LEARNING HOW TO PLAY WITH BOY TOYS
I’ve watched my husband Lynn fix stuff for 30 years. But I haven’t been a diva sitting on the side lines. I, too, have helped him sheetrock, spackle, paint, rip up carpeting, put down carpeting, tile, install bathroom fixtures (they still leak) put a damn grill together with something like 49 parts and countless pieces of Ikea furniture.
At The Red House I’m on my own during the week. I woke up this morning and realized I really like living by myself. I can get up when I want, do what I want and eat what I want. As I was getting in the car this morning to make another trip to Lowes, I saw the mountains in the distance. Suddenly, I felt the urge to sing something from the “Sound of Music.” When I recounted this story to my mother later in the day she said, “You’re crazy.”
I’ve made many friends at Lowes. There’s the guy in plumbing, the guy in the garden department, the guy in the grill department, the flooring guy, the tool guy, the lumber guy and the female store manager who rolls her eyes when she sees me but still greets me with a smile.
There is only one bathroom in The Red House since the other one has been demolished because of a leaking roof. The bathroom we are currently using has some sort of green patterned linoleum squares over a roll of gray flecked linoleum. Since they didn’t do a good job installing the “green,” you can still see bits of the old gray around the tub, by the toilet and under the radiator. To complement these colors, they painted the walls piss yellow and put up some plastic panels around the tub and on the lower half of the walls. Some of the plastic panels had lost their adhesive and were sticking out. I realized I needed to get some sort of glue to make them stick again. I also realized that building a new bathroom downstairs would be a lengthy project and I needed to update the one we were using tout de suite.
The fact is I was really disgusted whenever I had to walk into the bathroom and see the dirty tile floor. While the bathtub was in decent shape (and clean to boot, thanks to Lynn’s cleaning efforts), the rest of the room was a mess. Lynn didn’t want me to spend any money on doing anything to that room but I thought for $100 or less, I could surely tone down the icky factor a notch. That’s why I found myself at Lowes that morning looking at adhesive tile squares. Remember those? In fairness I didn’t know if this would work since there were already two patterns on the floor that I could see and surely the poor floor didn’t need a third. I didn’t want to go whole hog and start tearing up the linoleum, I just wanted to cover what we had – cheaply.
How far we’ve come from icky green linoleum. My choices were fake marble, fake wood, fake slate, fake brick, fake terracotta, and an old school white with a blue design. I was looking for the cheapest thing. The cheapest thing was the old school white with the blue design at 48 cents for a 12 x 12 sheet. I needed about 30 sheets so that would only cost me $14. I thought I could spend a little bit more than that. I finally settled on a beige/gray/white swirly “terracotta” design that cost me $23.40 for a box of 30 tiles. I’ve spent more on breakfast for myself.
I also needed a new faucet for the bathroom sink since the one in place is so short you can barely scoop up a handful of water to splash on your face in the morning. That cost me $24.86. I also needed some sort of adhesive to put back the panels that were popping from the walls and was directed by the assistant store manager, Dave, to buy a tube of adhesive. The glue cost $3.94. He also made sure I had a caulking gun. That set me back $5.46.
When I told him about my tile project and asked him how to cut the squares, he showed me to an aisle with utility knives. I bought the kind I was used to Lynn working with at home (retractable) and an extra package of razor blades. Together those were $4.40.
I thought about the vanity cabinet under the sink and decided I would get some adhesive paper (yes, they still do sell it) to at least hide the stains. I found the cheapest roll in white for $2.17 which would at least give me a dirt-free surface to put cleaning products on and an extra roll or two of toilet paper.
Then I went home.
I know I’ve watched Lynn open the utility knife and quickly change the blade. It took me nearly an hour to get the “retractable” mechanism working after I had opened the knife to see if they had stored extra blades inside. (They did.) As I was laboring over this, I decided I was going to learn how to do it even if it took all day.
My next assignment was to figure out how to put the tube of adhesive in the caulking gun and make the damn thing actually come out. I know Lynn seems to squeeze the thing endlessly until some white stuff materializes but I just couldn’t get it to work. Yes, I did cut off the top of the container but squeeze as I might, nothing was coming forth. That’s when I found a thin piece of metal attached to the gun. Was this to stick in the tube to get the stuff oozing? Bingo.
I moved everything out of the bathroom and started applying the glue to the panels that were popping off the walls. I then went downstairs and poured some heavy duty primer into a smaller bucket, carried it upstairs with a drop cloth, rollers, a brush and a roll of paper towel. I was about to paint but got stuck when I tried to put the roller cover on the roller frame. I could see how the metal roller twisted to keep the foam cover on the frame but as I twisted clockwise and counterclockwise the roller just wouldn’t lock. Finally, I managed to get it securely in place and started to roll.
Luckily I’m tall so I was able to roll the ceiling and the wall without standing on a chair. As I was stretching to reach a corner and the roller accidentally hit a piece of the plastic panel, I realized I never taped the room. The only words that came to mind were “Oy vey.” I found the blue painters tape and started taping away – around the panels, the towel hooks (I wasn’t taking those suckers off we had just put them up!), the light switch, the 50’s vanity, etc., etc. This took a lot of time.
Finally, I was able to resume rolling and then remembered Lynn always used a brush to do the molding, the space between the wall and the ceiling and the corners. I did the same. This primer was pretty good, it covered the piss yellow decently and I thought it would do for now. I let everything dry and went downstairs to make myself a tomato and cheese sandwich for lunch.
After lunch I decided to deal with a wicker shelf that had been painted yellow to match the walls. Thing is if Lynn had been here he would have simply thrown it out because he is wicker-phobic. The reality was we didn’t really have any place else to put our toiletries, so this baby was staying. I cut off a piece of the plastic drop cloth and sat on the floor to paint it by hand. By the time I finished it was nearly 6 p.m. Had Lynn been doing this project with me at this hour we would have stopped working to shower, have cocktails and dinner. By myself I forged ahead.
Besides the painting, the goal was to put the vinyl tile on the floor – tonight. Now I know Lynn is a big stickler on matching seams in any floor project he’s done in the past but the reality is the space was so uneven and the floor so difficult to work with I laid out the tiles that fit together easily. Then I spent the next TWO AND A HALF HOURS cutting up little pieces of vinyl tile to fit around the bigger pieces. Some worked better than others. The biggest problem was I didn’t have a surface to cut on or a ruler. I figured I could cut on the ugly linoleum floor in the adjoining room and I could use a wooden paint stirrer as a straight edge.
When all was said and done, I used every tile in the box and even the scraps to kick the bathroom up from grungy to functional. I also realized I needed some caulk to fill in some areas. That would be tomorrow’s project. Cleaning up the room I had been working in, I realized I had forgotten about the new faucet I had picked up for the bathroom sink. I took it out of the box, looked at the first line of instructions that said “Turn off the water before you install this product” and promptly put it back in the box. I don’t want to have to learn too many new skills in one day.