Raze, rebuild, repeat: why Japan knocks down its houses after 30 years

Unlike in other countries, Japanese homes become valueless over time – but as the population shrinks, can its cities finally learn to slow down and refurb?

This fascinating look at Japanese housing type and market examines the lifecycle and recyclability of houses across Japan. Perhaps the most interesting revelation in the article: a Muji home.

Source: Raze, rebuild, repeat: why Japan knocks down its houses after 30 years

A New Mattress

The bed in Florence is a peculiar size. It’s just smaller than a full and is in fact a “three quarters” size. The peculiar size was once a common bed size in America until the old bedding size system was standardized after WWII. The mattress is also rounded at two corners to accommodate the rounded sides of the Airstream frame. This makes finding bedding difficult and more complicated. 

When I purchased Florence, I made a mental note to buy a new mattress. Three years have passed and I never found the time to do it. After purchasing a Casper mattress for my home, I wrote to Casper asking if they could make a custom size one for the Airstream. They never wrote back. 

So for a few years I slept on a sturdy cot-like mattress. It wasn’t uncomfortable but it wasn’t luxurious either. I began shopping around for a mattress and was surprised to find that the cost was not insignificant. Ballpark was about $800-1200 for a custom mattress. 

Which, as always, is when my very favorite store in the world came through for me. This past week, ALDI featured memory foam mattresses for $219. That was the lowest price I could find anywhere and just like the Casper mattress, the ALDI version came with a 10 year warranty. 


So, I bought one. I used my mom and dad’s electric turkey carving knife to slice the foam and replaced the cot-like mattress. Amazingly, it was easy and is tremendously comfortable. Honestly, it’s as comfy as the Casper, of which, I am a huge fan. 



I also made a friend with a slug while I was cutting the mattress. I interrupted his happy home with my cutting activity. Mr. Slug is nownhappily living in a paper towel tube outside my Airstream. 


Also, for those interested, I have found that European-size bedding including square pillows and “single” comforters fit the Airstream perfectly. You can find great bedding at Hema in The Netherlands and Central Europe or Hemtex in Estonia and across Northern Europe. 

Happy Third Birthday, Florence!

It’s hard to believe that I’m entering the fourth year of living in Florence! Life in an Airstream continues to be a comfortable dream come true, and I couldn’t be happier that we made the decision to buy Florence three summers ago! 

Happy Birthday, Florence!


You can read the whole original story here.

City Water Inlet Replacement

About a month ago, I was washing dishes and all of a sudden, the water simply stopped. My first thought was that the water main buried outside must have broken, but upon further inspection, I found that the water to Florence was flowing perfectly and with a decent amount of pressure. Because the water would flow from the storage tank when the pump was on, that told me that everything was working inside Florence as well. The only point where water didn’t seem to be flowing was at the point where the outdoor hose attached to the side of Florence, a strange little hookup marked “City Water Inlet.” 

I didn’t know much about the City Water Inlet (and I don’t really think I know that much more now…) but I learned that what appears to be simply a male connection for a female hose, actually has a bunch more going on. The inside of the connection contains a small white plastic box that contains a pressure regulator. It’s a little device that ensures that water coming from the source isn’t so pressured that it will blow your plumbing apart inside the Airstream. I also learned that the valve is especially prone to freezing. When they freeze they lock up, and boom. That’s it. They’re kaput and need to be replaced.

Plumbing is well outside of my areas of expertise, but the adventurous side of me decided to give it a try.

My first move was to remove the old valve.


It was a tougher job than it appeared to be. There seemed to be a lot of screws (4 inside that were VERY long and 4 outside that were very short), and it was very challenging to work in the tight quarters under the sink. The inside of the valve attaches to a little female receptacle that has a daisy wheel around it to tighten or loosen. It was pretty easy to loosen. Then, I had to pry the old valve off the side of the Airstream, because it had this sort of grey caulk goop all around it.

