Construction Conundrums

I’ll tackle just about any household renovation, and I’ve sometimes thought that it might be a nice way to make a bit of extra income. After all, what could be more satisfying than building and fixing things? It seems like a good idea, until I actually do a project.

Last week we replaced an exterior door that had leaked since Day One. It didn’t meet the BC Building Code standards in the first place (and the building inspector didn’t catch it, grrr). But even if the door had met code, it was so poorly installed that it would have leaked anyway.

So we bought a new door, and realized why the builder had cheaped out in the first place. Over seven hundred dollars *hyperventilates briefly* for a 36″ wide NAFS-08 door, plus half a day’s work; and the door was caulked, insulated, weatherstripped, dry, and done.

The project went fairly smoothly, other than the fact that we tried four tubes of caulking and two cans of expanding foam before we found ones that actually worked. Yes, the expanding foam was a brand-new can, and yes, we had to make a special trip to town to get another, thank you very much. This illustrates the First Law of Construction: Even when you think you have all your tools ready and assembled, you don’t.

The Second Law of Construction also kicked in: Caulking and expanding foam have an irresistible attraction to any place you DON’T want them.  I can’t get within ten feet of caulking without getting it all over myself and my clothes. Fortunately I knew that in advance, so I wore my “construction” clothes and all was well. But despite the overall success of the operation, I felt… unsatisfied.

It’s good to know that the problem is (hopefully) solved. And the new door looks nice. But the old door looked nice, too, until puddles formed under it. After all the time, money, and aggravation we expended, you’d never know we’d changed anything. I’d post a picture, but it’s just… a door. “Wow, look at how well that door was installed!” said nobody, ever.

So I guess I’ll stick with my writing career. Words don’t cost me a penny no matter how many I use, and I can put them together and tear them apart and rearrange them as many times as I want without damaging them.

And, unlike lumber, I’ll never ‘measure twice, cut once’ only to discover that I should have ‘thought twice, measured thrice, cut once’. As our elderly neighbour used to complain with tongue in cheek: “I’ve cut that board twice, and it’s still too short.”

Hope everything has measured up in your world this week!

Book 16 update: After weeks of plotting and untangling complicated story threads, I’m finally writing again. I’m on Chapter 25, and things are getting explosive!

30 thoughts on “Construction Conundrums

  1. When you live on a sailboat in the middle of nowhere for eight years and travel extensively in a van (mostly in the middle of nowhere) for years, while, at the same time, being frugal, meticulous, hands-on, and a perfectionists… you have fixed many, many, many issues on said vehicles.

    Yet, never has it been fun. So, enjoying projects like that, you have that going for you, Diane. Every single project we have tackled has led to multiple tries and heaps of frustration. Yet, we can only blame ourselves when something goes wrong, we pick the parts and materials, and we save money. So, we keep doing it.

    Congratulations on a well-installed door. But, let’s wait with the celebrations until after the next heavy rain, oky!

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    • That’s an excellent point! The door didn’t leak in a minor rain, but we haven’t had a big storm since we installed it. Fingers crossed that I’m not the next ‘idiot contractor’ on our list. 😉

      You’re right, though — at least if it’s done wrong this time, I know exactly who to blame. (And maybe where to start looking for problems, too.)

      I can imagine that you have to be very self-sufficient, and I can’t imagine how you find enough room in your tiny camper for tools. Your lifestyle never ceases to amaze me!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark has always been fond of decent tools, so we have a full socket set (metric and imperial – we seem to always buy European vehicles and boats) and a bunch of tools stored in “the back” of our van, which I call his “tool shed.” I should post a photo of that area one of these weeks.

        When we left our boat in Tahiti (forever), we each had two checked bags and a carry on to fill/take off our home of eight years. The tools (and dishes and reference books…) had to stay. One of the things Mark regrets. Despite the tools being old-ish, he wished he could have taken them as to not have to start all over again once we had our “land yacht.”

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  2. I have always been a very hands on “fix-it” person and have tackled many projects over the years. If nothing else, it has taught me patience and to “slow down”, that not everything can be completed in 10 short minutes. But, that’s not what made me want to respond after I was done laughing….it was the caulking, etc all over your clothes. Welcome to the world of Kirt. I have turned more shirts and jeans into painting, caulking, gluing and you name it clothes saved for those special occasions of fixing, caulking, painting or any kind of messy project clothes.

