Tearing Down the House
Like some of its inhabitants, my home is hurdling into middle-age. The classic signs are all there: Weak underfootings, a thinning roof, leaky plumbing, and the deluge of emotions when the basement floods. We’ve given it the requisite face-lifts, tummy-tucks with energy-efficient windows, new paint jobs and sump pumps to dry the tears. Nonetheless, my homes bones are creaking.
The house had some funky blemishes from the starting gate. We’ve learned to live without a bathroom in the master bedroom. The entrance welcomes visitors right into our kitchen (Oh, how I envy those enticing entranceways with mudrooms and vestibules), the basement is so low that if you don’t duck, you’ll surely get a concussion, and the garage is nowhere near a place someone would consider parking a car.
Our intimate, smallish house has been the subject of speculative discussions among our family and guests. One that is etched in my mind occurred when my son was in pre-school. He had a playdate with an adorable 4-year-old friend who marched into our house and exclaimed, “This is a little house, are you going to move when he gets bigger (one arm stretched high over her head and one pointing at my son)?”
We have no plans of moving from our home, even though my son is now well over 6 feet “big.” The house is on a few private acres of land in a desirable area. It still feeds our spirit and shelters our family. But if we did entertain the notion of selling, given all the imperfections and age-related crankiness of the house, I am not so sure a new owner wouldn’t just tear it down and start all over again.
There is a name for this: “Teardown Syndrome.” Who knew it would become a trend for builders and homebuyers? A New York Times article addresses this ailment. The writer laments, “This is the dispiriting realization that even in today’s deflated real estate market, many potential buyers would huff and puff and ’doze your wee house down to start all over again.”
Shouldn’t homes be preserved? How would you decide whether to tear down or not? I have seen an episode or two of Extreme Home Makeover and those homes are more than viable teardown candidates. The demise of unhealthy homes might be a blessing for many homeowners.
What happens to the integrity of communities when older homes of 1,500-2,000 square feet are torn down and replaced with 4,000- and 10,000-square-foot new homes? Communities have to grapple with a multitude of issues when the land these homes sit on are worth more than the houses. It becomes a complicated debate that clogs up zoning boards and rightfully upsets historic preservationists.
At my abode, we are readjusting, shifting and listening to the adult voice of our home. We continue to give it tune-ups like spa treatments. Eco-remodels and updates for efficiency top the list. Even after a recent natural disaster with snow and wind, my home stood tall and proud. Like middle-age baby boomers on passionate reinvention quests, we can’t recalibrate everything. At least my “mature” house has high ceilings on its smallish footprint to accommodate family growth spurts.
Ronnie Citron-Fink lives in New York with her husband, two children (when they come home to the nest), two dogs and a cat. Ronnie is a teacher and a writer. She has been a contributing writer for Family Fun magazine. She currently writes articles about education and home design. Her writings are in four books including Family Fun Home and Some Delights of the Hudson Valley.