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Friday, October 5, 2007

Where Do We Start? The Remodel Begins

This is part three of our story. To start at the beginning, scroll to the bottom or click here.

Actually, it was easy to know where to start. Wearing particle masks, rubber gloves, rubber boots, and coveralls, we began by taking out the carpet. We pulled up one edge in each room and rolled up the carpet with everything on it, trying to minimize our exposure to the grossest stuff. We began a pile of our own on the driveway, starting with the rolls of carpet.

Once the carpet was out and the floor swept with an old broom, we cleaned the concrete slab and lower half of the walls with Nature's Miracle, let it dry, and then hit it again. Then we waited a few days and went over it with a bleach solution. Then I threw the broom and mop that had touched that yucky floor on top of the pile and raised my arms in victory. Hubby threw his particle mask on the pile, so I did too. I threw my rubber gloves on the pile and he did too. Smiling smugly, he ripped off his dingy, paint splattered t-shirt and threw it on the pile. I grabbed the hem of my t-shirt and started to lift - he didn't say anything. Isn't he supposed to protect me and keep me from harm? Wasn't that in the vows somewhere? Why is he standing there grinning, daring me to do it? I didn't. We have only met one neighbor and we already know she tells all she knows. That t-shirt did go in a trash can later though.

During those few days while we stayed away and let the enzymes in Nature's Miracle do their thing, the grill disappeared from the patio and the baby bed and changing table disappeared from the garage. Since the garage windows didn't have storm windows covering them, someone just pried a glass pane from one of the pathetic windows, turned the lock, lifted the window, and let themselves in to go trash picking. It bothered me that the house was so easy to break into, but it bothered me more that a neighbor(I guess) needed something badly enough to take it from there! As we say in the South, bless their heart.

Next, we carried the water heater to our trash pile and began removing the vinyl flooring in kitchen and baths. It's so easy to say we removed the vinyl; it just rolls off the tongue like: we removed our shoes, or we removed our dishes. There needs to be a verb that describes the back breaking, painstaking, frustrating ordeal of peeling up vinyl flooring. Oh sure, the first layer comes up easily enough; corners of vinyl never seem to stick down anyway. Get a grip on the corner and start pulling, while someone else uses a flat scraper under it, and it will come up in large pieces. But then there's that other stuff that is still stuck to the floor, part vinyl backing and part vinyl glue.

There are machines that make fast work of it, but the little rental place in our town didn't have one, and it wasn't in the budget anyway. We opted for a heat gun, which Hubby operated while I used the scraper. Heat the gunk, scrape. Heat the gunk, scrape. Heat the gunk, scrape. Finally, it too was done. Then we used more Nature's Miracle and bleach in those rooms and a couple of jugs of bug spray throughout the house.

The nice thing about having relatives in the construction business is that someone usually has the tool or piece of equipment needed. Since the living room ceiling was high, Hubby used his brother's scaffold to scrape the blown acoustic off the ceiling and upper walls. Taking the paneling off the rest of the walls left tears in the sheetrock, and we also found that the joints weren't finished there either.

Before painting, we cleaned all the ceilings and walls, cabinets, and closets. We gave away the trundle bed from the mudroom and took out the closet rod and shelf in there also. Cleaning is when we found a lot of little quirks and problems with the house. We also learned that the two bigger bedrooms were occupied by teenage girls, one of whom hoarded chocolate and liked Jason. There were mice who knew she had the chocolate even if her parents didn't, and they chewed through the closet ceilings to get to it. After cleaning, I set mouse traps all over the house and attic and immediately heard a snap. I wanted out of this house .. I wanted a box of matches .. I wanted someone else to empty that trap.

One closet had a single spur on the shelf. I wondered why anyone would only take one spur with them, though if they were moving at night without electricity, anything could be missed. A few days after finding the spur, I was at Home Depot and saw a woman walking through the store .. wearing a single spur.

