concrete redundancy

We know by now that our house was constructed by monkeys without tools who were smoking crack, that our electrical system is haunted, and that our faucets are conspiring with the washing machine to slowly drive me mad.

That’s all to be expected when you become a homeowner. What I didn’t think about, before I signed all those papers and agreed to pay the bank until I have retired, is that I was agreeing to remodel a twenty-five year old house with a perfectionist. Someone who can’t sleep if he knows the milk carton is sitting crooked on the refrigerator shelf.

We have a wall that goes along the laundry room and a hallway. Inexplicably, there are doors both at the entrance of the laundry room and the middle of the hall. We have given up questioning why. We decided to take out the door in the middle of the hall. It seemed to be a backup auxillary door, and we felt comfortable shedding the redundancy. But once we started demolition and were about to take out the door frames, we realized that the wall on one side of the doorway was about an inch farther out than the wall on the other side of the doorway. Upon further investigation (bashing big holes in the drywall and peeking behind it), we found that furring strips were attached to the studs and the drywall was against that, rather than the studs.

My solution was to put in a little one inch-jut and be done with it. But I see now just how foolish that was.

Last night, P. decided to tear out all the drywall. He figured he would then take out all the furring strips and attach new drywall to the studs. The two sides of the wall would match up, we could tear out the doorway, angels would rejoice, etc.

I stayed upstairs, far away from the madness.

A little while later, he came upstairs with a strange expression on his face. I followed him down to see what the problem was. All along the base of the wall, about a foot high and exactly as wide as the furring strips made the wall, was a concrete footing.

Clearly, what we should do at this point is put up new drywall and be done with, I thought. I forgot that he was a milk straightener.

He is now chipping away at the concrete with a chisel and hammer so that it is flush with the studs. I figure it won’t take more than a month or two. And while he’s distracted with that, I can put the milk back as crooked as I want. We both win.

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always keep a fork in the toolbox

I know I have mentioned before that P. and I should not be trusted with a house, and we discover new ways every day where this continues to be true. Take, for instance, our dryer situation. You know how I said our shiny new dryer had the incessant beeping that was slowly but irreparably driving us mad and we climbed up on the roof to inspect the dryer vent, but it seemed to look normal and venty and anyway we couldn’t get the top part off?

Well, we couldn’t take either the sanity-depriving beeping or the huge piles of clothes, and so we determined to fix things once and for all. P.’s parents were visiting and his dad had left a note with diagrams and instructions that he titled “I need to vent, by dad”. His idea was to attach something small but heavy to a rope and then lower that down into the vent to see if it went all the way down or got stuck somewhere. The small yet heavy object we decided on was a fork, in case you were wondering.

So, P. went back up on the roof with the rope and the fork and we hoped that our neighbors didn’t choose this moment to welcome us to the neighborhood. And with my shouted encouragement (that I know made all the difference), he managed to get the vent cover off. He lowered the rope until it hit something and then he told me to go down to the laundry room and stick my hand up the hole in the wall where the vent goes to see if I could feel the fork.

Seriously. He wanted me to stick my hand up a dark hole in the wall when just the day before I was making the bed and found one of the hugest spiders I had ever seen not on TV or in the scary spider room at the zoo. It was nestled up all happy right under my pillow. And when I started screaming and hyperventilating, P. ran in and claimed it probably was not a spider I had seen and started waving around the sheets to prove that it was nothing while I waited for the huge spider to be flung at my head and he kept saying, “see, no spider!” Only then he saw it and was all, “oh yeah, I guess that’s a pretty big spider” and was going to use a piece of paper to transport it outside. And I said, are you a nutcase? That spider is going to crawl off that paper and kill us all. And so I made him trap it in a plastic container. Only now that I’m thinking about it, I hope he washed that container with bleach and scalding hot water before putting it back in the drawer or quite possibly the soup I made the other night is sitting in a spider-contaminated container and I might have to go to the new age health store and get spider cleansing pills or something. I already have to cope with the trauma of possibly having slept with a gigantic spider under my head, and I just really don’t want to think about this anymore.

The point is, he wanted me to stick my hand into a possible spider nest, and I was wondering if this “home ownership” thing and really, even this “dating” thing was really such a good idea. As I walked through the garage to get to the laundry room, I heard the fork banging on something. But it was nowhere near the laundry room. It was directly above the hot water heater. So, apparently our “dryer vent” was actually a “hot water heater vent”, but who knew a house has so many vents? And anyway, it was the only vent we saw any hot air coming out of, but I guess we had been running the washing machine at the same time and probably hot water was involved, so maybe that was a false lead.