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    • I’m glad you got a laugh! That’s one thing about the pandemic: I’ve worn nothing but my painting / caulking / gluing / whatever clothes for the past 9 months. After all, why wear out my ‘good’ jeans and T-shirts when nobody will ever see me?

      That seemed like a good idea; except that by now I’ve worn out all my old clothes to the point where they’re developing holes in *ahem* strategic places. I have very low sartorial standards, but I draw the line at exposing myself. So that means I’ll soon have to start wearing my ‘good’ clothes, which will rapidly become painting / caulking / gluing / whatever clothes…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am chuckling at the vision of the caulking and foam plotting their paths to unwanted locations. Paint also seems to have a mind of its own when put into my reach. Owning a home is chock full of examples of ‘said no one ever’ to the new purchase or efforts. “Let me take you on a quick tour and show you our stunning new hot water tank.” Well since we can’t have visitors inside, or outside for that matter, due to restrictions, the joy shall remain ours.
    Hope you and Hubby are well and safe Diane. So clever to have moved to an isolated spot.

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    • Thanks, Sue! I don’t know if I can take credit for cleverness, but it was certainly lucky timing. Plus it’s lovely to still be gardening in December! Our carrots are so crisp and sweet in the garden right now. We’ll have to bring them in if the weather gets much colder, but so far, so good.

      And hey, congratulations on your new water tank. I’m sure it’s a thing of beauty and a joy forever (especially when you’re taking a nice hot shower). 😉 Nobody else will ever appreciate it the way you do!

      Liked by 1 person

        • Ooh, yeah. On Wednesday we FINALLY got the concrete pads poured at our front and back doors. Woohoo!!! We’ve been using makeshift wooden shipping pallets for the past 3 1/2 years, and we’ve been trying to entice the concrete contractor to pour since late August. At last we feel like “real people” in a “real house”!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s sad how very difficult it is to find people who take pride in their work nowadays. I could rant for hours on the subject, but I won’t. 😉. I will applaud your DIY skills, though. I don’t find door installation fun or satisfying. I’ll install a window or two as long as it’s on the ground floor, but if it takes more than an 8’ ladder I’m out, lol. I have no problem getting up there but getting back down…call the fire department😂. I’ve often thought that if a slide could be placed from the roof to the ground I’d have absolutely no problems working higher up. Maybe one of those inflatable escape slides airplanes use? I can see it now, I’d be a big hit with the neighborhood kids. And prolly not so much with their parents, lol!
    Already getting excited for the next book. Yah!!

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    • I’m excited about the new book, too! The last few weeks have been tough — we’ve just had too much going on here. Now everything has settled down, and I’m eager to get back to writing.

      I’m giggling at the thought of your slide! I need to get up on our roof and do some more repair work (loose shingle this time), so I’ll have to rig up some safety gear to scale a 45° roof slope two storeys up. I’m not afraid of the the height, or of falling; it’s hitting the ground that’s problematic. 😉

      And yeah, this post almost turned into a rant about builders and contractors, but I managed to restrain myself… a bit.

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  5. It has to be frustrating when you pay good money to have a door installed and it is done wrong. Yes, good doors are very expensive for some reason. Your struggles with expanding foam reminded me of when I built the dog house using green lumber which is all I could buy in this town. After one summer in the hot sun, the 6″ boards all shrunk a half inch so I decided to use expanding foam to fill in the cracks and then nail strips of wood over the foam. Don’t ask how that went.
    I do know a joke about hanging a door but it is NSFW. It concerns the same little girl whose mother asked her what she had learned watching the crew build a house down the block. “If those ******** from Home Depot deliver the +++++++ drywall we’ll get the inside sheeted up by Friday”. You can make up your own punch line. But I have a tape measure calibrated in those just for such occasions.

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    • Ha! Yep, it’s all about knowing the correct ‘technical terms’. And I can imagine your doghouse project, vividly. Expanding foam is not my friend. As long as I get the nozzle precisely where I intended it, and I don’t have to alter the angle of can while I’m dispensing… it’s okay. Hypothetically, anyway. Those conditions have never actually occurred. 😉

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  6. Rule #6 of Caulking and Other Messy Compounds: Nicer clothing is magnetic. I patched up the front porch, which has a cinder block foundation. I used expanding foam (yep, it got everywhere) and caulking (even messier, despite my best efforts) to seal it off from water. Yes, I wore my “outdoor” clothes when I did that. The same ones I wear when I’m elbow-deep in a messy car repair. And wouldn’t you know it? Not one drop of foam or caulking on the clothes! But if I touch up just one tiny thing? Apparently nicer clothing has magnetic properties that draw caulking to them.

