Bob & Ellen's Excellent Adventure

Black Sheep Tower House

Al – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

July 19, 2020 Aluminum. Al is the symbol. The spectacular aluminum decks, bridge, landings and unfinished staircases made of aluminum were part of what attracted us to this house. Look at the main house living space, wow, just wow. We could immediately start visualizing the completed stairs with aluminum stringers and natural wood treads, a stone hearth, maybe slate tiles…with all those windows to the woods, and all that light…. a combination of NH’s natural materials – stone and wood, combined with the sleek silver look of the aluminum to make it sing. The owner and designer of this look was brilliant, in our opinion, but also maybe a little “unconventional” shall we say? Parts were everywhere, but no plans… how in the world would we be able to finish this? Everyone who saw it said the same thing, “it has so much potential!!” and “I can’t wait to see it when it’s done!!”. Yeah, well, us too! LOL

The other side of Al was waiting for us in the shed and garage. We literally knew nothing about the manufacturing process of creating aluminum products from the raw stuff. But the CNC machines were going great guns in the garages for years, cutting aluminum body pieces for electric bikes, scooters, and F2000 race cars, along with all the associated design engineering, assembly, marketing and so on. And of course, creation of segments of the aluminum architectural elements we loved in the house. We were curious of course, and were slowly piecing together the stories and history of the last 25 years. Unexpectedly, in 2017, the owner was lost in a tragic plane accident and the house, garages and businesses were left for the family to sort through. The property was in a way a time capsule of the day of his disappearance. Although many of the machines and other valuable items were sold or removed, many things were left to add to our understanding of the story.

When the family donated the home to the UNH Foundation, UNH listed it for sale “as is”. We tried to do our due diligence in identifying what might be an issue, problem or challenge for us going forward, both inside and out, but let’s face it – we are and will remain novices on a very steep learning curve. When driving fast cars on the racetrack (stories for another day) there is an expression, “keep the shiny side up”, which is pretty self explanatory. Well, we had seen the “shiny side” of this house’s passion for aluminum, and now we were about to investigate the grimy undercarriage…

These are containers and 55 gallon drums of used “cutting fluid”, which in short, is a coolant and lubricant for machining metal, in this case aluminum. There were also tiny bits of aluminum shavings pretty much everywhere in the garage and shed, plus the floor was heavily soiled and sticky where the machines had been. Yuck. As a former art teacher, I know how all-too-easy it is to let stuff build up around an art studio, until it seems like a nightmare, so I am not going to be completely judgey on this one. BUT, it was clear this hot mess had been going on for at least a decade or so. For us, “as-is” meant “it’s your problem, guys”.

Valcool, the type of cutting fluid used here, is water-based and not in the Hazmat category (she knows from the internet and phoning some friends), but it’s not like you can just take a couple hundred gallons of it to the transfer station, or dump it in the woods! So, I got on the phone and started learning about companies who take away this kind of stuff and how much it would cost us. After some very high estimates we went with Tradebe, recommended by Mark our mechanic, and who also had the least expensive quote. I signed a bunch of forms, scanned them in, wrote a check, and the guy came and (using the house’s barrel dolly, who knew we would actually ever use it?) poured the nasty stuff between containers, and took away five (5) full 55-gallon drums. DONE! We were left with a bunch of gross 5-gal buckets which we bagged and took to the transfer station, and an EPA form that I was told I MUST NOT LOSE. Apparently, even though you pay a lot of money for a company to take away your not-quite-hazmat waste, the EPA will always and forever hold ME responsible for its disposition, even and especially if the company we PAID to take it away does something crazy like create a new Super Fund site. Go figure. ūüôā

1 Comment

  1. Terrell

    The wood and aluminum structure is an Architect’s dream.

Leave a Reply