Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Through the Roof

The people who built our house skimped in some places and did the right thing in others. The exhaust fans in our bathrooms cost them 20 dollars a piece. I know, I looked up the model. They sound like mini jet engines as they attempt to clear the steam. Their power is negligible however while the sound is extraordinary. Could you build a cheaper fan? Even when we looked at the house for the first time I remarked that those must be some powerful fans to make all that noise. Perhaps that is the selling point.

For a while now, I have been trying to figure out how to replace these things at minimal cost, meaning, I would do it. I found a fan I liked and purchased it after looking at this video that made everything seem so easy. Well, they didn't mention the part where you should actually connect the fans in the attic for stability. Almost every other website did have this. You see, all you have to do is put a piece of board down so that you have working space and then go to it. Well, my attic is one of the strangest looking attics imaginable. It's got ducts and wires and pipes and nothing seems to have been particularly planned.. Workmen have been up there climbing around on the rafters before so I knew it was possible. I also know it's possible to go through the ceiling if I make a wrong step.

But I'm hardy enough. There is a not so convenient walkway to the Central air unit. At one part it is a little like that Japanese game show where the wall with a cutout is coming towards the contestant. You have to contort your body into some odd shape, perhaps a star shaped sardine, to get through. This is at the very beginning of the walkway so you know trouble will be throughout. The walkway was the last consideration after everything else was in place obviously. Finally the walkway ends and there are only rafters hidden by pink fluff. Since I knew other guys had gone through here for the few things I have installed, like security systems, etc. I looked for where had moved the pink fluff away from the rafters where they stepped. Sure enough, it was there.

So, I decided to create a walkway through this area to the fans I needed to install, well, more like a contortway. I would nail one piece in place and sit on it while nailing another. It seemed logical. Wanda picked up the plywood for me (actually I opted for the cheap particleboard type stuff that the builders seemed so fond of) with her wonderfully new Rav 4. She wisely told them "My husband asked me to pick up these boards but I doubt they will fit into my car." To save her from her tyrannical husband they brought out tape measure and did lots of calculations, and cut the boards to the size to fit her car  Would they have done that for me? Probably but I would have been treated like a wimp the whole time. When I got home the boards were neatly stacked in the garage. As I have said before, Wanda is a wonderful wife.

So the last few mornings I have been building a walkway. Venturing out on the rafters seemed fairly dangerous but putting down a path was more my style. Or maybe a zip line, like they have in Warehouse 13. I was constantly reminded of tunneling prisoners of war as I made progress with my walkway towards my final goal. Finally, I made it to the first of the ceiling fans. The examples online always showed the fans right in front of you. Mine of course was directly under a rafter. I'm guessing this variation isn't on the web. Home improvement things always give you the best case scenario so that you will buy the products. Lowe's happened to be the website behind the one that didn't even require me to go into the attic. I contemplated the fact that in almost all cases of home improvement I have encountered an obstacle not in the instructions. Even when putting together furniture, there was always at least one little thing...

Once, a few months ago a while back I was buying some nails to hang pictures. I bought a package that had an assortment of different types. I said to Wanda. Ok, that's it, this is all the nails I will ever use for the rest of my life. Wanda said "Don't say that!" She was right. Although the quantity was probably fine, life isn't like a Lowe's instructional video. I was trying to put down this long piece of the particleboard plywood. It kept coming up a little short because of a bulge on the board, I guessed. So I pulled it up saying out loud in a southern colonel accent "So let's just see what the heck you are under there. I pulled the board up, nails and all and looked beneath. Sure enough a very small corner of an air duct was protruding upward against the rafter. So, I decided to forgo the long board and go with two shorter ones. Only, my nails were gone.... and so was my hammer. Again, I said aloud to myself in my best southern gentleman accent "Now this is a distressing turn of events." Then I realized. Somewhere along the long board that I had just turned over had been my assortment of nails that would last till the end of my life. They were now buried in the pink fluff. I had a few metaphysical thoughts about life (was my life over now? Why pink, I wonder?" then I contorted myself back to my toolbox in the garage, grabbed another hammer (my Dad's old hammer which I don't usually use) and some nails. I planned to look for my original hammer and nails as I worked my way along the route. But pink fluff only covered more pink fluff as I went. There must be some sublimated reason why tough construction guys prefer pink.

I haven't yet received  the saw from Amazon.com which I need to cut the ceiling to accommodate the larger fan. (Apparently, you can't purchase a smaller fan unless you want to repair the ceiling. And I really couldn't imagine why I would put a fan in there that was smaller than the $20 dollar special they had chosen for this state of the art house.) So, after reaching the first fan, unable to put the new one in, I plunged ahead into the depths of the attic towards my second fan. More and more obstacle confronted me, in the form of odd rafters and construction techniques.  My flashlight constantly winked out. Finally, I was somewhat near the farthest corner of the attic. It was then that I noticed just how far away the single light bulb giving light from the storage part of my attic. It was then that I felt the prison camp tunnel analogy. Oops,... next time I'm carrying a backup flashlight.