The greatest mistake that mankind has made occurred when our prehistoric ancestors moved out of their cozy caves. We all know why they moved into caves in the first place, because they were smart. They knew enough to come in out of the rain.
True, caves were cold and smoky when the inhabitants lit a fire and they had no back door when trouble appeared at the front door. But if well chosen, the cave’s roof didn’t leak. The same cannot be said of every dwelling humans have devised since.
Did the roofs of log cabins leak? It seems certain. Stone hovels, sod huts? Yep. Tepees had a hole in the roof on purpose, as did many early dwellings, to let the smoke out. Unfortunately, until the art of the hearth evolved, they also let the rain in. Thatched roofs may have been surprisingly effective, but you were only as dry as your last thatching and the skill of the village thatcher. And that was long before Angie’s List. And what is the number one threat to the survival of the great cathedrals and stately homes? Inevitably, the bankrupting repair of the leaky roof.
I have moved fairly often in my life and, despite the pricey but worthless home inspections I’ve dutifully paid for, I have replaced either two or three roofs. After the first domestic water boarding you lose count. And now, in the present shack, I am about to pay to stay dry for the third time in eight years. Not for a complete new roof, thank God, but for leaks caused by flawed installation of the last one.
Water will always find a way. It is diabolical in seeking its own level. A pinhole-sized flaw in some flashing led to a nice refreshing drizzle onto the dining room table. A combination of two slopes meeting and an inadequate way to drain the resulting confluence of rivers has twice led to eruptions of morning dew on the living room ceiling. And in a cascade of misery, after every roof repair come platoons of drywall guys and painters.
Even if roofs work perfectly, we are always in danger from the greatest mistake ever made after leaving the cave. It also involves water. I speak, of course, of indoor plumbing. What were we thinking? Surely no one wants to return to the unmourned outhouse out back or the trip to the creek to do the laundry or to the pump to acquire water to cook and clean. But…
Is the toilet always running? Yes. Has the dripping of the faucet that feeds the hose that waters the lawn flooded the basement? Naturally. Is there a leak beneath the bathroom sink? Of course. Is there trouble seeping into the walls due to the faulty shower grout or the cock-eyed backsplash behind the kitchen sink? You bet. Is the drain backed up? Are there roots in the pipes? Somewhere, somehow, unseen, insidious is water running down the inside of a wall, spilling out of an untightened nut, trickling stealthily along rafters or joists until suddenly one day breaking out into the open like a sleeper cell of terrorists suddenly awakened to wreak havoc? Can there be any doubt? It is only a matter of time until the next liquid attack. And then there are the trucks of first responders in the driveway, men clanking with tools and vast debits in the checkbook.
What’s the answer? Desert living perhaps. Bottled water. All meals take out or dine out. Chamber pots. Outdoor showers like at the beach. The cure may be worse than the disease, but the diseases of water indoors, when the whole idea is to keep water outdoors, are constant, infuriating, never-ending.
I know, I know, eternal vigilance is the price of dryness, but I can’t help feeling I’ve got better things to do. I consider, with envy, the lilies of the field who roof not, neither do they plumb.