    Rule of Repairs #3: It will take you longer to find the tools than it will to complete the job. Yep, I was a big proponent of that rule. A 45 minute brake job took two hours, pawing through various tools to find what I needed. I got disgusted during the summer of 2019, bought a rolling tool chest, stocked up on various tools (entire socket sets, as one example), and the situation is much better. I still had a few hiccups when I replaced an exhaust a few weeks ago, since the top of the chest is like a workbench and it is covered in loose packaging and parts, tools, and general shmutz that I never took the time to clean up. But it was still a much easier job.

    Another Rule of Construction: Measure twice, cut once. But don’t be like me, who will measure incorrectly twice. It’s happened more than once to me.

    Handy Rule of Home Repair, Part 7: The fastener you need is right where you left it. On the shelf at Home Depot. Since it mysteriously disappeared from where you put the identical fastener the last time you used one. Same as how it mysteriously reappears eight months later. And I end up with yet another package of spare fasteners. None of which I can find the next time I repair something! Right now, in fact, are a few packages of those corkscrew drywall anchors laughing at me…

    And of course, congrats on successfully installing the new door! With as many times as Aydan has replaced hers, you should have it down by now. 😁

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    • My blood pressure skyrocketed while I was reading your Rule #3. That’s such a pet peeve of mine that it’s not even really a pet anymore; it’s a full-fledged family member. It drives me NUTS to have a five-minute job that takes half an hour because I CAN’T FIND THE *&^$#*&# TOOLS!!! Hubby and I each had at least two full sets of tools when we got married; and we’ve since bought more. With eleven hammers in total, you’d think I’d be able to find one when I need it. Ditto socket sets. We have at least eight complete sets, in quarter-inch, half-inch, metric, and imperial. Can we find the right combo when we need it? Oh, hell no.

      But our situation is slowly improving. Our garage and workshop are slowly getting finished, and they might even be organized by spring. Of course the organization won’t last once we get to work in there; but I’m enjoying the sweet hope while I can.

      You’re absolutely right about clothing’s “niceness” factor. Somehow I got caulking on my new(ish) sweater. I wasn’t even wearing it when I did the job. Apparently caulking travels invisibly through the air for at least 60 feet. Around corners and through closed doors, too. 😉

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  7. I should point out that the foam is also flammable and will ignite before it cures. I’m mean, that’s only happened to me once and luckily I had a fire extinguisher handy. Still, it was a bit of an awkward conversation with my wife that started with, “I don’t think we need to call the fire department … ”

    So from here, sounds like you did just fine.

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    • Oh, yikes! I’m really glad you pointed that out — it’s so much nicer to NOT have to learn stuff like that firsthand. Fortunately neither of us smokes so we’re unlikely to put an ignition source near a freshly-foamed area. But since Murphy is ever-present, it’s still good to know.

      Words one’s spouse never wants to hear: “I don’t think we need to call the fire department … ” I’m glad you (and your project) were okay!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Sorry you had issues with your door but glad you managed to get it fixed.

    I’m still plodding on. Enjoying working from home. Looking forward to Christmas but missing seeing people. I think like most this year I put my tree up early, I’d say I decorated but I have little lights up all year round.

    I still miss people but I’ve always had a small circle of friends and some of those friends are in other countries. So it’s not like I see them all the time.

    I’ve been thinking about picking up my laptop to try writing again but I’m plotting something in my head first

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    • That’s awesome! The best part about writing is that there’s no deadline and no ‘right’ way to do it. Your story will be there when you’re ready for it. 🙂

      We’re the same as you — our friends and family are spread across thousands of kilometres, so we’re used to keeping in touch via phone and email. Now that we’ve got Zoom and can see each other, too, it’s almost as good as in-person!

      And our Christmas decorations still aren’t up. Usually we have our artificial tree up by now so we can enjoy it for the month; but I’ve just been too busy. Soon…

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  9. I’ll say!! It’s FINALS WEEK and I’m half way through! Yay! More good news. Back in the classroom next semester, but that’s A MONTH AWAY!! So yeah, I might retain a tiny little smidgeon of sanity after this year. Which is excellent. That’s all I had to begin with. 🤪

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