Friday, 5 October 2018

DIY for Beginners, or Why Loose Roof Tiles are a Bigger Problem than you Thought

I've had a number of conversations recently with clients who seem to go round in circles over periods of time, perhaps cycling back to old, destructive behaviours, looping in and out of periods of high and low self confidence, and so on. A common theme, perhaps arising from the greater public awareness of counselling and psychotherapy, is the client's childhood experience as the root cause of their current 'problems'.

I'd like you to come on a short journey with me. Imagine that you would like to live by the sea one day. Imagine that you have always dreamed of the beautiful landscape, walking on the beach, the sunshine and the relaxing sounds of the waves. Imagine that one day, you see a plot of land for sale in a wonderful location, so you buy it and make a plan to build your own house.

You've lived in houses all your life. You know exactly what a house needs, how it's constructed and what it should look like. You design it yourself, and start buying materials. Slowly, you build your own house. After some months, there it is, perfect in all of its self made glory. It's exactly how you imagined it, exactly what you wanted.

Imagine that you live in this house for many, many happy years.

One winter, you notice a little water damage on the ceiling of one of the upstairs rooms. You ignore it for a while. It gets worse. You go up in the roof space and look for the cause. You see some evidence of water leaks. You get a ladder and look outside, and you discover that some roof tiles are missing. You go back to the building supplies warehouse, buy some more roof tiles and replace them. Just one of those things.

You enjoy a wonderful spring and summer, walks on the beach, beautiful sunsets, picnics. That winter, you notice some more water damage, a little worse this time. You check and discover some roof tiles missing. You replace them and think nothing more of it.

You enjoy a wonderful spring and summer, early morning swims in the sea, ice creams, watching children playing. That winter, you notice some more water damage, even worse than before. You start to wonder why it keeps happening. "Cheap roof tiles", you conclude. "The builder's merchant conned me", you say to yourself. You were ripped off. You paid good money and were given substandard tiles. It's the only possible explanation. You buy more expensive roof tiles and think nothing more of it.

Year, after year, after year, the same cycle. Wonderful summers, and winters that bring ever growing areas of water damage. Cracks start to appear around the window frames. The cracks get a little bigger every year. Poor quality cement. Poor quality plaster. Poor workmanship from the contractors you hired.

Your friends start to comment on the cracks and the water damage, and you brush their comments aside, defensively. It's your house, built with your own two hands. Who says there's anything wrong with it? Poor materials. Unreliable workmen.

After many years of this cycle, you start to worry, in your quiet, private moments, that maybe there is something wrong with the house after all.

Friends suggest that you get a building surveyor to take a look. What would they know?! You know your house inside out. What could anyone else tell you? The very idea is an insult.

After a few more winters with the water damage getting worse and the cracks getting wider, you begrudgingly call a surveyor in. He looks carefully around the house and finally delivers his analysis. The house is built on sandy ground, and has no foundation. No foundation! What's a foundation?

He explains the concept to you. Every house has a hidden foundation, invisible, buried deep below ground. No-one ever sees it, no-one would know it was there. And without it, the ground that we think is so solid and reliable can move, shift a little, driven by the natural movement of the environment. The house should have been built on a solid foundation, but it wasn't. You can't turn the clock back, but you can look forwards.

What are your options?

You could dismantle the house and rebuild it on a new foundation.

You could walk away, let the house fall into complete disrepair, abandon it and start again.

You could have the foundation professionally created under the house while it is in place.

The final option is usually the most practical. It involves digging a trench around the house and placing stones and concrete into a space created beneath it, retrospectively creating a foundation where none existed before.

Imagine that this is the option you go for. After all, you have invested so much in the house, it's worth saving.

With the new foundation in place, the house is safe and secure once more.

And yet, the cracks are still there. The new foundation doesn't heal the existing damage. The water can still get in. The cracks aren't getting any bigger. The roof tiles are no longer falling off. But the existing damage is there forever.

You can fill the cracks, repair the damage, fit new roof tiles. You can redecorate. You know that your friends still know about the damage.

Over time, now that you've understood more about what was happening to the house, and you have accepted the mistakes you made in its construction, you begin to notice cracks in your friends' houses too. But rather than hide the cracks, you notice that they're part of the house's character. The wear and tear makes the house what it is - unique, homely, comforting.

You slowly realise that the cracks and bumps and irregularities in your own house have become part of its character. They define it, they each tell a story.

What's the story behind your unique character?





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