Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Belmont Stucco Monster

You've probably noticed that a lot of Charlottesville houses, particularly older houses in Belmont, are covered with stucco. My own house has been stuccoed. Alas! There is wood clapboard imprisoned underneath. A neighbor who has lived on our street for over fifty years says he remembers the stucco salesman coming to town. He certainly did a brisk business in Belmont, and I used to say that I was glad he got to our house ahead of the aluminum siding salesman. Now I'm not so sure.

To help defray costs on our renovation, we're doing some of the demolition ourselves. Today I demolished the stucco off part of a small wall. Stucco, I discovered, is very very heavy indeed. It consists of four components: a fibrous underlayer to which is nailed chicken wire. The first coat of stucco is applied to the chicken wire, and the top coat is applied over that. I managed to hook my fingers into some of the chicken wire and I pulled. Stucco rained down around me—the outer coat in large chunks, and the under coat in thousands of small octagonal fragments. This was hard work, and I worried I might get my fingers caught and degloved in the chicken wire, but as hard as this was, hauling all that rubble to the dumpster was worse. Since the house is surrounded by scaffolding, there isn't room to get a wheelbarrow to the back. I had to dump the rubbled into a trash can, maneuver the heavy can down the steps of the deck (Did it tip over? Of course it did!) and squeeze it through the tiny opening between the scaffolding and the fence and finally heave the whole load into a wheelbarrow, take it to the dumpster and then hurl scoops of heavy stucco—it is very much like concrete—into the dumpster, the top of which stands a couple feet above my head. I demolished just half of this small wall, and I threw away hundreds of pounds of stucco rubble--and I made many trips to the dumpster.

I used to cherish a fantasy of taking the stucco off our house and restoring the original clapboard, but now I realize that this would be impossible. Pictured below: the empty space where the old porch was and the new roof. That stucco wall under the roof is the one I was demolishing today.

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