It's not about the house.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Day Three, Project 2 1/2: 'Scuse Me While I Kiss The Skylights

My plan for today was to take the porch door off its hinges. Take the porch door off today, the closet door tomorrow, and over the weekend commence to stripping paint -- outside, so I don’t get nose-scabs like I did the first time (which might also have something to do with the fact that I wasn‘t wearing a face mask, because the second time I wore the mask and I didn’t get them. But anyway…) I can’t take the doors off the hinges because it’s gonna rain. Or it might rain. It could possibly maybe have a thunderstorm or scattered shower anytime between now and next Tuesday.

I suppose, now that I’ve already finished doing something else, I could have taken the doors off anyway and just leaned them in the hallway until the weather cleared (or didn’t get bad after all). Ah well, there are plenty of days left in the month. Plus it turns out I didn’t really finish what I was doing yesterday.

I remembered last night about the plastic on the skylights (“remembered,” in this case, should be read to mean “looked up and saw”). Crap. This batch, though, was not my sister’s fault. The skylights are brand-new (well, not brand new. What’s it been? Holy crap: two years, now! Almost three!), and everybody knows that new windows are not supposed to draft. But the Handyman -- who I generally love -- said maybe the reason it was freezing in my bedroom was that the warm air was rising, hitting the cold glass of the skylight, cooling off and falling back down, creating a perpetual sort of negative-thermal cycle. I didn't actually ask him this question, somebody else did, but the answer made sense to me -- especially if you picture my bedroom like a big pulsating lava lamp, with warm blobs of red air bubbling slowly up and cold drips of blue air sinking more rapidly back down…

Why doesn’t anybody ever tell you these things before you decide to install the skylight and spend six months fighting with your contractor about them?

The Handyman said the best way to stop the cycle would be to install storm windows and shutters on them. Yeah, okay, I’ll put that on the list, right after caulking up the sink drain and squirting Great Stuff in the dryer vent. Even the Handyman acknowledges that shuttering the skylights defeats the purpose of installing them in the first place (because who ever heard of decorative shutters on the ceiling?) so as a backup plan he recommended plastic, to at least create a barrier between the room and icy window, with the air between them hopefully serving as some measure of insulation.

In all fairness to the Handyman, I don’t think he’d ever actually done this. I think it was just an I-guess-you-could-try suggestion. Which didn't work. It was still freezing in the bedroom.

Which could very well have more to do with the fact that we have about half as much insulation in there as you’re supposed to have (the walls weren’t thick enough for the standard amount; we were grandfathered in. And again I say: why doesn’t anybody tell you these things? If I’d known how cold it was going to end up being back there I might have sprung for thicker walls. Then again, I suppose if I’d thought it through I might have figured out that half the insulation might mean, well, half of the insulating properties. So never mind.). Or it could have something to do with the fact that the radiator in the bedroom is the last one on the cycle and has never since we moved in been known to actually radiate any heat. (And so help me, if anyone writes in suggesting that I fiddle with the dials on all the radiators to force the heat out back to that one, I will pick up that quarter-ton radiator and throw it through those skylights with my bare hands. I’ve tried fiddling with the dials, the plumbers tried it, three separate furnace guys have tried it -- even the Keyspan representative tried it when he finally came, even though he knew the boiler was broken at the time. It. Doesn’t. Work.)

So the plastic didn’t actually make my bedroom any warmer, but I didn’t see any sense in climbing up there to take it down. I figured it would be just fine until spring, when I’d be climbing up to crank the skylights open anyway. Because, oh yeah, that contractor we fought with over them? He took off with the long-handled crank and we haven’t gotten around to buying ourselves a new one. It's only been two years, after all -- or almost three. Hey, I wonder how much those crank things cost… That could be another project for this month if it’s not too expensive. All it would involve is shopping -- and we know how good I am at that, right? NOT! (Does anybody even say NOT! anymore? Probably NOT.). Anyway, when it finally did get hot about a week ago I didn’t feel like climbing up there so I just turned on the ceiling fan. But now I’m out of excuses. Puritan Manifesto, remember. Plus, it’s only going to get hotter, after all.

So... Stepladder? Check. Found it right outside the bathroom, just in case Johnny ever gets around to finishing that paint job (Puritan Manifesto or no, I have long ago learned to steer far clear of Johnny’s painting projects)… Goof-Off and rags? Check. Right where I left them yesterday (hey, I never said this “do something every day for a month” plan necessarily included cleaning up after myself)… A little Goof-Off music? Check. Johnny’s back to work today so I can listen to whatever I want, so okay this smells good… And we’re off!

