May 23, 2009

Down and dirty

This weekend is a long one for our friends in the U.S., but it was last weekend that Canadians celebrated Victoria Day, a.k.a. "May 2-4," the unofficial start of summer. (Very unofficial, seeing as summer is still several weeks away.) The May 2-4 weekend includes a holiday Monday courtesy of the late, curmudgeonly Queen Victoria. Traditionally Canadians celebrate three days of beer, barbecues and buddies. This year the weather was glorious: sunshine, blue skies, cool breezes. It truly could not have been more beautiful. Scott and I spent all three days in the basement wearing dust masks.


Once upon a time our basement looked like this:



Then, as you may recall, it looked like this:



...and then like this:



It has taken us many months to get our butts in gear, but we finally decided to gut the rest of the basement to prepare for, one day, putting it back together again. Early Saturday morning, one week ago, Scott set out to buy dust masks, unwisely leaving me at home unattended. By the time he returned, I had done this:



...forgetting, of course, that the whole purpose of the dust masks was to prevent the inhalation of drywall dust and mold spores. I also neglected to close the basement door, so every flat surface on our main floor was covered in a thin layer of white dust. Oopsy.


Scott came home, shook his head at me, and created our toolbox for the rest of the project:



What came next was two days of sweating, destruction and bickering, interrupted only by a pleasant evening with friends (Saturday) and then with family (Sunday). By Monday Scott and I had learned to get along, for the most part. Along the way we made some interesting discoveries, such as the window that had been hidden behind the shower:



...and the very old faucet that a previous owner had drywalled around instead of removing, leading to a gaping void between the foundation and the inner wall:



In addition to removing drywall, insulation, tar paper and rotten framing, I also tried my hand at ripping out lathe and plaster in the stairwell. Although the basement door was closed this time, we still ended up with plaster dust coating almost the entire interior of the house. Lovely. At one point I hit myself in the ankle with a framing hammer. This is what the bruise looks like a week later:



Geez, I really need to moisturize. Not to mention lose a few pounds. Anyhoo, in the late afternoon of day two I was exhausted and in dire need of a shower before we were to head to my parents' place. I was about to excuse myself, but I thought better of it when Scott picked up his reciprocating saw. If he was even just half as fatigued as I was, it wouldn't have been smart to leave him alone while he worked with a dangerous power tool. He began to cut the framing away from the copper pipes in the demolished bathroom. Suddenly, you guessed it, PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! he cut through one of the pipes and created a not-so-tranquil fountain. So much for my nice, hot shower. I turned off the water to the entire house and waited while Scott went to the hardware store for some copper and a soldering kit.


If there's anything more dangerous than a very weary man with a reciprocating saw, it's a very weary man with a soldering kit. It's only dumb luck that Scott didn't burn the house down. I stood next to him with a fire extinguisher the entire time he worked at repairing the pipes. The next day, for reasons I still can't understand, he decided to remove all of the copper pipes in the bathroom anyway, including the new piece he had installed. This is what the old bathroom looks like now:



By the end of the long weekend we had filled a 14-yard disposal bin:



...which was surprisingly comfortable after three days of standing on a concrete floor wearing old loafers:



This weekend was supposed to be far more relaxing than last weekend. Unfortunately, I had scheduled an energy audit for 9:00 this morning. (Believe me, had there been any other time slot available I would have taken it. Normally I don't willingly rise before noon on weekends.) The federal and provincial governments are offering grants for renovations that improve the energy efficiency of one's home, as long as one has an energy audit performed both before and after the renovations are completed. The grant program is for a limited time only, hence the urgency of having our audit done.


Part of the audit involves using a blower door to bring the house to negative pressure, which makes it easy to detect air leaks. I was horrified to imagine twisters of pet fur spiralling through the house and lodging themselves in the auditor's fan, so last night and early this morning Scott and I dashed about dusting and sweeping and mopping. Our efforts paid off: there was still plenty of fur but not nearly enough to clog the fan.


At one point the auditor asked to inspect the crawl space beneath our addition, as we are planning to add insulation and he needed to document that there isn't already any insulation present. (There used to be, but the raccoons who used to live there pulled it down to use as bedding and a toilet. I dragged most of it out of there a couple of summers ago.) As the auditor snapped a few shots of the unexpectedly stinky crawl space he said nonchalantly, "Dead raccoon." That would account for the flies. We already knew of one long-dead raccoon whose body was unreachable but also way past the stinky stage of decomp. This raccoon, however, was relatively fresh, and right in our faces. The auditor casually suggested that we might want to dispose of it. Thanks for the tip; will that be extra?


Once the auditor had departed, Scott donned his grubbiest clothes and a pair of thick work gloves and set about removing the corpse. He asked me to find a big plastic bag. After searching the house for a large enough bag (I'll never look at Toys R Us bags in the same way again), I returned to the driveway to find Scott dry-heaving. "I was fine until the maggots," he coughed. He had flipped the raccoon onto its side, which was decidedly not its best angle. (Sorry, no photos.) As I stood holding the plastic bag, wearing nice clothes and no gloves, I began to reflect on how this weekend was rapidly turning out to be lousier than the last one. I have resolved to do no other unpleasant tasks this weekend besides laundry (which will first involve moving the washer and dryer and reconnecting them). Oh, and I also have to clean the litterbox. And pick up dog poop. To hell with it, I should just go back to bed.


8 comments:

Skooter said...

You know it was your fault that I cut the pipe because you said "you're pretty good with that saw, you haven't hit any pipes".... psssss! Remember that you're not to say anything positive, that could go negative!

Love your Husband (that could be taken different ways)
XOXO

P.S. You did do a lot of work though and for that I'm proud of you.

Mrs. Denneldoff said...

Wow--this is a huge project! Congratulations to you for having the guts to go for it!

Heather said...

Wow! You guys are so brave. Thanks for not calling me to help (I would but I'm totally useless anyway).

Cheryl1971 said...

Ewwwwwww Skoot what the HELL dude...never ever EVER roll the dead corpse around to the side that was ground down. dry heaving persisting.

Wait...I have more to say...dry heave...gag...later...can't...

libby said...

"(Sorry, no photos.) " That's okay... really.

Rob K said...

"I was fine until the maggots"
--sounds like a country song to me.

panda said...

Wow. I had been THIS CLOSE to writing a post griping about the mess we're making Chez Panda, and now I think I'd better not! You win! (shudder!)

blushone said...

proud of both of you - i'm not looking forward to renovating our house.