Which left P. holding a rope with a fork tied to it, on the roof, and no idea where the actual dryer vent was. I turned on the dryer and we looked for some sign. He walked around the roof and inspected all the various vent-like items. I walked around the house and looked at all the walls. Nothing. We were beginning to understand why the dryer was so irritated with us and did all the beeping before.

We went to Home Depot and got some more dryer hose and vented it out the laundry room window to see if the lack of ventilation really was the problem. Sure enough, no more beeping! Of course, now we had a dryer hose hanging out our window. P.’s parents showed up right about then and suggested that we cut a hole in the wall and make our own vent. That just seemed like a lot more work than the rope and the fork thing.

Then we got distracted by crawling around under the house. Or, actually P. did. See above, re: huge spiders on my lack of enthusiasm about that activity. He went under there to check out the floor support beams or something or other, since he found some discussion forum where all these tile guys hang out talking about tiling and so obviously he has to check the support beams to see if ours are as big as theirs or something about weight to support travertine or… I’m not really sure exactly except that it will probably involve me in the crawl space somehow.

And while he was down there, he found the dryer vent. The hose apparently goes all the way under the house to other side and is supposed to vent out the side of the wall under the deck. Only the hose part doesn’t actually make it all the way to the wall. It’s just kind of laying on the ground. In the crawl space. Under the house. We don’t know a lot about dryers, but we’re pretty sure this isn’t right.

So, the point is, we are responsible homeowners after all, able to troubleshoot our issues and find the root cause. Of course, we have no idea what to do about the situation now and P.’s parents have gone home so we won’t be getting any more helpful diagrams with ropes and forks. In the meantime, the dryer hose out the window works remarkably well.

Maybe we should write a do-it-yourself home repairs book or host our own show on DIY.

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Buying a house is a lot like falling in love. Everyone is looking for something different. Sure, there’s the quarterback of the football team, class president, volunteers at the animal shelter, great kisser. And most everyone agrees that guy’s a catch, but even then, some of us, while admiring his beauty and wit, might wish he watched more Star Trek or something.

(An aside: P. thinks I’m this big Star Trek geek, on par with people who dress up and go to conventions. This is because he has apparently never seen an episode of Star Trek, so when, for instance, a kid on South Park wearing a red shirt with a little upside-down V insignia announces that he’s going to leave the safe bus and go out into the unknown wilderness where the monster is, and I say, “he’s the red shirt! he’s going to die!”, and then P. looks at me and says “what the hell is a red shirt” and I say “Star Trek, duh,” he assumes this means I know every obscure and insignificant fact about the show and this makes me a total nerd, when really, I’m the normal person who gets the standard pop culture references that anyone not living in a cave for thirty years would know and he’s the nerdy one. The nerdy cave boy. And anyway, I only have seen all the original Star Trek episodes as many times as I have because my parents watched that show anytime it was on, despite the fact that there were what, 10? 12? episodes of the original series. And yet, they kept on watching, every single time. And my parents controlled our one small black-and-white TV. If we wanted to watch TV, we watched what they wanted. And, the little South Park boy did die obviously, so I got the enjoy the joke and P. just looked like a nerdy cave boy.)

So, we all are attracted to different things – like maybe not everyone wants a geeky boyfriend whose wardrobe consists entirely of t-shirts he got free from software vendors and who can wax poetic about recursive programming techniques, although I don’t see why not.

So, there’s the initial attraction, and then, there’s the loss. When you think you’ve found the one, and it gets away, your heart breaks, just a little. Is there something better out there for you? Have you lost the love of your life? Will you ever find another one that fits you just right?

And so it went with our house hunt. Our real estate agent seemed bewildered by us. But this house has a huge bathroom with a soaking tub! This one has a hot tub on the deck! You should get this house! But, none of those houses were what we were looking for. We didn’t feel that spark, that chemistry, that feeling that this is the one. The thing is, we did feel it, way back before we were ready to buy a house, and of course, it was snatched away. And we were sad. We would stalk that house, drive by it really slowly, hoping the sold sign would come off. We’d drive through the neighborhood, waiting for our dream houses’s hot sister to go on the market. It didn’t.

But then, we found another house. It was sexy in an entirely different way. It felt like home. We know, like any relationship, that it’ll take a bit of work to maintain it, but we’re willing to do that for this house — we want to do that for this house. We know that it’s not perfect, but who is really?

There is at least one difference between houses and relationships. Part of what we see in this house is its potential. We know we can change it, mold it, make it ours. Relationships really don’t work that way. I’ve tried it with P. “I like everything about you, except that I think you should change just a little and do my laundry. Also, the ironing. And I’ll change by sipping a cool drink while I watch you iron.”

He laughed at me.

And I wouldn’t want to change that for anything. Good thing since my ability to change him would be like trying to take out the brick floor in this house and replacing it with granite or something. Oh wait. That’s something we’re actually going to do…

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