Friday, July 11, 2008

Norm's At The Corner Tap, Crying In His Beer

There's no such thing as a small project in a large old house. The rule of thumb is to take complexity, or ease, and multiply by eight in the former, sixteen thousand in the latter. Time's another thing. If its a weekend project, I'll see you again around Christmas.

This Old House is a fine program but its basically a huge crock of fiction. Professional tradespeople walk around a lightly used old place who's value escalates thirty four percent over the course of the first episode and remark what they're going to do.

"Well, we're going to bring the brightest and best in, full crews, throw a small steamer trunk of money at replacing the sink in the half bath and be broom clean by nightfall."

Yeah no problem. I'm just like that. Sort of a Tommy Silva but one who drinks, swears and hasn't the first idea of what he's doing. How the fuck does the the faucet work in the first place, never mind pulling it out without leaving gouges the size of glacier tracks in the chrome finish?

No surprises then that the latest project at Paramour is the half bath.

This was a convenient little room, just off the office where you could pop in for a tinkle and a wash without having to slog up the stairs and have your ankles sexed by the cat. No number two if you please, you're on the same level as the kitchen and the den and we don't want to be introducing Smellavision to the cable package offering.

But the convenient little room is completely paneled in Formica. Yep, as in the countertop. Sixties vintage, with darling little flecks of gold in the finish that you could pretend are real or are moving if you happen to be in the can after a bender.

Like some guys I once shared a factory floor with it was ugly but it worked. So you didn't stare and did your business as best you could. Of course, I'm Joe Can't Ever Leave Good Enough Alone and I just have to freaking have storage space in the goddam room. Why, I have no idea? Maybe because I've got a little wooden shelf that was once in our half bath two houses ago and it would look good in the corner. Never mind that in the old marital house it held decorative potpourri and the best it'll do here is folded up morning papers. Its gotta go up on the wall. Oh and while I'm at it, lemme hang the mirror up to.

Driving the screws into the wall had the effect of pulling the Formica paneling off the wall. Now I could have lived with that since a squirt of liquid nails will re-stick anything and I'll toss the shelf into the basement. It was that trying to anchor the mirror pulled the rest of the Formica off and nobody wants to freshen up in a mirror that might come crashing down into Wolverine claw shaped shards at any moment.

So I pull the entire panel off the wall. It's glued up there with Mastic. Mastic is of course a brand named product, so named because you can't build a TV ad campaign around a product called Aggregated Child Snot. Mastic and plaster come falling off the wall in huge chunks not unlike teeth out of a bar room fighter's mouth. One panel apparently also loosens another panel which comes crashing down knocking another panel off and, well you get the picture. Finally the ceiling gives (yes, Formica and Mastic made an unholy pact up there too) but holds thanks to two frayed sparking electrical wires powering the light. I feel better already.

At this point in the show, Norm would be studying a map and remarking "Weymouth? We're supposed to be in Westboro. Sorry guys, let's pack up."

At this point in my show I'm wondering about drywalling over the door and lying about there ever being a half bath in the first place. But no.

There's a reason the gods of construction made joint compound malleable. Its because every once in a while a house like mine comes along that's as familiar with a smooth, level, even surface as Osama Bin Ladin is with pig roast barbecue. Covers over a host of problems, one of them being a past orgy of Mastic. Conceptually I'm putting joint compound over the high spots of the Mastic to create the illusion of a smooth wall. Sort of like if God filled in around the high spots of the Rockies and created a new Great Plains.

Except I'd hope God'd swear less and not brush fresh prairie fill on his forehead. This is to say that, yes, after the second slather of joint compound had dried and was sanded down I came out looking like Flour-Boy.

But we're in the home stretch. One more wall needs a final sanding then I can prime and paint.

And the wallpaper in the hallway looks just fine, thanks!

Bunny on.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm.... I was playing with spackle today. Answered the door for the pizza guy with hands that looked like I had just murdered the Pillsbury Dough Boy - little bits of sticky white crap everywhere.

Norm, Tommy & crew would never come within 100 miles of our Old House... Luckily we are nearly done with it all!

1:46 AM  
Blogger Jeni said...

Ah so -I do believe my daughter is following your remodeling lead -except she isn't keeping at the job in a regular fashion. It's been two years now since she started ripping the wallpaper off her bedroom walls -still not completed that task. And about two months ago, she started ripping up the old floor tile in the bathroom, doing a little "mold cleanup" on the corner walls there, slapped a bit of a new color of paint on a third of one wall in the bathroom to see if she liked that shade. (She didn't and neither did I.) The new tile is still sitting in the boxes it came in, in a pile in one area of the bathroom. The old tile is ripped up so the floor is down to the wood but there it sits -for how long, who knows! Probably until the baby goes in there and gets a splinter in his big toe or some other calamity strikes. And yes, this too is an "old house" -like 103 years worth of old. (P.S. Magazine Man sent me over here and I really do trust his judgement on reading material. He was right on!)

10:34 AM  
Blogger Kathryn said...

what? you mean those home reno shows where it all gets done quickly nad perfectly and cheaply by HOT handy men and handy women and all ends in a big group hug and a trip to Disneyland isn't real life?

great, way to shatter yet another illusion ....

12:12 PM  
Blogger cog said...

the blinds on the big back window at palatial Cog Manor are to be relocated to the two front windows, for reasons yet to be explained.

I got them as far as the floor beneath the big back window before I had to take to my bed.

re This Old House: My favorite part is when they say, "Well, we only have $50K to spend on the hall closet, so let's see what we can do without."

12:25 AM  
Blogger Christi said...

Loving your blog and laughing every minute. Our hall bath redo started with a paper tiger (what?) and an assumption (you know what they say about those) that I'd have that wallpaper down by nightfall. 4 decades of wall fashion later I took a hammer and just started bashing away. Still hate that bathroom.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bunny: Mr. Blandings and I are old friends from childhood... LMK if you ever see the movie version on DVD; I would love to snag a copy. (or even VHS). Going over to the City/County Library website to request a copy of the book - I've earned a break!

6:28 PM  

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