At least some of you veteran home improvers will not be surprised to read that my ceiling project is still ongoing, officially entering week five tomorrow. I’ve stopped using comforting phrases like, “We’re almost done now” because every hopeful utterance produces another week of unforeseen complications.
I can report that all the hated popcorn has finally been eradicated in the first three rooms. The G.P. and I are now in the “mudding” phase of the project. Basically, this means that we’re covering the ceiling in compound to level it out. Dad dreams that the finished project won’t look like a goth rock teenager who covered her acne with white foundation.
My fantasy is that we get this done by Thanksgiving.
I have, however, learned a lot about construction over the past month. For instance, it is possible to get blisters UNDER your callouses, which is unfair and makes you shout things like, “YOU HAD ONE JOB YOU STUPID CALLOUSES!”
I feel like I should pass on some of this knowledge, in case you gentle readers are considering embarking on home improvement projects of your own.
Here are some things to expect:
Learned Ambidexterity: even if you’ve been unable to effectively use your non-dominant hand in the past, after eight solid hours of scraping sheetrock, you will teach yourself how to function with that other body part because you’re unable to hold the tool anymore in your preferred grip. If you’re me, you will use the tool backward in that other hand and cuss until you have that “Oh, it goes the other way moment.” The scientific name for this phenomenon is holdustoolswrongus.
Twenty-Dollar-itis: everything costs at least twenty dollars. Need a tiny pan to mix mud in? Twenty bucks. Dinky plastic spatula? Twenty bucks. Drop cloths? Twenty bucks. You get where this is going. Even in the rare instances when the thing you need doesn’t cost that, you’ll find your happiness short-lived. Guaranteed you will need the tool on the shelf next to it even more than you needed the original thing, and it will cost $42.95.
Under-the-ladder-clamatosis: this one is a two-parter. The first universal truism about ladder work is that the higher you are on the ladder, the more likely someone will come and stand directly underneath it while trying to talk to you. Also proportional to ladder height is the frequency with which family, pets, strangers from down the block, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the occasional seagull will use it as a tunnel rather than just walking around. Often these interlopers will stop midway through to say something helpful like, “How’s it going up there?”
No. You cannot deliberately drop a hammer on their head for doing this. I checked.
The Up-Down-All-Aroundies: is simply the physical restriction that states that a human being cannot climb a ladder while also having all the tools she will need once she reaches the top of the ladder. Another manifestation of this law is that if anything drops off a ladder and you climb down to get it; another tool will fall while you’re trying to get back up.
Everything-but-the-drop-cloth: one of the few things I learned during this project is to NEVER skimp on drop cloths. Save money in other ways. However, no matter how well you cover and tape, mud has a way of getting on everything that’s NOT the hygienic covering. The G.P. somehow managed to get some in my cable modem the other day. It’s like I’ve spent eighty bucks to hire a lazy Chuckie Cheese security guard – he’ll stop one or two big disasters, but little stuff sneaks by all the time.
Gender-biased-tool-designius: tools are designed for men’s bodies and their existing equipment. For example, I bought a scraper ($20) that you could screw onto a pole. This was a great idea, EXCEPT, when I unscrewed the handle from my kitchen broom, it would not screw into the scraper. The same thing happened with my mop and my dust mop. “Well, this is stupid,” I thought. “I guess they’re going to make me buy another stupid pole ($20).” Then I went out in the garage and checked the pole on my shop broom. Sure enough, it fit like a dream. In retrospect, the fact that the kitchen broom handle doesn’t fit the tool has probably saved a lot of men from being chased with a rolling pin. However, I sincerely doubt that the United Kitchen Broom Factory Association and the Ceiling Scrapers Manufacturing Guild had a convention wherein they reached this important safety decision.
The Bogies: I’m not going to describe this except to say that even with a respirator the bogies that you get from sanding sheetrock are uncomfortably epic. My nose looks like Mammoth Caverns every night when I finish. I’ve got both stalactites and stalagmites that could give them a run for their money. I’m thinking of offering tours.
The G.P. says that the only way to get through tasks like this is to pretend you’ll never be done. “I AM SISYPHUS” I shouted a week ago (in my best Spartacus impression), but even that thrill wore off after a few hours of shoveling gunk on to the ceiling and smoothing it out.
Remembering that I have three more rooms to do (one of which is the kitchen) took the wind out of my sails.
My body is in out and out rebellion – here’s a snippet of my internal dialogue.
Brain: We sure are leaving more tool marks in that mud than we did yesterday.
Body: You’re a tool mark.
Brain: Was that absolutely necessary?
Body: Shut up, tool mark.
I guess my name is going to be Mud ($20) for the foreseeable future.