Jay Beeler

The smartest thing that my wife and I did 50 years ago was to buy our house. We were DINKs (double income, no kids) and saved enough for a down payment by living rent free in a nearby 18-unit apartment building that I managed for about three years in the five years after our marriage.

In 1974 homes in the Los Altos area were selling in the low 30K range. We were able to purchase a Park Estates home for twice that amount that has since grown to 30 times the original purchase price.

I’m looking back because the recent rains have exposed a couple of leaks in the “man cave,” a large room next to the pool that serves as a TV room and my home office. Fixing those leaks means that it is time to replace the roof for the second time. When all is said and done, that cost will be approaching what we paid for our property in the first place.

As a homeowner, it helps to be a handyman. Managing apartments is good training for plumbing repairs, painting and preparing for new tenants. In 50 years, I’ve replaced much of the plumbing, added a few square feet and remodeled the kitchen/bath area, added outside doors to three of the four bedrooms, built a gazebo and converted the patio area to a home office, which has evolved to become the cocktail hour man cave for watching sports and the evening news.

When adding a sliding door to my son’s bedroom, I learned about having a spark arrestor on the chimney. While burning the wood scraps in the fireplace, an ember landed on the roof, burning a hole in it. With three fire engines, a ladder truck, paramedic unit and battalion chief on our street, several of the firemen told me “You really should have a spark arrestor.”


So that’s the story behind getting a wood shake roof in the early 1980s, which was placed over the existing shingles and lasted 40 years before the recent leaks developed. Concurrently (and probably the second smartest thing we did as homeowners) was to have solar panels installed over the garage area that keeps the pool heated, annually saving tons of money on the gas bill.

Our new roof, made from lightweight concrete tiles, is not likely to allow any roof fires. And yes, we’ve followed the firemen’s admonition and have spark arrestors on the chimney.

Before this new roof could be installed it was necessary to fix the garage roof, which sagged due to a main beam that had cracked from earthquakes – most probably the Northridge quake in 1994. Thanks to contractors Bob Curillo, Gary Montgomery and their crews, our garage is now prepared to withstand “the big one,” with the new, plentiful structural lumber.

There’s a hand-me-down, wide-screen TV in this second man cave, so when the next, powerful earthquake hits, the garage most certainly will remain standing. That’s where my overstock of beer and camping equipment is located, plus a new roof that doesn’t leak. Now we’re really prepared to party.


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