So I took a really really long time figuring out ways to survey the three rooms, finding low and high spots, checking the levelness of every 6 inches or so. I finally gave up on trying to get our bedrooms level. The whole house slants and slopes so that would be pretty near impossible. All the walls and doors and everything is crooked and there are very few right angles.
So it turns out, through some internet research, that what is actually more important than levelness is flatness. Which makes sense. The thing we want to avoid is low or high spots and bumps because these will be felt as you’re walking across the floor and the laminate is buckling and bending.
So we need things to be flat.
So after a few more trips to Lowes I buy a bag of this patching material for concrete subfloors to use in small areas where you find a low spot. I was pretty intimidated by the idea of pouring self leveling crap all over the entire room, so I thought I’d pick the easy way out with this stuff. I started with a low spot in the office. I prepped and planned for way too long and one night after work while by myself I went for it, which is where things began to get real interesting…
Act 3: The First Foibles
I’ve been staying by myself at the house working at Church in the day and going home to the house in the evenings and working on the floors. Working a lot.
The first incidence happened one of these nights. It could have been a Saturday night. Late at night. I’m by myself. I may or may not have by now responsibly consumed an adult beverage or two. I’m ready to pour some concrete.
I’m nervous. And excited. I just made the biggest most intense purchase of my life and I’m about to pour a large bucket of liquid into one of the rooms of this huge debt-building and I can practically feel the testosterone increasing my total body hair count.
I mixed up some of the patch stuff with water outside in a huge bucket.
Now the important thing to note that explains what follows is that the bag clearly states that you have like 10 minutes to use this stuff before it starts hardening. I now have a huge bucket full of cement that is starting a 10 minute clock ticking in my head.
I rush into the office and pour a tiny bit way in the back near the wall on the low spot. It doesn’t look like that much so I pour a bit more. I stare blankly at this glob of liquid I guess expecting it to do something. Then I get a trowel and start spreading it.
Its spreading a lot further then I thought I would be able to spread it. And its THICK. Panic suddenly hits me. I have a 4 inch thick glob of cement in my office that is quickly drying and when I try to spread it out….there is A LOT of it. I’m about to have a concrete bowling ball permanently attached to the back of this office floor.
I frantically get on my knees and start pulling as much of the glob back towards the rest of the room. With the trowel I’m scraping this stuff around me on both sides trying to spread as much of it out as possible.
I’m literally groaning out loud in frustration and anxiety.
I keep saying things out loud like:
“$#@! #%$@! @#####$$%%$#@JFDSAF” and
“WHAT WAS I THINKINGGGGGGGGG…….” and
“ITS TOOOOOOO MUUUUCCCCCHHHHH…..”
I’m spreading. And spreading. My knee goes into some of the concrete mud. The first casualty. Then my shoe gets in some. Great. I’m on my knees trying to get as much of the concrete away from the back of the room as possible. Pulling it towards me and spreading it all around. Its flinging onto the walls. I don’t care if its level at this point, I just care that its not a huge dried glob of permanent cement on the floor. I get a lot of cement on my arm. I scream like a girl and run to the bathroom because I don’t want my arm to be a statue for the rest of my life. I remember I have cement on my shoe and scream again. I remove that dirty shoe and go to the bathroom. I run back into the room and continue with concrete triage.
Then I realize there is now so much concrete on the floor that I can’t reach the back of the room with my trowel anymore. And there are still big lumps.
You devil cement.
Caught in an impossible situation and feeling like I can relate to being slowly crushed by a stupid glacier or something I do some weird combonation of falling and leaning against one of the walls with my arm and reaching down with the other arm to trowel and spread.
I’m out of time. And I can’t reach this big spot right near the back wall. And I NEED to get to that spot. Its so super thick.
I still can’t reach the back of the room.
Desperate times require sacrafices. I decide to step into the concrete mud, getting me closer to the back of the room where I need to spread.
