people who worked hard all their lives are reduced to living in a horse trailer, and not having much hope that their children,.having worked for a college degree, will ever have the security of living a reasonably comfortable life?
How long will people live such lives without much hope for the future without striking out in grief and anger. Society much take care of itself or it will break down. People who are working must have hope that they are doing that work to improve their lives, not merely to stave off starvation or freezing to death. The people who work to keep the society going must feel they have rewards for that hard work or the system must expect failure. My opinion.
You are in my thoughts, I wish you a reason for a brighter future.

Demi, cant right now but will leave u a message in conversations, I could not get this thread to take my post yesterday, it was during a small space of time where the forum seemed to have glitch problems, but I do want to share a few ( positive only) thoughts with you about something you stated up thread. If not tonight then tomorrow for sure.


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RE: the bottom five percent

"People who are working must have hope that they are doing that work to improve their lives, not merely to stave off starvation or freezing to death."

Mulling that over, and I suspect it isn't true. Needing to eat and keeping warm in cold climates are powerful motivators, and I suspect avoiding the alternative is well worth it for anybody. The point you are probably trying to make is that hardly anyone in the developed world is strictly working only for those things. For example, I suspect Camp is not spending much money on heat so as to save it for improving the horse-box situation. That would be a different thing from actually choosing between eating or being warm. Maybe that is the case, we don't know. Both canada/us and britain have programs to aid people who are facing that kind of choice, I'm sure.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Mylab you always bring it home.

I too feel so bad when I read and see what has happened to our country and other countries. It is one of the reasons I get so upset when I see people say the stupidest things that the poor are lazy and do not have to be poor. People are doing everything right and the policies and greed is at a point that I have never seen in my life.

I have friends that have worked at companies for 30 years and they are taking pay cuts and the Presidents of the companies are getting 6 figure bonuses. They are at the end of their careers and trying to save for retirement, lost a lot in their 401Ks and now a pay cut.

I have been lucky but I do realize that many have not been so lucky and will have a very hard time during their later years which they did not think would/should happen because they did everything right as was previously dictated by our society.


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RE: the bottom five percent

While building codes and enforcement vary greatly from locale to locale, so does the corruption that often goes along with such official positions.

Actually, I'm very lucky in that my husband is trained to do any number of construction jobs or home repair and maintenance, from plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and far beyond. The only thing he doesn't do is work with wood, but his nephew is an excellent carpenter and craftsman. Between the two, there's nothing they can't plan, build, fabricate, or repair. It's nice when you have your own personal service technician!


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RE: the bottom five percent

That may be nice, Jodik, bit doesn't address the basic problem that keeps people disenfranchised: the comparatively very high cost of land, not to mention materials.


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RE: the bottom five percent

"I wish we had more skilled people that work on Boilers."

Yes. We need technicians of all stripes. I think there's too much emphasis on the benefits of a traditional college education, when that emphasis excludes the trade schools as a viable (and sensible) option for many.


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RE: the bottom five percent

Yes everyone is not college material. Not because of intelligence because tradesmen have very detailed materials to learn. Which require just as much intelligence as any college graduate.

Although I had office jobs I was far more suited to getting my hands dirty and if I had been a male I probably would have been steered in that direction.


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RE: the bottom five percent

That's very true, PNBrown, and one of the reasons I don't own my own home at the moment. But it does help keep this one in good repair and keeps the rent paid.

The only areas in which land may be cheap are the very places most people do not want to live... the climates are harsh, the land often inhospitable. Not your retirement paradise types of locale!

Marquest, I recall a time when that college degree wasn't as important as the actual skills, character, and desire to work that a person brought to the table...


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