I'd never seen anyone, other than at a rodeo, wearing spurs, or a spur. I've never seen anyone since then wearing a spur, or two. Judging from the clothes in the smelly heap in the center of the garage, that woman would have been around the right size, but too old to be one of the daughters.

It was also while cleaning that we discovered the first two, big, undisclosed problems. The first was that the sinks wouldn't drain very well. We had already seen a big box of Rid-x, so we put a bag of that down the toilet. It was no better the next day so we called a septic company. We later learned from neighbors that the previous owners had had the roof replaced recently and the roofing company broke the arbor over the side door and drove their dump truck into the back yard to get to the roof. The septic guy we hired dug up enough of the system to see that the truck had crushed the pipe going from the house to the first tank. Thank heavens they missed the tanks. The septic guy recommended we replace those pipes, add a sump pump to the last tank, and add a length of lateral line since there was a tree growing on top of one line.

The second problem was with the tub and toilet in the hall bath. The one piece tub and shower was kind of a golden brown, which was odd because the sink and toilet were white. A little scrubbing revealed that the tub really was white, under layers of grime and nicotine. There were foot imprints in the grime in the bottom of the tub, like someone had coated the bottom of the tub with greasy dirt, then stepped into the tub, and when they stepped out, the dirt stuck to their feet, leaving those two areas cleaner than the rest of the tub. After I cleaned an area in the bottom of the tub, I saw a crack running the width of the tub. The toilet also had a crack in the tank. Both leaked, and both were irreparable.

Also, while examining the crack on the toilet tank, I noticed that the wallpaper behind the toilet was loose. I tried to smooth it against the sheetrock only to discover that there was no sheetrock behind it. At first I was afraid a water leak had disintegrated the sheetrock, but after pulling the wallpaper back and seeing the deliberate cut in the rock as well as the pipe even with the back of the wallpaper, I realized I had found one of Moe's cost cutting fixes.

Between repairing the septic system and replacing that bathroom, our family room addition would not be done anytime soon. And we had already torn up the cabinets in the kitchen and ordered additional cabinets and counters, so there was no turning back with that part of the remodel.

Tim Taylor the Tool Man isn't the only one who enjoys a good power tool. I have used a lot of saws, but not a Sawzall. I wouldn't say it cut through that fiberglass tub like butter, but it made a mean jigsaw puzzle out of it. The bathroom door was too narrow to get out the shower/tub in one piece. I just hoped the new tub would go in through the door. We opted to replace with only a tub just for that reason.

We hired a local trash company to come haul off all the trash we had torn out of the house and the garage full of trash. A man came out to see how big the job was, and he asked if he could have some of the stuff instead of hauling it to the dump. Sure, we said, and he said he wanted the recliner, some mini blinds and the dishwasher. Good for us too since we wouldn't have to pay a dumping fee for those. Two men and one trailer arrived one Saturday morning and began haulng off load after load of trash.

That was the first day we had been outside long enough to meet any of our neighbors. The thirteen year old girl next door told us that her father took the grill but she didn't know who took the baby stuff. The previous owners had five children and the mom ran a daycare out of the house. I had visions of toddlers in the living room, on that carpet, while a big woman with one spur sat in a chair and watched. Then my gabby new neighbor got to the juicy part. Seems the parents were both heavy smokers and the mom wasn't big on cleaning. They had several dogs and cats. No kidding. One day a cat was missing. They searched the neighborhood, called for it every morning and every night for a week or more. Then they noticed an odor coming from the recliner. Yep, the cat got caught in the foot rest mechanism and was killed instantly. AND IT TOOK THIS FAMILY TWO FREAKIN' WEEKS TO SMELL ANYTHING!!!!! We all turned to look at the recliner in the garage .. the murder weapon. The trash hauler decided he didn't really want anything from the garage after all.

With the main demolition done, it was time to start making progress. Time was ticking on our rent house too. We had about two weeks before we had to move and we both had real jobs that took most of our days.

Until next time, may you have blessings and no missing cats,

Next in this series, on to Plan B.

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