Insulbrick. It’s been called “the brick that is not a brick.” It’s a thick siding made of asphalt that was popular in the early/mid-1900’s. It purportedly could go up in a day, provide insulation and keep a house fire-resistant, and would last forever.

I can’t guarantee it really did go up quickly, or that it worked like it was supposed to against the ravages of cold and heat. I can tell you this: it does last forever.

No one knows when the insulbrick was put on our house. We spoke with the granddaughter of the woman who last owned our house, and she said it was already there when her grandmother bought it. That was in the 50s. In all likelihood, the insulbrick was on our house for a solid 60-something years. More likely it went up in the 30s, which means that it was dressing our house for a good 80+ years. And against all the odds, that stuff was pretty much still in place when we bought it. I actually thought our house was a brick house when we bought it. Again, dangers of buying a house sight unseen. And not having very good eyesight.

The house looked like this:

Front of house

One of the first contractors that came by eyed the house sadly. “Yeah,” he said, “I don’t think we’ll be able to patch the missing insulbrick.” That’s when I knew we had different definitions of renovating. The insulbrick had to go.

Luckily, it’s not incredibly hard to get rid of. There are about six nails holding each board of insulbrick in place; you yank them out, pull off the board, and move on with your day. And you know what makes it even easier? Hiring someone unafraid of heights to pull off the boards up high.

Also, we had our neighbors. One neighbor brought us fresh apricots and beer. Lots of neighbors came by to encourage us. Another neighbor lent us a ladder. Another neighbor came on a Sunday ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

So, it’s really not taking insulbrick off that is the problem. The bigger issue is that you never know what you’ll end up with once the insulbrick is gone. Insulbrick is notorious for trapping water and rotting the boards underneath. We ended up with this:

Naked House

Dirty siding. Gloriously whole, dirty siding. That now needs a ton of work.

Our neighbors are still coming by. They stop on the sidewalk and stare at the house. “Wow,” they say. “It looks great. It’s going to be beautiful.”

It’s nice to live around visionaries.

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