Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Money Pit – Swamp Edition

Anyone out there old enough to remember the movie "The Money Pit" will remember that this crazy couple bought a house slightly in need of repair and subsequently spent thousands of dollars fixing it up. Yeah, well, they were a lot smarter than we were—at least they didn't live in the middle of a swamp where you can't even get contractors to spend oodles of money on. No. It took someone of our intelligence to buy an old log home at the edge of a swamp. Turns out the original owners built it with their own two hands and a few college students, none of whom apparently knew what a right angle is, or even a ruler. There isn't a straight wall in the place. But the 20 acres it sits on are gorgeous, if you like swamps, and we were dumb enough to fall for the scenery.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, we found a gusher in my bathroom. Of course there are no shutoff valves anywhere in the house. But we capped the gusher and pulled up the toilet to find the source. And discovered the floor had rotted out behind the lovely 1970's psychedelic vinyl flooring. And the toilet's plumbing was hanging "loose and free" beneath the floor. Wonderful. You wouldn't want to force plumbing to stay in one place, now, would you?

Over July 4th, my hubby managed to replace the rotted floorboards and we bought some new vinyl flooring tiles—the ones that can handle wet environments. Then, this weekend, I finally got around to working on the floor. My husband indicated that he thought I would do a better job for some obscure reason. Like physical dexterity. Or maybe just general gullibility. But on the surface, it seemed easy enough, in theory.

I should have remembered that none of the walls meet at right angles or run in anything resembling a straight line. Everything is skewed, not to mention that the floor—once we took up the old vinyl—doesn't actually meet the walls in all places. Well. So we bought this floor leveler and some other gunk to fill holes. My husband did offer to fix the 1 ½" gap between where the floor ended and the wall began, by scooping some of the gunk into the gap. This gap, by the way, starts at one end as a 1 ½" gap and winds up as about a ¼" gap about 3 feet further along the wall.

"Where will that stuff run if the subflooring doesn't meet the wall, either?" I asked, watching him uneasily.

"Behind the wall in the downstairs bathroom." He replied, shoveling in the gooey gray mixture.

I went downstairs and shone a flashlight in the hole we broke into the wall to find out where the leak was coming from when we originally heard the gusher running through the walls.

Nope, no slurpy stuff running down the walls. Whew. That was lucky.

The washing machine dinged and I went into the laundry room on the other side of the wall to move the clothes to the dryer. A stream of gray goo was running down the wall, right into the pile of laundry sorted to be washed. And wait! That's not all! Part of the goo river ran over the curtains and window in the laundry room, too. By the time I got upstairs, my husband had figured out that the gunk wasn't filling the hole and had plugged it up to prevent all of the valuable stuff from running away.

After a break of washing the curtains and clothes with the hose in the yard, I returned to the house. My energetic hubby indicated he now needed to mow the lawn, so the bathroom was ready for me.

Gee. Thanks.

At least I found a use for my old manuscripts. I used the pages to cut out the patterns of all the crazy angles and circles to accommodate the plumbing fixtures and oddly skewed walls. I got most of the area around the toilet more-or-less done, although I noticed that the wall on that side had a skew of about 2 ½".

End of Saturday—too exhausted to cook dinner and discovering that old knees do not like kneeling all day. Hubby bought a pizza. I had a drink.

Day 2 – Sunday

Got up early and spent three hours ripping the last of the old vinyl out. Yes, while I freely admit one is supposed to rip out all the old before putting in the new. I didn't. I'm doing it all in sections. And it didn't make one iota of difference, except to exhaust me today, when I really hoped to finish. Hubby left for a business trip, confident and encouraging me to have it all done by the time he gets back in a week.

Don't let the door slam you on the ass, honey. Wouldn't want you to bruised and all.

One note to the manufacturer, while the new tiles are wonderful and relatively easy to put down, they come with pre-glued edges that overlap. Nice. But here's the problem: you didn't put paper that could be easily peeled off over the glue. No. That would have made it too easy. You had to leave the gluey edged unprotected so that it would be a total pain to try to ensure a piece would fit before actually gluing it to the neighboring piece. And so that when the cats and dogs came to investigate, all their fur and every particle of dirt in the house would collect on the edges….

And while today I smartened up and put on a pair of knee guards I use for gardening, I discovered that they were shedding black rubber everywhere. I hadn't noticed this in the garden since black rubber particles disintegrating over dirt isn't all that noticeable. But it is noticeable when all this black grit collects over the gluey edges of vinyl tiles.

But I'm over that. At least for today.

Suffice to say, I'm writing this blog because my hands are bruised, blistered and aching, as is every other part of me and just about the only thing I can do at the moment is type. And possibly drink, although I did that last night and I'm trying not to make a habit of it. The problem is, I still have about 5 tiles yet to put into place before I finish the bathroom, and each one has to be cut with skewed angles. One piece need to be 8 ½" wide at the bottom and 8" wide at the top. Not sure about lengthwise yet, because I was too tired to measure it.

This week I fully intend to get those final 5 tiles in place. It's not going to be perfect. It should match the rest of the house beautifully.

Then maybe I can get back to my real second job: writing fiction where no one tries to fix up their house with their own two hands. My characters get tortured, but not that much. I'm not that cruel.

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