Saturday, April 28, 2001


It's time to fix the soffits and clear up all confusion

        The house painter came by the other day to give us an estimate on two-coating The Kramden.

        There are lavish homes, such as those you see at Homearama, with expensive-sounding names that are frequently French — Le Grand Maison, Le Money Pit Extraordinaire. And there is our house, the two-story, brick-and-siding crumbler known affectionately as The Kramden (a homage to the Honeymooners, a classic working-class sitcom).

        The painter sized up the exterior wreckage: The peels, the chips, the grinning sparrows offering him a thumbs-up from a cleave in the masonite. He walked the entire perimeter, eyes wide. Occasionally, he shook his head.

        “I don't know,” he said.

        A problem with owning a house is, you have to maintain it. It helps if you know a little about that. If it interests you, that's even better. Me, I like to play golf.

        I hire guys for the really hard stuff. Such as painting. I watched the last guy paint our house. I was amazed. “Oh,” I said to him. “You use that end.”

        The painter allowed that The Kramden looked like Ol' Glue after a seven-day ride. He listed the particulars: Pressure wash all wood. Apply two coats of Porter acrylic prime sealer, one coat latex. And so forth.

        Then he said something like this: “Those soffits could really use some work.”

        “Oh, yeah,” I replied. “I noticed that. They look terrible. It's a disgrace.”

        What I was thinking was: What's a soffit?

        It is a confusing world. I read in a catalog the other day an ad for a “finial.” A what?

        I go to church sometimes. The minister talks about the “narthex.” It sounds like a drug.

        Newel posts and trivets. What are they? Key grips, gaffers, best boys. Fascia board, fuselage. What color is taupe, really?

        “What's a baluster?” I asked my father, who is so old, he knows everything.

        “A child born out of wedlock,” he said.

        But back to soffits.

        “It's what we got rid of in the kitchen,” my wife says.

        I thought that was the Veg-O-Matic.

        “No. It's the drop ceiling we had over the Jenn-Air. It's used to hide the heating pipes and junk.”

        “That was the fascia board,” says my mother.

        And a soffit?

        “That thing you put in the dryer to keep your clothes from getting wrinkly,” says a friend.

        But why would those things be on the outside of my house?

        “The soffit is that aluminum stuff that is horizontally attached to the edge of the roof, so no crud gets in,” says my dad.

        “It keeps wasps and birds from building nests in the overhanging rafters,” my mother says.

        But the grinning sparrows. . .

        “That's why the painter said your soffits are in bad shape,” she says.

        It's all coming together now.

        Soon, The Kramden will be decked out in the finest soffits newspaper money can buy. I will feel secure knowing my soffit problem has been solved.

        I will move on to other concerns, such as cornices and mortises. Which I believe are fish used in fertilizer.

       Contact Paul Daugherty at 768-8454; fax: 768-8330.


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