When I pulled it off, there was a noticeable hole in the side of the Airstream.


I plugged the hole with a towel to keep water and critters out and ordered a replacement valve. I also ordered a 90º elbow too. The elbow goes on the outside and helps to secure the hose to the City Water Inlet valve, without putting pressure on the valve itself. 

The new valve slid right in the hole, but aligning the interior connection with the daisy wheel took some effort. I tightened the daisy wheel to a point where it thought it was tight. It wasn’t. As soon as I turned on the water main, water squirted out inside of the Airstream. I turned off the main and tightened it until my fingers really (really) hurt. That seemed to be tight enough. No more dripping or squirting, a nice dry seal, and perfect running water in Florence once again!

I took some time to re-caulk the outside with some clear silicone caulk, and hopefully, I won’t have to replace this valve for a very long time!

Weatherstripping

I didn’t realize how badly degraded the weatherstripping around my door had become. It was dry and brittle and didn’t really provide much protection against drafts.

The project was very simple and took only about an hour to do. The new weatherstripping really makes a notable difference both in terms of draft and sound.

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Before. Dry and brittle old weatherstripping.
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After, smooth and clean weatherstripping.

I did it!!! Hot Water Heater Repair.

One of the amazing things about my Airstream is that the Atwood hot water heater puts out really hot water. Well, that is, it did put out really hot water until about May of this past year, when it suddenly stopped working.

My Atwood hot water heater had always worked silently, and in mid-May, it was still operating, but for some reason, it was louder than usual. I had recently replaced the LP gas canister, and I wondered if I had somehow gotten a “bad” can of gas. I kept using the hot water heater and though the flame wasn’t its usual steady self, I figured that I couldn’t do much harm if it was still putting out hot water. Increasingly, the hot water heater seemed to have to work more and more diligently to produce even just warm water. And then it stopped. The flame would come on, struggle, and no hot or even warm water would come out.

This was the precise fear I had when I bought my Airstream: that some mechanical calamity would occur, and I wouldn’t know how to fix it, or that the repair would be hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix.

So I procrastinated, which, when I don’t know how to do something, is my default. I didn’t want to face a costly repair, and thought: eventually, it will either work on its own, or it won’t. So I browsed Amazon for a complete replacement. I mean, surely, replacing the entire hot water tank and heater with a hot water on demand system would be preferable to troubleshooting and figuring out what’s really wrong with mine, right? In the meanwhile, I can live for a few days without hot water. Well, as those days turned in to months (I’m writing this in late September…), and eventually I decided enough was enough.

A tempting new electric hot water on demand unit from Amazon.

I got brave and hit up YouTube, where I found this helpful video:

The man in the video, Donald Adams (according to YouTube) was thorough in his explanation, and showed a number of troubleshooting and other tips to help me tackle the problem.

So, about a week after watching the video, I ordered a little $16 part from Amazon called a thermocouple. It’s essentially a fuse that prevents the water heater from burning down your entire Airstream when something is wrong with the flame. That’s what happened to mine. By keeping the water heater running, I was (unknowingly) creating an unsafe condition where the flame was actually licking up out of the burner tube… and the thermocouple melted. Luckily, the good folks at Atwood must know people like me, and they designed a safety feature to insure against stupidity. Thanks Atwood!

The scary $16 part that stood between me and hot water for months. Two of the three pieces aren’t even used!

I waited another week for it to arrive, and then procrastinated another week or so before “finding the time” to tackle the installation.

Well, after three months of procrastinating, it took about 5 minutes to change out the thermocouple, brush out the pilot tube, and put everything back together.

Easy. I snapped the old thermocouple off, and put the new one on. It really didn’t even require tools (but I did use a pair of needle nosed pliers because I was leary of the wires that were in there… I figured it was easier to stick in a tool rather than my fingers.)

My burned out thermocouple (top) and the new replacement (bottom.)

