Journal Entry: February 2, 2009

And here’s another week-in-one.

Last Monday I got to work right on time (which is something of a rarity on Mondays). On the drive in I heard a brief weather report on the radio, and I mostly zoned it out until I heard, “…and then tomorrow afternoon even more snow and ice…” and that made me wonder what exactly I’d missed.

A couple hours later, I found out, because I heard conversations over the cubicle wall concerning all the accidents that were occurring out on the roads. Hefner Parkway was closed down entirely — the highway I take for ten miles to and from work — and Tinker Air Force Base was closing down so we would be next. That sort of thing.

They did let us leave early, but I had to take back roads to get home (since Hefner Parkway was closed) and it took me over an hour. I made it home unscathed, but I passed nine accidents on the drive — three of which I watched happen.

I hate icy conditions.

Anyway, I made it home and curled up on the couch and then didn’t leave the house for two days. Tuesday was a snow day at work, so I got to stay home with AB and T–. T– suggested we make a blanket-tent for AB, and followed that up with, “but I’m no engineer,” so I got the hint that she wanted something big and fancy. I did the best I could (and it’s photo-documented on her blog, which you probably read a week ago).

In addition to that my next hard drives came in for my computer, but one of them was DoA. I spent most of the afternoon and evening figuring that out, then getting the other one up and running. I also majorly rearranged our entertainment center to make room for the computer up there.

Wednesday we were offered a three hour late start because the ice was hanging around. I seriously considered taking the day off anyway, but I ended up going in and had a pretty productive day. Driving wasn’t too bad by 10 Wednesday morning, and by the time I drove home there was nothing but slush on the roads. We had dinner with D– and K– and N– at El Chico, then K– and N– came over to play some Rock Band.

Thursday I had another late start (although that one came out of my vacation time), and another good day at work. Then I spent most of the evening trying to figure out how to get my USB remote control to work on XP, and finally ordered a new one that would.

Friday…we got started. It was my RDO, and I took the opportunity to sleep in. Then I did some work on the computer (financial stuff, mainly) before we went to lunch at P F Chang’s. T– had been craving it, and I’m always a fan.

After lunch AB went down for a nap and I helped T– rearrange some furniture in the living room. Then I spent a couple hours playing WoW while she boxed up all the dishes in the cabinets above the sink. Sometime after 6, her brother Matt and his whole family showed up (wife and three kids).

For as long as we’ve lived in this house, T– has wanted a window between the kitchen and the living room. It’s a big blank wall on the living room side, but a relatively narrow space between the cabinets in the kitchen. So we decided it would make the most sense to rip out the cabinets (or, actually, delicately detach them, so they could be preserved for later use), and just make a big window.

Unfortunately, that meant relocating a couple electrical outlets and a couple light switches, not to mention a 1 1/2-inch copper vent pipe that ran from our kitchen sink up through the roof….

So, yeah, it was no small task. As he did when he showed up to help us with the Tulsa house almost a year ago, Matt showed up, spent a few minutes standing back and looking at the project, then grabbed a hammer and started busting things.

We got a ton done Friday night. We took down the decorative trim above the sink (undamaged, so it could be replaced afterward), then took out the two cabinets (which took most of two hours), and wrapped up by cutting a long rectangle out of the drywall on the kitchen side between two studs. It was more ceremonial than anything else, just getting started. We all turned in around 11:00, but I didn’t get to sleep until 2:00 or so. I ended up playing WoW instead, and got my two main characters to 80, so yay.

Saturday morning I woke to the sound of a drywall saw, around 9:00. I took my time getting ready, then finally headed to the kitchen to find a box of donuts on the table (yay Krispy Kreme!), and the whole window cut out of the drywall on the kitchen side. We had four studs to remove, and now the electrical and plumbing issues were more clearly visible.

I helped Matt cut out the other side of the window, sawing through the drywall in the living room (and making an unholy mess in the process). Then we made a shopping list and headed to Lowe’s for two hours before grabbing lunch (which was my call, and a terrible mistake).

Anyway, while we were at lunch I called K– and asked him to come over and help us with the wiring, and he graciously agreed (which probably saved us two to three hours of trial and error, and quite possibly some major damage to my house’s wiring). Then we took out the copper pipe, capped it above the sink (and it’s everyone’s opinion that that won’t cause major plumbing problems in the future), and then got to work cutting through the studs. Matt had a circular saw to start them, but it barely got halfway through, and we have to do the other two inches through forty-year-old timber with a handsaw in a confined space. It was exhausting. Matt and I traded off, him doing all of the right-handed cutting, and me doing some of the left-handed work.

We finally got the last stud out just as K– showed up. He got to work trying to figure out just what was going on within that wall (electrically-speaking), and it turns out it was nuts. But whatever, that’s why we got K– there. I discovered I couldn’t find my caulking gun, so I had to make a run to B–‘s place to borrow theirs. When I got back, K– was ready to start running wiring.

I helped him run wire, fishing it through old holes bored through the studs, while Matt cut wood and got started framing in the window. He couldn’t do a lot with Kris and me working there, though, so he got a forced break for an hour or so.

Partway through all this T– and Amy ran up to Little Caesar’s and brought back pizza for dinner, so we took a break to eat. After that K– put in another hour or so, which was enough to get the new junction box in, as well as the new outlets and switches fully installed. He left it to me to connect the switches to the garbage disposal and dishwashed under the sink, and to the new pendants lights T– had gotten to go over the sink. I got it all done except for the garbage disposal, while Matt rushed to get back to work putting in the window.

