Friday, July 04, 2014

In the nick of time...

My plan was to wait until the Fall before launching into another project, the small project of addressing the flooded carpet squares on the stairs from the kitchen to the basement.  I wanted a break from hard labor and I yearn for rest.

However, the rest I long for is not wholly physical.  And the distress building within me caused me to think of finding an outlet, such as the basement stairs.  Plus, as with that last day of sanding, something within me feels that if I do not do this now, it will never be done ... at least by me.

Here, the third stair tread has been cleared.  You can see how incredibly filthy it was beneath the carpet.  I knew it would be, despite all the vacuuming I have done on the staircase.  What I was worried about was the increasing musty smell emanating from the carpet pieces.  Of course, you had to stick your nose down near them to smell it, something most folk wouldn't do.  However, I have been doing exactly that ever since I flooded my kitchen and basement by forgetting I was working in the kitchen.

Needless to say, after all the work of the carpet removal, I was left with the work of scouring the stairs.  I washed them once with bleach, twice with vinegar water, and twice with hot water and soap.

It is good that I did not leave this until the fall, for I found mold growing on the bottom of the top six steps.  Those were the ones that were the wettest and the ones that took the longest in drying.  I did not find any mold on the wood, nor did the paint smell musty the way the back of the carpet stank, but I wanted to be very, very, very sure they were clean.

The stairs had two types of paint on them, besides two colors, so I thought I would get out that can of bonding primer of mine and slap on a coat.  Actually, I put on some music, sat down on the top step, picked up the chip brush, and shut out all thoughts and feelings and found peace in applying primer.  Just as with sealing the back deck, working with a chip brush extended the job, but cause far, far, far less pain in my hands.

I was going to paint the stairs the same sort of cranberry as the basement entrance stairs, the color that matches that landing and the side door and coordinates with the siding and brick of the house.  However, my very talented interior designer of a mother took exception at my economical use of paint on hand and so offered to buy me a gallon of paint.  Her idea was to use the same GREEN as I used on the garage entrance door that I restored last year.  Most of the basement, the parlor, the other two stair wells, and the upstairs hallway are this color my sister told me about:  Mellowed Ivory.  It is an old Sherwin Williams formula that you can have made.  It is a very, very, very neutral color that is soft and bright enough to make attractive any space and which, in certain lights, has the slightest tinge of GREEN to it.  It coordinates well with the heritage foundation GREEN that I painted in the living room and then used the left over paint in the laundry area in the basement.  So, the Grove GREEN of the garage entrance door would coordinate well with the laundry area walls and the other basement walls.  However, there is the small problem of the basement stairwell.  It's in poor shape, having not been painted in eons.

I have not painted the stairwell because there was a crack in one of the walls that needed repair.  I didn't think of doing it when I had drywall mud on hand and have not really been inspired to do the work since.  Yet, because paint drips, I realized last night that I need to go ahead and paint the stairwell before painting the steps.  That means I had to figure out the extent of the damaged paint and then fetch drywall mud to repair it.  The idea of fetching mud was certainly made more palatable by the fact that I was fetching a gallon of GREEN paint for the steps.  I also called my neighbor to see if she wanted to go to Lowe's with me.  I just didn't want to go even though I really, really really like the idea of free GREEN paint for the stairs—being able to walk up and down GREEN steps each time that I fetched things from my freezer and/or did laundry.  She was game and made the trip easier:  my neighbor dealt with all the people save my conversation with the man behind the paint counter.

The crack in the wall paint, as it turns out, was from a crack in the plaster.  The paint on the walls of the stairwell is amazingly thick.  I guess the crack and shifting of the plaster caused the paint to buckle.  I scraped back all the loose paint until I got to paint closely adhering to the original plaster.  That created the above country-shaped hole.  Today, when I arrived home, the first thing I did was to slap on the first layer of drywall mud.  I admit this is not my finest job, but I am usually not all that concerned with a perfect first layer when I know that I will be doing at least three, if not four layers in total.  All the extra outside the hole will be sanded down before the next layer, so that I do not have to end up feathering the patch from wall to wall!  Anyway, you can see that the patch is still wet and so the work for the day is done.  Over the next two-three days, I will have about 15 minutes of labor and hours and hour and hours of waiting.

With a roller, since the stairwell is only the landing and upper few steps, I think the paint job will take about an hour, even with clean-up.  Well, an hour twice over since I want to do two coats.  I will then paint the baseboards and quarter round.  Finally, two or three coats on the steps.