So, as I write this, I am enjoying the dull sound of a consistent flame and the sound of hot water being made on demand for me to do dishes later tonight!

$16 and 5 minutes. Probably not worth three months of worry and procrastination.

A New (Little) Shed

When you only have 68 square feet of living space, every foot counts. Having a jug of kitty litter reduces your living space by 2%. A garbage can, another 2%, a pair of shoes, another 2%. While I am not complaining about my small space, every item and every centimeter counts.

I have been thinking for a while about building (or buying) a shed…and I found this little one at Lowes. It was surprisingly simple to put together and seems decently sturdy. It’s really made for two garbage bins, but I’m using it to store a lawn mower, some outdoor chairs, a hose, and some kitty litter.

Truthfully. I could probably fit all those things in the rear (under bed) storage area, but I’ve filled that with fiberglass insulation, which keeps the airstream toasty warm.

Best of all, this little shed snaps apart and folds flat, so when I move, it will move with me.

So…one more improvement checked off the list!!

Summer Landscaping

I finally found a little time in my summer break to do some gardening, landscaping, and exterior maintenance at the Airstream! I have found, when full-timing, that on the north side of Florence, a green, slimy algae seems to grow on surfaces. Well, no longer. Thanks to my Aldi power washer, Florence got a very good bath (and waterproof test) today. The power washer blasted every last bit of slime and dirt from her surface, and even blasted some mold from the concrete around her base. The concrete looks brand new.

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The pots with little ornamental shrubs also look great. I filled the pots with dirt and weighted them so they won’t blow away or tip over (like the ones last year.) If I learned anything, I learned, go low not high with plants in buckets.

Against my better judgement, I sprayed weed killer around the concrete pad and in the cracks on the concrete pad. In the midst of doing it, a big bumble bee got in the way, and got a dousing. I feel terribly about that.

While mowing, my good friend, Monsieur LeFrog came back for a visit. He’s about twice his size from last year. Nice to see him again.

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After a thorough bath and power wash, I mowed the lawn and added some mulch around the trees I planted last year. Hopefully, the mulch will keep the weeds at bay!

My neighbor, Teddy, loaned me his hose to use with the power washer today, and I noticed he had planted a little garden. I never did, because I assumed the deer would eat it. He said that’s never a problem, so I might plant some tomatoes and/or lettuce for snacking.

Tomorrow, I tackle the patio and washing windows (inside and out!) Next week, I’m going to tackle the cracks in the concrete pad, and repair of the hot water heater (gulp!)

 

Spring Cleaning

Time for a little bit of spring cleaning. Now with Molly living in Florence part time, there seems to be evidence of cat everywhere. In such tiny quarters, a little mess goes a long way, so I brought out the big guns: my grandma’s vacuum cleaner (that I have had forever.)

Angie's Eureka Empress Vacuum Cleaner

This vacuum cleaner will be 60 years old next year. It is—without reservation—the most trusty appliance I own. It needs zero maintenance. Works like a charm, and cleans really well. Most amazing: I can still find bags that fit!

In any case, Florence is a little more tidy and ready for summer… at least inside. Outside maintenance starts happening next week. That’s when I’ll tackle the hot water tank that seems to have stopped working.

 

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter

About a month ago, my microwave stopped working. I wasn’t sure why, so I checked the fuse box. The GFCI had somehow tripped. Everything else seemed to be working fine, so I didn’t pay it much mind…but for the life of me, I could not reset the GFCI. 

I tried flipping the switch. That didn’t work. I tried pushing the little yellow “test” button. That didn’t work either. I tried both at the same time. That didn’t work. I hauled out my giant Airstream manual and it had no information. I even tried Airforums. No luck. 

So today, the “check” light illuminated on my refrigerator, so I again checked the fuse box. I learned a few things…one, that my fridge has been running on propane intermittently (to my surprise) and second that the GFCI is reset   By pushing the switch DOWN and then up. 
Everything seems to be working now!

Remember: down then up!