Sunday, May 15, 2011

Home Improvement Part 1

My niece and nephew bought a new house this past month.  Very pretty house with lots of land (I’m so jealous), but as with any re-sale, it requires some work.  They needed to redo the floor in the bedroom; the carpet was shot, so I suggested a bamboo floor.  Inexpensive, wears great and looks beautiful.  However, the installation is expensive.  So, Uncle Barry volunteers to help.  “Really?  I mean, you can’t even maintain a lawn!  You don’t sound too handy!“ Well, I have news for you. Despite what you might think, I possess a rare genetic mutation.  HJG.  Handy Jew Gene.  I have the ability to fix, build create and repair stuff.  Not bad for a member of the tribe.  Landsmen(fellow Jews) seem to lack this skill.  For whatever reason, they are incapable of doing the simplest repairs. I come from a long line of JWAAT.  Jews Who Are All Thumbs.  My father would break anything he touched, my genius brother could barely figure out the business end of a hammer.  None of my cousins can turn a screw without having a printed copy of “righty tighty, lefty loosy” in front of them.  My mother kvells (beams with pleasure) about this uncanny ability that I possess.  My nephew, has this mutation too. 

I load my car with hand tools, saws, drills, and off I go.  I’ve put in a few hardwood floors in my day, so I’m no stranger this.  My nephew rented a compressor and pneumatic hammer, which I affectionately refer to as the “ptsche ptsche” machine.  This will become apparent to anyone who has ever used one as the sound it makes as you smack it sounds like “ptsche.”  Well, at least to me. 

With any project, prep work is crucial.  Josh had ripped up the old carpet, padding and tack strips.  But the five million staples that held the padding secure to the floor still had to come up.  Then we had to cut the door molding with a dovetail saw to allow for the height of the flooring.  This room had five doors!  The floor needed to be checked for squeaks and all loose nails hammered down.  Then the most crucial step of all, a few beers to get into the right frame of mind. 

Now we are ready.  When laying a floor you need to snap a chalk line that is parallel to the wall.  This is where your first course of floorboards aligns.  That way, when you get to the wall on the other side of the room, your floor is still parallel and not perpendicular. Put a board down, tap it into place, and hammer it home. Repeat. When you get to the end of the row, cut a small piece to fit and continue.  Everything is going fine until we hit the closet.  Small space, two grown men, tools, and a wall that is out of plumb.  So we have few beers to think this through.  We get the closet sorted out and lay a few more courses of floorboards.   It is really starting to look gorgeous.  But the light is fading and so are we.  My knees are screaming, my back is sore, and my hamstrings and quads have gone on strike.  Some more beer and a shrimp scampi pizza are the just the ticket.  We decide to resume on Tuesday. 

We come to the conclusion that anyone in the trades earns every penny.  This is hard, tedious work. Lifting heavy objects, fitting into tight, cramped spaces, all very hard on your body.  And they don’t get to take beer breaks.  I’ll let you know how it turns out. 

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