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Friday, October 30, 2009

What I Have Been Up To (To What I Have Been Up {Up To What I Have Been})

OK, so it has been a while again; I can’t help it; I have been jacking up the ceiling in the family room, hoping the entire time that the entire deal would not come crashing down, driving me into the basement where I would probably drown over in the corner where ten inches of rain over the last week and a half is slowly seeping in though the walls. But, hey, the leak is better than it was; the ducks have left, and I have eaten all the bull frogs which swam about down there before I did the chipping, patching, sealing, and painting. I counted about 3 billion whacks with my chipping hammer and about 2 thousands schwacks with an old 4 iron when I got the bright idea that the old plaster might hop off faster if I used more force. But, though it worked well, I had to quit that method because I picked up an awful slice which is sort of like picking up an awful dose of consumption. Oh yes, back to my ceiling wars.

The ceiling sway came on like bankruptcy, slowly then suddenly. I kept looking at a piece of trim, thinking that it looked a tad sloped, but being terrible at determining if anything is running uphill or downhill, I figured it was my internal incalculations that were causing the cove molding to look like it was headed for the floor. So, I put off looking mainly because the attic is a crawl space filled with an extra 6-8 inches of insulation I blew in one day, between fire alarms. I am not into crawling anymore (in fact crawl space is an oxymoron anyway as I have never been in one which really wasn’t a slither-space). Crawling hurts the knees and invariably my head when I thunk it into a rafter or joist or beam or concrete pillar; crawl spaces are always darker than Ray’s sunglasses. Anyhow, a couple of days ago, I was eating a double helping of Quaker’s French toast oatmeal and petting the dog there at the dining room table and noticed that not only was the trim at a 30 degree down-bubble but that the belly in the ceiling was suddenly bigger than Hilary’s butt (gawd, she must have to have at least three seats anymore on the plane. Must be all the foreign cuisine and snacking; goodness that woman has got to get on a diet or install a Nordic Track there in aisle one.)

So, now, putting the bowl down and stepping over the dog who will eat just about anything from a bowl on the floor, I got the step ladder, raised the access panel to the space above the ceiling, brushed a half pound of insulation from my face, and shimmied on up. There’s about 30 inches of room to crawl along the center of the roof space, but you have to duck walk from truss to truss because there is nothing to crawl on and of course, the bottom chord of the trusses are hidden under the insulation. Ever see a duck guessing where to waddle? The situation promoted much cursing and flailing about; every time my quadriceps would cramp up, I would rise up to stretch them and run my head into a couple of roofing nails which project through the shingles and plywood of the roof. A religious person would not want to crawl over a ceiling with me. Furthermore, I have distrusted ceilings since falling through one and nearly on top of my baby sister who lay asleep in her crib. I maintained that that was not my fault: my father in not finishing the second floor had enticed me to explore and crawl around; he did not see the sense in that excuse and besides he liked my sister better anyway. But, like my trim, I slant from the proper direction: I made it finally over to where the trusses should have been sitting on a beam to support them. No beam, no support equals sagging ceiling. I also noticed as I lay there in the chemically-treated insulation that the ceiling and all the rest of the structures up there were beginning to groan in protest of my avoirdupois’ being added to the weight of the deal. I retreated. As I scrabbled out, I began to formulate a plan to fix the defect before my ceiling became my floor.

Now, figuring is another one of my weak suits because what makes perfectly good sense in the convolutions of my brain seldom make sense in practical application. I thought it would be a simple deal to screw a 2 x 4 across the span, get some basement posts, and jack it up. No problem. One slight miscalculation was that I was trying to move 20 clear feet of roof load plus 20 additional feet of ceiling load, heavy stuff. Consequently, the jacking was easy, but instead of doing 4 or 5 feet at a time, I soon discovered that the 2 x 4 would not support any more weight than about a 2 foot span. So, I had to go to Home Depot and get a couple more basement post so that I could jack less space by using more posts. I also got a couple dozen 2 x 4s, 4- 2 x 6 x 10 feet plus half dozen 2 x 4s the same length. Oh, before I went to the lumber yard, I had to pump up my pickup’s tires but the bicycle pump’s leather bellow had rotted out; thus, I could not get enough air to come along and join up with the tire. Off to Messick’s to buy a pump. Now, I am back at Home Depot getting ready to check out when I realize I have no wood screws long enough to make a suitable purchase into the ceiling joists, and I grabbed a box of them, too. By the way, if you think that joblessness and a sinking economy would drive prices down, you will not qualify as an economist; lumber is expensive, 2.86 for a stud, 5.04 plus tax for a small box of 3 inch screws, ridiculous, absolutely insane,,not to mention the price of that Chinese pump which wheezes in Mandarin when I work the handle up and down. Damn, Chinese.

Anyways, I got back home, applied the jacks at more frequent spacing and began to move the earth, so to speak. I would jack a 2 foot space, wrenching on the jacks two at a time, until I brought that section up to level. Then, I would crawl off the ladder, measure the distance from the underside of the 2 x 4 to the floor, go out to the garage (oh yes, it was raining some), cut the wood, come back into the house, and drive the 2 x 4 supports under the space. Then, I proceeded on to the next space and repeated the process. Fuzz was no help; she headed for the porch the first time I barked my knuckles and used her canine gender in an oath. She is a fair weather friend.

As I finish here this morning, there are 14- 2 x 4s, 5 jacks, and a broom handle holding up my ceiling. I have one more 6 foot span to raise, and then I will climb up and screw 2 x 6s to both sides of the 2 x 4 plate, screw the 2 x 6s into the support posts, get Fuzz into the backyard (I am not sure the porch is safe) and gingerly remove the temporary posts.

If you don’t hear from me in about 3 days, send the ambulance and some water for Fuzz; she’ll be a little parched from waiting for me to let her in.

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