Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day 

Today is a holiday in the US in honor of laboring men and women. Therefore, I am laboring at home working on a second-floor bathroom renovation. It's a "gut job," which means everything in the room has been removed to the joists in the floor and studs in the wall. There is a feeling of power when one tears into iron with a Sawzall, a reciprocating hacksaw with multiple blades designed for demolition. The tool cuts through wood, pipe, nails, plaster, etc.

The pain comes when one examines what is left. In this case, it is a second floor room that is sloped into two directions from the outside wall. Unfortunately, the low point of the room, the entrance, is the one point that needs to be the high point so one doesn't have to climb into the bathroom. I'm having nightmares trying to figure out how to level the room -- or at least make it straight enough for tiling.

Books don't tell you about such things. The how-to manuals always start from the point of view that houses are somewhat level. They aren't, as anyone in an old house can relate. One option is to remove the beams and start over. That won't work here. Another is to jack the slump back into a semblance of level. That won't work either since the entire house settled to the center over 80 years. The realistic option, screwing new beams alongside the existing ones is the headache because no matter how I level, the entrance to the bathroom appears to be too high. My contractor talked about shaving beams but I'm having nightmares about that. I can't bring myself to it -- yet. Meanwhile, the plumber and electrician stand idle while I try to figure this nonsense out.

Being a PR person, I'm not adept at home improvement, but I keep my hand in because it is good training. It is easy for those who sit in offices to ask for unrealistic solutions from a craftsperson because they don't know. Forcing oneself to work at a craft is a reminder that the real world doesn't work the way one thinks it does. It can be maddening and humiliating but is a lesson one should not forget.


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