Now a quick lesson about concrete cement stuff. Essentially its very fine powdery sand suspended in liquid. Now right before I stepped in this devil liquid I thought I would gush and stick a bit. Not so. Imagine stepping onto a thin sheet of ice laying on top of a floor of ice. It felt something like that.
So my one foot goes down and I just begin slowly sliding, on one foot, towards the back of the room. Off balance and surprised by the liquid sand demon’s tormentings, I flail my arms and spaz out, which then forces my other foot to have to go down into the mud. I’m now sliding on two feet and taking a few more steps to try to slow my approach to the back of the stupid wall.
I get the back spread out thin and get to some other problem areas and then start fearing that my poor toes have seconds to live before they are forever Han Solo-ed into mishaped blocks of cement. The familiar stomach-dropping and fear coupled with anxiety and defeat washes over me. I run to the bathroom - oh crap I can’t because my feet are covered in cement mud - I crawl to the bathroom and start washing off my feet, hoping that two days from now we aren’t having a conversation with a plumber that sounds like: “Yeah your bathtub pipe is packed solid with cement. Did someone fill your bathtub with cement? It’d be pretty stupid to put lots of cement in your bathtub and down your drains…or to put cement in your bathtub at all…”
Somewhere in North Texas that night a nice woman from our bank who handled our martgage crapped her pants. She did not know why.
These were the amazing results of my FIUY project.
But wait, there’s more!
The next morning or so my wife drove down to the house, the kids were with a babysitter, and we were going to work all day on the house. We are looking at a windowsill and there is a soft spot. I poke it. Hmm… looks like termite damage. I poke around more and find a lot more soft spots. Hmm… I poke into a pretty big spot AND SEE LOTS OF LIVING TERMITES SCRAMBLE.
I was not aware that my stomach could travel all the way down to my cemented feet.
We were destroyed. I was convinced that the entire house was filled with termites and at any moment the roof could collapse in on us and that our house just depreciated $100,000. I started wondering how long all five of us could survive on a jar of peanut butter. Maybe the crunchy kind would provide more nutritional value. Plus it would boost morale during the winter months.
My wife and I went out into the living room to wallow in self-pity for a few silent moments. I tried to flip on a light in the hallway, but it didn’t work. “Great, something else broken.” I tried another light in the house. Nothing.
Our house suddenly had no electricity. Danielle calls the electric company and they thought we wanted the electricty to start on the 11th of December, not the 4th. It was the 6th. I needed electricity to run the shop vac and other power tools. Looks like we aren’t working on the house for a few days…
Act 4: The Kübler-Ross Period
To make this long story less long, the termite damage isn’t as bad as we thought. There was a lot of cosmetic termite damage in the past, but it had been treated. We got the whole house treated and will keep an eye out. Not that big of a problem. The electricty got turned back on and it was nice to have a break away from the house and it also made us realize that this wasn’t just a weekend job, this was going to take some time and love and care.
So the following week I buy more supplies, the people at Lowes are suspicious that I’m sleeping in the kitchen department at night, and other supplies ahem (beer), and get back to work. To make a long story short, the rest of this Saga, and just moving into and fixing up the house in general, is summed up in the Kübler-Ross’ description of the stages of grief.
Lots of denial coupled with ignorance.
“It couldn’t be that hard. Just pour self levling stuff in the entire room and watch it become perfectly level!”
“We can fix this!”
“WHY IS EVERYTHING COVERED IN CAULK??????????”
“MOLD IS GROWING THERE AND I FREAKING HATE NATURE.”
“Termites are the spawn of Satan.”
“A BLIND MAN ON FIRE COULD PLASTER BETTER THAN THIS”
Lots of bargaining.
“If we put down trim maybe we won’t notice the huge hole.”
“It only caves in a little when you walk on it.”
“We’ll just put a rug over that.”
“We’ll never get this done.”
“We’re going to go broke and starve and they’ll find our bodies covered in plaster and termites. I hate termites.”
And lastly, acceptance.
But we’ve finally made a lot of progress. We painted three rooms, put wood flooring and trim in two of them, unpacked the majority of our stuff, and fixed a lot of broken things.