mercredi 10 février 2010

Granny eye for the queer guy?

What the floating floor covered

How miserable am I? Let me count the ways.

Can we talk about Marseilles getting their cleats handed to them by Lens in the 16e de finale of the Coupe de France instead?


So, there were no pleasant surprises. What there is is so bad that I might get my way in an entirely unexpected way, but in such a way that I don't even want to contemplate.

Before leaving for 36 hours at the hospital, Audouin came to see what I'd done in his previous 13 hours' absence. You've all seen that by now, too. He looked around at this room in which he had previously labored to lay down a floating floor on the carpeting and to install 13 mm wallboard on the visible walls. I don't like undoing peoples' work, especially not when I am married to him.

"Je vais balancer les boiseries," I declared, leaving not the least space for argument.

"Ah bon?"

"Ce n'est pas la peine de les garder. Elles sont en très mauvais état," I touched one area where the swinging foot of someone seated at the computer in the unfinished storage system cum computer work station had knocked it in.

"Mais, on peut garder la structure peut-être?" he asked, hopefully. I shook my head.

"C'est pas la peine. Ce n'est même pas une vraie boiserie. C'est une sorte de système préfabriqué." I shuddered for extra effect.

"Mais le parquet, peut-être tu pourrais l'enlever sans le casser? C'était un parquet de haute gamme, pour un parquet flottant. On pourrait, peut-être le vendre à quelqu'un," he added, somewhat hesitantly. I looked at him. I felt some pity. "Même si tu n'as pas l'aire très convancu." He had given up, and right there, I decided to do my level best to take it out without destroying it. Not that I was promising anything.

Not that he was asking for a promise.

After having every blocked muscle released in the sort of pain for which you normally have an epidural by my trainer this morning, while I did my best tantric breathing (aka Lamaze deep breathing). I went at it, removing baseboard glued to the wall board the plastic raceway for wiring I discovered all along three of the walls (were the former owners really in an international drug trade and not fabric importers as they claimed?) and prying loose the fake wainscoting to be able to start yanking up the parquet flottant (without damaging it).

It didn't take me long to discover that this was not going to be possible, but given how many other devastating (but not terribly surprising) things I was uncovering, such as the saltpeter in the plaster walls, the crumbling of the wallboard behind his baseboards, and the fact that the only thing under the carpet underlay was a sort of scratch coat on the concrete subfloor, which left no clearance for the installation of a real solid oak floor, well, this suddenly wasn't such a big deal.

Besides, I was doing the hard, dirty and very unappealing work, while he had all the glory, delivering a 170 kg woman's baby by planned c-section. Imagine, me plus another 110 kg of fat. Oh, and 3 of 4 kg for the baby.

Taking stock, several things were clear: the wallboard would have to be replaced with floor to ceiling wallboard, preferably of the type that includes insulation on the two exterior walls, which meant the door to the under-the-stair closet goes; wood would have to be ordered for real wainscoting; and, I would likely have to settle for an engineered oak floor, glued to the existing scratch coat on the slab, leveled out.

Then, I attacked the middle section, hacking away at the carpeting with a box cutter, and found -- a hole at the exterior wall. I put my hand on the floor and it felt cold and -- damp.

My God! Was the slab humid? This would be project ending. Almost. You cannot put a wood floor down on anything containing humidity, not without a sheet of EPDM, anyway. I reached my hand down into the small space, and I felt two things: a draft of air, and crumbly concrete not more than 4" down.

My God.

Was there nothing but a rat slab under the newer part of the house? That would certainly explain the very large cracks in the wall, if two floors were set on nothing more than 4" of crappy concrete.

Les salauds.

I called my brother-in-law, who got his lawyer friend to write a very scary letter to our workers that I only had to mention to get their attention -- they will be here Friday --, to tell my tale of woe, and let him know the mere threat of the letter and legal action had been extremely effective. Here, we had building professionals working on a house, and they had neither impregnated the walls with the miracle product that is supposed to keep them from taking water up from the ground, nor discovered that something is letting water in under a wall they have covered with chaux aerienne, although they did discover that there is a hole in the sewer line leading from the toilet to the sewer, which means our "po-pos" travel just under the roots of the amaryllis I planted along that wall.

I believe "discover" might have meant "made".

After -- oh -- and hour or so on the phone, I felt better. Better enough to answer my husband's question, "Alors, qu'est-ce que tu as fait de ta journée aujourd'hui," when he called a little later, asked in the very nicest way possible.

I told him everything. No holds barred.

"Peut-être on peut faire couler une nouvelle dalle?" he asked, hopefully. I never, ever thought he would suggest that, and just what I had been thinking, too.

In other words, dig out the existing floor and prepare the ground underneath to receive a decent concrete slab under the house. This is called "underpinning" (when it is really done right and actually involves a foundation, if a house actually has one, or at least a haunched slab), and it's a lot of work. Ideally, it would continue under the walls to provide them some additional support, but I am not about to tear up more than the part under the petit salon, which doesn't give us that much benefit.

It would let us take it deeper so that we could put down waterproofing and a proper subfloor, and get the wood to align (plus ou moins) with the terracotta tiles in the entry.

We shall see. Tomorrow, more destruction, and maybe my Flamant paint. Let us hope, because then I can clean up that room and move the sofa out there and tear out the rest of the floor. Oh, and draw up the plans for the woodwork and make a list of materials to buy.

Mental note: call local masons, as well as the electrician (again).

Friday, the workers.

God help me.

But this carpeting. Seriously. Can we talk about this carpeting? The previous owners of this house were a gay couple who had a business they ran from the house importing fabric from Turkey, among other places, but no one would ever, ever have asked them to host "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", ever. I knew what this carpeting looked like because it was still visible under the storage system and in the little closet under the stairs, but I had never given serious thought to the fact that they installed it, or, nearly as unbelievable, did not replace it while they lived here. They installed their plastic raceway, and perhaps the fake wainscoting, and they were content? Is that possible?

Well, if you look at the plumbing fixtures and tile they installed in the bathroom...


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