September 13, 2009

Labor of Love

Uplifting Can Be Heavy

Over the next seven days we had to weigh our most essential priorities for reconstruction because moving into the house with the cat was going to be one of our greatest challenges yet.

There were three things we deemed more than essential: running water (primarily in the bathroom), at least one operable outlet in each room, and walls.

Since we both knew that only a crew of ten could get drywall up on every surface in five days, and that it would be a cold day in hell before Mr. ‘Slow as Molasses Uphill in the Winter’ would have our outlets installed in the same amount of time, we were forced to scale back on even the most basic of needs.

We finally settled that if we could get a toilet, sink and shower, two outlets (one in the bedroom for the alarm clock and one in the kitchen for the coffee maker) and walls up in the bedroom that we would at least feel more comfortable moving the cat in.

That first morning living out of Motel 6 Jerry miraculously beat us to the job. He proceeded to be there before us every single day for the next two weeks and since we were only coming from fifteen minutes down the road now, we were arriving fairly early in the morning.

At the time it was baffling but months later we discussed how he suddenly became so motivated to get the job done; why he was putting in such long hours. The only sensible conclusion either of us could surmise was that he felt nervous to allow us to move in without a C.O. since it was his name alone on the permit. Rightfully so.

Unfortunately obtaining a certificate of occupancy was the very least of our concerns at this time. Basic survival and the essential elements to achieve it for both ourselves and the cat were much further up the list of priorities so we started in the most critical location -- the bedroom.

While we were still in the demolition phase of the project, a couple of our closest friends, Sharon and Bob, were brave enough to trek through the ‘hood to come and help us tear down and clean up about four rooms worth of plaster and lathe. Those same friends, when called upon for another favor during this stage of the game were more than happy to oblige.

We headed back to the Boston area and picked up their drywall lift.

There are no words to accurately express the level of gratitude we had for their lending of the big yellow contraption. This beast of a machine is one of the simplest pieces of equipment ever constructed yet one of the most useful for any contractor doing a job like this -- it has two L shaped arm rests where the drywall edge is placed so the sheet is vertical, a pin that is pulled so the arms fall back flat to bring the sheet horizontal and a crank that essentially does the work of a professional body builder as it slowly snugs the piece of drywall just about right up to the ceiling.

With eight or more pieces per ceiling all I kept thinking was ‘and we thought it was heavy just carrying it into the house’.

When I mentioned before about the number of curse words we both uttered during the door installation I was simply preparing everyone for this part of the story. Seems the lack of level and plumb was a rampant issue throughout the entire house. So rampant that some walls were upwards of 3” out.

For those not in the know of the beauties of home construction, most contractors attempt to come within 1/16th of an inch out but anything up to 1/8th of an inch over about ten feet is considered acceptable. That leaves a difference of 2-7/8” out of level and / or plumb throughout the whole house.

Not one single sheet of drywall fit into a perfect square because not one single ceiling or wall corner in the entire house was a perfect angle. Every sheet in the house had to be scored, cut, shaved, retro fitted or simply fist-hammered into place before being screwed in.

While we crept up on the end of day four of our seven day stint in the motel, Jerry finally got us two working outlets -- one in the bedroom and one in the living room.

When we moved in we had a small dorm sized refrigerator, toaster oven, microwave and coffee maker to house in the kitchen. There was also our fourteen inch television, alarm clock and self cleaning cat litter box that would need to be run in the bedroom.

Walls were finally complete in the bedroom and in order to prevent the cat from pulling insulation from the cracks we tossed up some unfinished trim and I got started on joint compound while Matt began plumbing the bathroom.

Matt and plumbing became strange bedfellows over the course of this experience; a true love hate relationship was born out of applying heat to flux. He remains to this day one of the most skilled plumbers I have ever seen install copper. Unfortunately he is also the slowest and most meticulous pipe fitter I have ever wanted to take a torch to. It took him two full days to complete the shower install and toilet rebuild as well as shoring up the sink.

With just one day left before we moved in we had yet to install any walls or flooring and caulk was going to take at least a couple days to dry. We hugged each other then because we both knew after three more days of hard labor with no shower both of us were going to be wishing we had two bedrooms complete just so we didn’t have to smell each other.


Elizabeth Bradley said...

As a designer, I'm quite familiar with all of this. It really makes it hard when nothing is square, but such is how it goes with old houses. My brother had a circa 1917 house that fell off the foundation during an earthquake, he had to bust out all the plaster and drywall all 4000 square feet. What a nightmare.

JennyMac said...

sounds like such a pain!! this is one of the few reasons I love new construction.

Suldog said...

What a freakin' nightmare! Wow.

Rosebud Collection said...

I know it was a living nightmare, but it sure looks cute and cozy.

Chris Stone said...

Oh you poor people. The drywall lift sounds fab, but I hope never to want one again! lol

Theresa said...

Another great installation of As the House Turns. I've said it before, but I really enjoy reading these. Can't wait for the next one.