Thursday, June 25, 2009

Paw Prints in the Floor, Part I

Jumpy and Scout, taking a nap together.

I really should have expected it. Every project we've attempted involving this house has always developed into a drama with more things that come up that have to be fixed that make the project bigger, more complicated, more expensive and a pain in the arse.

I first wrote about our kitchen floor in this entry on Trials & Tribulations, where Sprockey and Scout kitty had an adventure escaping through a hole in the floor to under the house.

A little background first. On the day before our new washer was to be delivered (that's us; always waiting until the last moment) I started to take up all the tiles in the laundry area of the kitchen so I could replace them with new ones. There were three layers there, under the plywood we had installed for a level base for the washer. When I got down to the last layer, the tiles brought up large chunks of dampish, crumbling wood, the consistency of mulch. That's when I called Mr. Sprocket.

We discovered that on top of the plywood base, someone had installed particle board. Over the years (when there must have been washer leaks) water got trapped in that particle board and stayed wet, never getting the opportunity to dry out. He took to the floor with a hammer and realized the damp wood in some spots went all the way down to the plywood that was rotting. Thinking that "maybe" we could take out a section of the floor under the washer and dryer and just replace that, we move the dryer outside and take up a section of floor. When the delivery guys come the next day, they install the washer on the back porch.

Mr. Sprocket had the "brilliant" idea that cement board would be a better under-layment than plywood and spent considerable time cutting and installing two layers of cement board on top of each other. He screws them in with about 40 screws in each layer.

Then we realized that the plywood under the particleboard that was bad extended beyond the washer and dryer area to under the refrigerator. We move the refrigerator into our dining room and cut out another section of floor and Mr. Sprocket buys more cement board. At this time, Mr. Sprocket is also spending lots of time trying to get the rear transmission of the White Whale Work Truck rebuilt and he doesn't have time for the kitchen floor. I convince him to let our old carpenter friend give us a bid on what it would cost to repair the floor, install new vinyl flooring and finish the roofing of the back porch framing that my friend built for us back in 2005. Mr. Sprocket agrees.

Our friend comes out to get an idea of what the job will entail. I hadn't spoken to my friend in a long time and come to find out, he now just works as a general contractor. He no longer does any work himself. (This should have been a red flag.) He tells us his lead guy is also licensed and very good. At that time, we tell him about the weakness under the floor by the back door and explain the temporary fixes that Mr. Sprocket did to fix it. He gives us a bid for all the things we want done and we arrange payment. He recommends we go to Home Depot and pick out the type of vinyl floor we want. We also pick up some other miscellaneous things we think they will need.

Our floor comes in and Mr. Sprocket picks it up in the White Whale Work Truck. Here is a link to the floor we ordered. We get a call from my friend the contractor that he wants to come out the next day with his crew and go over all that needs to be done. That evening we take the stove and the pantry out of the kitchen and tape up all our cupboards with tape and plastic. We move everything else out of the kitchen into the dining room and all our counter type items are on the dining room table.

The contractor and his crew come out to meet us. The wall plastering and the threshold repair is added to the project but no cost is mentioned for how much that will add to the job. Mr. Sprocket mentions the weakness in the floor again, points out to the workers the fixes he did and the lead crew member mentions that they can go under the house and fix that. That afternoon, the carpenter's remove all the old flooring and they tell Mr. Sprocket how much plywood to get for the kitchen floor and the back porch project. The guys go to work removing all the old wood and flooring down to the sub-floor.

The next day, the new plywood floor is put in.

The lead crew member and Mr. Sprocket talk about the floor fixes Mr. Sprocket did and there is no resolution as to what needs to be done. The workers remove the bricks that make up one of the fixes but don't tell us and they don't shore up that section of the floor under the house.

After finishing the plywood and installing a roof over the back porch, the first stage in the drywall is repaired

the first coat is applied

and the threshold is torn out.

To help cut down our costs (because we know the drywall and the threshold took a lot of time and that the drywall needs to dry completely before the next coat is put on) we tell them that we will cover all the nail holes ourselves (they recommend we get "Bondo") and make the floor template ourselves. They will come back a day after that.