The good aspect of taking care of this last neglected area of the house is that the scope of work means doing a little bit day-by-day, instead of pushing myself into all kinds of exhaustion.  No matter how tenacious and impatient a homeowner repairwoman I might be, I am completely and utterly unable to make either drywall or paint dry faster.  It dries when it dries.

That last, last, very last bit of unpainted wall in my old house (the left of the bottom of the steps) is the wall that houses the door to the utility closet.  It is what I would call a faux wall, for it is neither framed and studded, nor built with proper wall material.  It is as thin as old wainscoting.  The less-than-intelligent person who put in the door attached it to that thin wood, rather than at least build a door frame.  So, the weight of the solid, hardwood door has shifted the wall and made the door unable to close.  Firewood Man has been promising to come slap in a frame for me for the past two years.  Hence, I refuse to paint that ugly, dirty wall and door until he comes and makes the repair because he's going to make a mess whilst working on it.  I am not painting it twice.

Given all that Firewood Man does for me, I am working really hard on remaining patient about his finding a time to come throw in the door frame.  Being a poor country boy, a lot of Tim's extra time is taken up repairing his ancient pick-up truck.  Were I wealthy, I would gladly buy the kind and gracious man a new truck and one of those commercial riding lawnmowers so that he can start his own business, as he longs to do.  In the meanwhile, I have learned that not haranguing him about things I'd like help with helps him.  He gets to what he can get to.  And, frankly, in Firewood Man's mind, there really is no need for the door to the utility closet to actually close.  So, that tasks is constantly being moved to the bottom of his list.

Remember, this is the incredible man who brought a buddy over and dug out the shrine I found in the back yard after moving here (I bought the house without ever seeing it), which turned out to be a buried cast iron tub.  Even after he figured out the amount of effort it would take to remove it, Tim didn't just hand me the statue of Mary and tell me to live with the alcove nor did he change his price: $20.  Of course, after the tub was dug out and wrangled into the back of his truck, I encouraged him to post it on Craigslist to sell.  He did ... and bought parts for his weary truck.

I am certain that eventually Tim will come to understand the need for the door to close and thus tackle that task.

I did not sleep the night after pulling up the carpet because I was coughing and wheezing from all the ick filling the air as I tugged and ripped and yelled and wept and cursed and battled the MILLIONS of tacks and staples used to keep the carpet in place. I thought it rather ironic that the adhesive slathered on had gone to dust years before.  The tacks were rusted.  The staples shiny.  No joke:  The GREEN carpet pieces came up easier than the others.  The gold ones ripped to shreds as I pulled.

I do honestly believe that I tackled this bit of demolition in the nick of time.  Had the mold grown more or spread into the wood, I would have had great problems with both its mitigation and with my asthma.  I was wearing a mask with a filter and was still ill all night.

What do I believe as to the impulse, the inner voice telling me to do this NOW?  I just don't know.  I think that it was not just the knowledge that I am growing ever weaker and simply have a finite period of time left where I can do what needs doing as opposed to being forced to pay someone else.   There I was, thinking about the words of faith that puzzle me, confound me, and distress me so deeply.  The fear and despair welled up and I wanted to do something, anything, to focus upon.  But it wasn't polishing the silver (which is now clearly in a neglected state) or to give Amos a bath (he has lost that lovely lavender aroma and is started to smell slightly of flesh and blood having spent time outdoors) or to move the daffodils (which needed to be moved three summers ago and are even more clumped together and crowded).  I climbed off the GREEN chair, walked down to the basement, and fetched the pliers to grip the edge of a piece of carpet to see just what I might be facing.

I knew if I started, I would not live with the mess, so, it would be finished in a timely manner.  I knew that once the carpet was up, the bulk of the labor would be passed.  And I knew, somehow, that waiting longer to deal was the wrong course of action.

All that is to say, I think that discovering the mold when it was not yet a dangerous problem was a gift.  A good gift.  And where do good gifts come from?  If it is good, it is from God.

Speaking of good gifts, my neighbor just brought me some moss she found growing in her back yard!  Oh, how I miss the moss gardens I had in abundance in Alexandria!!  Such peace and joy and awe and stillness is there in the incredibly beauty of the myriad textures and hues found in that part of God's creation.

Can you know that God is the creator and yet not have faith????

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