Before he could finish that, though, we had some aesthetic work to do. Whoever prepped the house to sell before we bought it, decided to put on a thick layer of texturing over every inch of exposed drywall to hide any flaws or damage. It mostly worked, but when we pulled the cabinets down we revealed huge swathes of the wall that were untextured (and, in the process of removal, flawed and damaged). There was also more than a little damage done to the drywall around the window, that had to be patched before we could put the window’s trim up.

So we got to work patching and taping and scraping mud, and then had to wait hours for the mud to dry before we could do a second coat. Matt did all he could Saturday night, which essentially meant getting the entire window done except for the trim — that is to say, a header installed behind the drywall above the window, because it’s a load-bearing wall, two extra 2×6 supports in the wall below, the base plate (which is basically a shelf), two upright 2x4s to support the header (which had to be covered with 2″x36″ stips of drywall that T– and I had to carve out of the scrap at 11:00 at night), and then 1/4-inch thick doorjamb to hide the uprights and the header. All of it, of course, precision cut to fit, to prevent problems down the road.

We got done at midnight. Around 11:30 Matt started wondering aloud what there might be around to eat, and T– ended up making a chocolate cake, which we all stood around eating while we admired Matt’s handiwork as Saturday became Sunday. It was a little bit silly, but made perfect sense at the time.

That was it for the night. We couldn’t do any more until the drywall joint compound was dry, so we went to bed.

So Sunday morning I woke up to the sound of a sander. T– and Matt made an early run to Lowe’s to pick up some forgotten things, and then we all got to work on the walls, sanding the seams, applying a second coat of mud, and then T– and Amy tried out some spray-on wall texture we’d found at Lowe’s. It wasn’t a perfect match for whatever they’d done to our wall, but it was close enough (and, most importantly, it broke up the smooth lines of the drywall tape, which stood out like a sore thumb).

We also drew Matt off on two side projects (although I ended up taking care of one). The first was an old dining chair that AB had broken by toppling it over, nearly a year ago. When it had landed, the right-side upright supporting the back of the chair had split, and it’s been sitting unused in a corner ever since. We showed it to Matt and he filled the split with carpenter’s glue, put in a well-placed wood screw to hold it together, and then clamped it down to dry for the rest of the day.

Then there was an old in-wall space heater in the bathroom that has never worked (and was distgustingly worn out). I pulled it out of the wall and found it mounted in a big sheet-metal box. I capped off the wires, ripped the box out of the wall, then cut a sheet of drywall off our scrap to fill the hole. Then we just taped it, mudded it, and painted it over with the same paint they’d used on all the walls in our house.

Luckily, there was plenty of that. They used a beigey off-white on all the walls, and a flat white on all the woodwork in the house, and there was about half a gallon of white leftover and probably two gallons (in a five-gallon drum) of the off-white. During the morning, once the drywall mud was dried, we pulled out all our leftover paint and got to work painting where it was needed so Matt could finally put up the trim.

By eleven we knew of a couple things they had forgotten at their eight o’clock Lowe’s run, so I went to pick up what we still needed and got some soda and chips for lunch while I was out. Then I got back around noon to find K– and N– there, admiring our handiwork. I also took everyone’s order and placed a call for some Buffalo Wild Wings, which are popular with Matt and his family. So at noon I was back out on the road again, down to Northwest Expressway to pick up the wing, and then I had to drive the fifteen minutes back home with that delicious odor strong in the air. It’s amazing any of the food made it back to our house.

Anyway, that was lunch, and afterward Matt started putting up the window trim. He also tacked together the base of a new peninsula bar (another whole project), and T– got started painting it, so he could put the cabinets on it when he was done with the trim.

Finishing up the trim actually took until about 4:00, and he had a midnight shift to work at the end of his two-and-a-half-hour drive home, but he hates leaving a job unfinished, so he was scurrying to finish everything he could. While his family started packing up absolutely everything they could (including tons of tools he’d brought to use over the weekend), he mounted the cabinets on the base, secured them down (with considerable effort to keep them perfectly square), then put on a front plate and framed in an interior cubby in the wasted space between the cabinet backs (you’ll have to see it, probably, for that to make any sense). Then, with his frustration clear on his face, he finally had to give up on finishing the countertop. It was six by the time he left, and he took a few minutes to tell us what we would have to do to finish it off.

I was in a little bit of a hurry myself, because while we were frantically trying to put together some old cabinets, the rest of the nation was enthusiastically looking forward to the freaking Super Bowl. K– and N– were throwing a watch party at their house, and I didn’t want to miss it — but of course I had to do everything I could to help out while we had Matt around. T– had really wanted to go to the party, too, but as soon as Matt left she crashed.

Me, I got cleaned up in a hurry and sped up to Edmond. The game was phenomenal. B– and E– were there for a couple hours, and I got to grill B– about a programming project I’m doing for him and I got to grill E– about my novel, which she recently read. Then their daughter’s bedtime rolled around so they had to leave, and I finally watched some football.

The game ended (for us) around 10:00, and I went home to watch the special episode of The Office with T–. We also watched some SNL, and then finally gave up and went to bed.

While I was gone, T– had done some painting above the sink and on the new window shelf, but there’s still a lot of painting to do. That’s something T– and I know how to do well, so we didn’t waste any time on it while Matt was around. Now we have a week or two of patching and sanding and painting before it’s really finished, but it already looks awesome.

Watch T–‘s blog for pictures. She took a bunch, before and during and after, and I know she intends to do a blog post when she can find the time. She’s looking at a really busy week even without the painting, though, so I don’t know how soon it’ll happen.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

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