Report on the last week or so

The various routines I used to document here are in smoking ruins, but at least the house looks great. To reorient you, there were essentially two classes of things I needed to do/have done to the house before the move. One was “stuff that a full price rental needs to have taken care of” and the other was “stuff needed to pass the lead inspection.” The former category included the plumbing work necessary to bring hot water to the upstairs bathroom sink and replacing the grim, ugly old tub surround; the latter category was all painting: to pass a lead inspection, you need to have (1) no lead dust anywhere where the inspector happens to swab and (2) no paint in obvious disrepair.

The plumbers came last Saturday and did less damage than I’d expected. The project was to repipe the entire bathroom, all the way from the bathroom cutoff valves in the basement. I’d thought that this would involve making a rather large hole in the dining-room wall, directly under the bathroom, but, as it happened, the plumbers left only a 2.5 by 1.5 foot hole, up near the ceiling. And the hot-water side of the project was a success, so overall this was a good day.

As the plumbers were leaving, I was beginning to tear down the tub surround. My brother arrived home from work around 6 p.m.

“Sweet jesus,” he said, on seeing the state the bathroom was in. I reassured him that we’d be done within a day.

Last Sunday, Kevin – who has just redone his kitchen walls and ceiling, and so has the tools and experience to do good drywall work – came over to patch the hole that the plumbers made. He ended up visiting three times, allowing him to follow the proper practice of applying mud with three successively larger drywall knives.

As Kevin started the drywall job, my brother and I turned to the tub-surround job in earnest. The tearout was complete, including the crumbling, non-water-resistant drywall that had been behind the surround, and now we needed to install the concrete board that would provide the proper backing for the new surround. Some of the wall behind the surround area was still the original plaster; we ended up leaving this in place for no particularly good reason other than the difficulty of creating a clean edge if we tore it all out. Ultimately, as long as the surround is properly caulked, I suppose it doesn’t really matter what’s behind it.

I won’t go through this job blow by blow, but suffice to say we weren’t showering indoors again until the following Saturday afternoon (two days ago). I was glad to have my brother’s help. Among other things, he came up with a creative application of shims along the studs at the head of the tub in order to deal with the non-square nature of things and the need for the concrete board that would go on next to be flush with the edge of the tub and then lean slightly back toward the wall in order to line up properly with with the rest of the wall higher up.

At one point I visited three Home Depots in a row, finally ending up out in Rosedale, near Dundalk, to find a slightly larger tub surround kit than the one I’d originally purchased, which was exactly the same size as the one that I was replacing. Because of how the original one had been attached, I needed a slightly larger one to cover up the rough edges created by the tearout. This took some doing, and the climax of the search was waiting in the tub aisle in the Rosedale Home Depot for about ten minutes while one employee went looking for another one and one of those forklift elevator things they use to fetch things off of the high shelves.

There were low points, including – as alluded to in an earlier post – my overall clumsiness applying caulk combined with my ignorance of how quickly you need to remove any tape you are using to edge the caulk. I spent about an hour and a half prepping, taping, and then being as careful as can be with the caulk, only to end up yanking about half of each bead away as I removed the tape. It all held up pretty well, as far as the seal goes, and I only had to repair some small patches, but the moment when I first realized my mistake was a dark one, especially since I had been trying to get this part of the job done after work on Thursday and at first thought I had essentially wasted these valuable minutes. My brother was witness to an immature reaction.

But it seems to have all worked out.

I spent the rest of Thursday evening doing the final painting around the house: all windowsills and any chipped areas.

Friday evening was spent putting the house back together and cleaning up all of the dust created by the drywall work in the dining room and the wall demolition in the bathroom, not to mention the sanding that had preceded Thursday’s painting. I resisted my friends’ urging to come to Dizzy’s after work and thank goodness: as it was, even with my brother’s help, I worked straight through until midnight.

The lead inspection seemed to go well, although I won’t know the results until sometime today (Tuesday). The inspector was African, a smiling, jovial fellow. He commented several times on how clean the place was, which seemed a good sign. I said he must see some pretty awful properties sometimes, and he agreed. He was done in about twenty minutes (for which he’ll end up charging me something like $200, but oh, well). He said that, even if the house fails, he’ll only need to recheck the spot that failed, so I think we’ll be just fine.

The lead inspection was done by 11 a.m., and the weekend was mine. It was the first weekend in a month or so that actually felt like a weekend. While there will, from here on out, always be packing to do, there was no discrete task or tasks that I needed to work: no freelance projects, no inspection to prepare for, no contractors coming. Around 4 on Saturday, some friends came over and we had a few beers before cabbing/riding with my brother (who was on his way to a wedding reception) to Artscape. The main goal was to see the Old 97s, though we managed to fit in some additional beer drinking, not to mention some eating, because we are all children of the late 20th century and so excellent multi-taskers.

Sunday was lazy as can be, except for a quick groceries trip with my brother.

Now I can start packing again.