Ouch. Here's a hint: Might not want the ceiling fan spinning around if you’re going to be climbing all up under it. Okay, that’s taken care of. Now we’re off.

Whoa, I forgot about how I had to climb all the way to the very top not-a-step of the 6’ ladder in order to put the plastic on. It’s WoBbLy up here… and hot… and awfully bright… Hang on while I get my sunglasses.

Okay, now -- wait. What’s this in the junk drawer? Oh the crank handle, for opening the skylights. That might come in handy. Maybe I should take that back up there with me, too. Okay, now we’re really off.

Whoops. Forgot to press play. Last time, I promise. “My name is Prince, and I am funky…” Okay, there we go. Now we’re really really off.

The plastic practically leaps into my hand, it was barely even stuck there anymore, but the tape won’t give me a loose corner to pull from. What if I just…? Crap. Here’s a hint: Goof-Off, although great for removing tapey gunk, will turn the tape itself into a goopy, slimy mess that just smears around and blows raspberries at you. Oh well, who cares? It’s not like I spent two years stripping this frame. This is just stainless steel -- or aluminum -- or some kind of metal, anyway. And what I learn about this is that if you aren’t afraid of ruining things and you really douse the rag in Goof-Off, not only does it do the job a whole bunch of times faster but you also get yourself a little buzz. Especially if your head and the Goof-Off are trapped together in a shiny pretty little box…

Whoops -- hey, look! Goof-Off removes the white stuff from the metal that is not supposed to be there. It’s not supposed to be there, I swear. I didn’t screw anything up. The plasterers made a mess and we didn’t bother to clean it because someday we're gonna box these skylights in and make them beautiful just like we're gonna make the rest of the house beautiful someday if we don’t burn it down first. Ha! Maybe that’s when we’ll put the storms and shutters in, too… NOT! Heh heh.

Hey! Look! Goof-Off even removes the footprint from the ceiling where I killed a god-knows-what-bug last night with my shoe. That was fun. To reach it I had to leap from the edge of the mattress brandishing my Croc Saber over my head like Ewan MacGregor at his dorkiest (I’m not usually one for the Star Wars references, but I’m not thinking straight right now -- forgive me). That’s how I “remembered” about the plastic on the skylights, actually…

One down!

This next skylight is really tricky. Always has been. That’s not just the Goof-Off talking. It’s over a corner of the bed and even in order to open or close it you have to squish the ladder up against the bed frame and then sort of lean over backwards from the tip-top not-a-step. I don’t remember how I reached to put the plastic on last fall. I think… I think… Did I put the ladder on the bed? No, that can’t be safe. It certainly isn’t smart. And lord knows I would never do anything that wasn’t smafe or smart.

By sort of straddling the corner of the bed and leaning over backwards farther than I ought to be comfortable doing, I can get the goof off of about three-quarters of the skylight frame. From there I have no choice. The ladder must go on the bed if I am going to complete my Jedi Mission. Oh no wait, the Jedi thing was last night. Well, whatever.

Whoa. It iS ReAlLy WoBlY uP HeRe NoW…

Here’s a hint: If you’re ever high on Goof-Off, and you’re on the very tip-top not-a-step of a six foot tall stepladder that’s balancing atop a bed, don’t try to do the “Sexy M.F.” dance.

Though if you do, the mattress makes a nice soft place to land.

Day Three: Accomplished
Total time spent: “My Name Is Prince,” “Sexy M.F.,” “Love 2 The 9’s,” “The Morning Papers,” “The Max,” and almost all the way through “Blue Light” -- in other words, about (oh, Used-To-Be-A-Symbol-Man, why did you have to put the song lengths in Roman numerals on the liner notes?) somewhere around 35 or so minutes
Total cost: Nothing! Unless I amortize the Goof-Off I bought yesterday, in which case $2.35
Having it start pouring rain while you’re at work when you (of course) left the g-d skylights open: Priceless.


ladyscot said...

Just a thought, but, what about MOVING the bed out of the way??

EGE said...

Yes, well, you'd think that would make sense, but it's a big wooden king size bed, and we have these nice new floors with no carpets on them and no pads on the bed-feet, and no husband home at the time to help me lift it up and move it over, and no patience (which I believe I may have mentioned) to wait for him. Oh, and also apparently no brains...