When Mr. Sprocket walks on the floor (finally paying attention to the sponginess) he realizes that there are sections of the floor that are not nailed down properly. For about 30% of the floor, they missed hitting the joists completely with the automatic nailer. We realize that it's going to take a lot longer to get the floor together. Mr. Sprocket informs me that we need to screw the floor down completely to get rid of the squeaks and spongy feel to the new floor. I get to listen to his usual ranting and raving about "nails verses screws." We go shopping and get some good screws and Mr. Sprocket spends hours and hours installing about 225 to 250 screws in this nine by fourteen feet kitchen floor.

He calls up my friend the contractor and tells him that the workers missed a joist completely in nailing down the floor. The my contractor friend tells my husband, "We're the experts, you're not." That was the wrong thing to say to Mr. Sprocket. They then have a discussion about nails verses screws and my contractor friend tries to tell my husband that a nail is just as good as a screw. Another big mistake. So we delay their coming out another day.

The "Bondo" application doesn't go very well.

Mr. Sprocket has never worked with Bondo before (it has a very short set up time) but he does devise a way to use it where the set up is not so quick. He calls the company and finds out that if he keeps the mixed material cold, he will have 10 minutes or less to work with it instead of the usual 4 minutes. Even so, after all that work he realizes that we will need to add a skim coat to the floor.

We purchase skim coat and Mr. Sprocket tries working with it in small batches and finally gets the hang of it. Sprockey and Scout check it out between applications.

I'm starting to think that finally, this project is coming together and the workers will come back and finish it and I'll be able to paint my kitchen when they're done. I worked like a slave to get the covered patio all cleaned off,

just waiting for us to roll out the vinyl sheeting for after we make a template of the kitchen space.

I have hope; hope that the kitchen will get finished and the big trash pile behind my house will be a thing of the past.

We almost get the skim coat finished except for a few tiny areas. We skim coated about 99% of the kitchen, backing out of the kitchen back door. We're admiring our work from the back alcove when I see Sprockey standing by the back door, in the kitchen. Someone forgot to lock Sprockey in the office and he went exploring. He was not a happy camper with the work that it took to get the skim coat out of his paws. I had one mad and howling kitty on my hands.

Mr. Sprocket realizes that even though we've added the skim coat, there's still a lot of squeaking and sponginess around the back door. So he tells me he's going to put in more screws. Can you hear a loud, long scream about now? I'm about to go ballistic and tell him to give it up; to live with it. But he can't. It's that obsessive compulsive gene. You have to understand that this house was built in 1941 and virtually every floor throughout the house squeaks. But in his opinion, we're installing a new floor and he believes it should not squeak. So he puts in about 25 or 30 more screws and it's not fixing the problem.

It's then that he realizes that the workers never shored up more support for the sub flooring under the house. They took out his temporary fix and didn't replace it with anything! So now he's really mad because he wants this part of the floor fixed. He doesn't have a single nice thing to say about construction workers. The areas that are still squeaking are the high traffic area path and where the dryer will go and he wants it fixed.

Now I have to call the contractor AGAIN and tell him it's going to be a bit longer. We ask our out of work neighbor across the street if he will help us. About a month ago, Mr. Sprocket seriously injured his ribs while he was working under the truck and he doesn't want to make it worse by trying to crawl under the house. Our neighbor can't help us that day but he can the following day. So now we have to delay the contractor ANOTHER day. So our neighbor comes over around noon on Monday. And Mr. Sprocket and the neighbor discuss various ways to fix the squeaks and spongy floor area. One idea or neighbor had was to cut down through the floor. (This was when we find out that our neighbor is afraid of spiders and is reluctant to crawl under the house.) I shot that one down immediately. I should have stuck around to listen to the next idea and override the plans because the next "brilliant" solution involved demolishing some of the stucco around the vent hole to get easier access to the area under the kitchen.

Yep. They did it. They demolished the stucco. So not only is my floor still not fixed, but we now have the added work of repairing the stucco. Here's the mess they made in the back alcove, trying to fix the floor.

At the end of the day, Mr. Sprocket and the neighbor put in a extra support beam, three quarter inch plywood to shore up the subflooring (and more screws, of course) and got the floor to be squeak free and no bounce. Here's the new support beam at the vent hole.

Mr. Sprocket is happy that his fix worked, the floor is solid now, no more squeaks or movement and I take a little video of him happy as a kid, jumping up and down on the area he just fixed.

So now I'm thinking that Mr. Sprocket will finish the skim coat and we can get moving on the floor so the workers will come back and finish, right?


In the interim, Mr. Sprocket got a call from a restaurant he's done work for in the past and now not only does he have the potential commercial building maintenance contract that he still needs to make a bid on, he has to go out and give this restaurant an estimate on some much needed work. But the truck isn't functionally ready. So what do I have to do? I have to call the contractor AGAIN and tell him that the kitchen floor work is on hold. I don't have a kitchen floor, we're cooking on a little electric burner in the dining room

and we have to put mesh screen under our back door every night before we go to bed.

In the mean time, I'm thinking that we might as well leave those paw prints in the kitchen skim coat as sort of a memento of the long road we've traveled just to get a new kitchen floor.

So Monday we shifted gears and went to work on the White Whale Work Truck. The tool box got installed and so did the metal drawer unit. I wish I had taken photos of all the complicated bracketing and bolting to the floor and the vertical strut we did to ensure this very heavy tool box doesn't go flying when he's driving. Today two of the three shelving units have been installed. You can see the back of Mr. Sprocket on the floor of the truck, reaching under one of the shelf units to bolt the bottom shelf to the strut.

And just when you think things are going well on one front, another wrench is thrown into the mess. Another project that needs our immediate attention. Mr. Sprocket was on a trip to get more bolts and brackets when the car stopped working. This is just not our month! It was the air conditioning (AC) clutch that has frozen, which means the alternator belt won't move. The belt over heating and not moving means the alternator is not charging the battery. Mr. Sprocket was able to take the belt off and get the car home ~ after cooling the belt off with three bottles of Gerolsteiner that were in the trunk ~ but now the car is only good for short trips until we can order the parts and fix the AC clutch. We have a battery charger on it overnight and, we've put a spare battery in the trunk, just in case. Wednesday day we ordered the parts for car. Luckily, the AC compressor is still in good working shape so we won't have to replace that. The parts should be here by Monday where we will have to shift gears again and work on the car.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Paw Prints in the Floor.

Sprockey, planning his next big adventure.


Christine said...

Oh, my word, Sprocket, I just happened to click onto this before going to bed. What a drama and hassle. You must be a very even tempered patient person to have all that happen! I hope that soon you get your floor taken care of right and that the expenses of it all are not too terrible. And most of all that everything finds its proper place again, that the washer and dryer get a good home and you have your kitchen back.

Yes, those paw prints are precious!

Anonymous said...

Sprocket, Who ever said when it rains it pours must have been to your house. I will keep you and Mr. Sprocket in my prayers.

LS said...

Wow!! Contractors are such a joy to work with - hope you got it in writing dear.

My step-father is the ultimate in DIY projects and you wouldn't ever catch him using a 'nail' on such a project either -it's screws all the way!

Mary Beth said...

You are a saint to deal with all of this. I know I would have been screaming by now! Which you are probably doing on the inside :)

caroleigh said...

Hi Sprocket,
Your floor, nails, screws, footprints what ................a wonderful story. It was reliving some of my own adventures, I have experienced all of them.

I hope that the footprints will be visible in the finished product. They are wonderful.

The story is great, and of course it really never ends. Believe me never

Was so good to hear from you again. I loved your writing

What have you heard about Spector?
Does he have his television,
His music box,?
His Computerer?
And has Rochelle visited overnight?...............EEEWWWWW??
And is he wearing his wig?

Keep us posted on your home adventures. We love hearing from you.