Friday, August 21, 2009

The Battle against Water

When I was 17 years old, I bought my first car, a 1988 Ford Tempo (a.k.a. "The White Stallion"). As it was quite used already, and I didn't have much spare cash, it wasn't long before I bought the Chilton's automotive repair manual. With some help from my mechanical mentors the Trosts, I was able to change gaskets, rotate tires, replace spark plugs and even put in a new water pump. It was an exciting time in my life since I was learning so much at a fast rate. I had the same sensation when I started my world travels, and then again when I went to Korea and really dove into the language, and with salsa dancing, and now this past month with home improvements.
The first projects were relatively small- just a bit of painting and tinkering. Then it progressed to putting in our laminate wood floor (the major task which came much later in putting the transition strips all around the room straight into aged concrete), drywalling, caulking (that was quite messy the first time), cutting and laying trim, and it was finally time for our final hurdle ... the roof.
It had been looming in the back of my mind ever since the home inspection when it was determined that a new roof was imperative and my home insurance contract was written contingent on a new roof being put on by the end of August. Thankfully John had agreed to help lead me through the process and Kiwi was there to lend some muscle (and of course Joo played no small part in her constant meals, drinks, and cleaning while we worked).
Our main obstacle through the course of it all? The seemingly innocent substance of water. I think fire gets too much credit for being such a powerful force in nature when water can be much more silent but strong. It was water that transformed the trees beside the house so that they were towering over our roof and needed to be cut. It was water that slowly built up in the form of moisture and rotted out a few sections of our roof. And it was water in the form of rain that made our roofing project much more interesting. I had to keep reminding myself amidst some frustrations that this is the same water that composes the rivers and oceans I love to sit beside and gaze at.
Anyway, this is the BEFORE shot of the chimney on the roof (along with the picture above where you can see the roof covered in trees. Unfortunately I didn't get any of where groups of shingles were flapping up).
The first day was quite fun- using the shovels to tear off all the old shingles. And amazingly, the tarpaper (all two or three layers that were there) was still in excellent shape underneath.

And that's where things got a bit messy. It was forecasting heavy rain and thunderstorms for the next 9 days and I had already shelled out $300 for our dumpster that we could only rent for a week. With the tarpaper on, the roof was relatively fine if it would rain, but as soon as we ripped it off to look underneath, we were on a time clock until we could get the new tarpaper on. To complicate the situation, any new plywood would need to be bought at Lowe's and since I didn't have a truck, I needed to rent one there, a process that would easily take an hour.
The storm clouds loomed in the distance, but the weather was just supposed to get worse as the week went on, so we went ahead and ripped up the tarpaper. The good news was that there were only a couple actual holes (one of which had been freshly opened up when Kiwi found a weak spot and stepped through a few inches). But due to the nearly absent ventilation over the past 50 years, the roof had sweated for a long time and a lot of the boards were fairly soft.
And then we heard thunder. At this point, I reached a low because I had to make some quick decisions. If I tried to go to Lowes to get plywood and it poured down rain, all the existing sheets would get thoroughly soaked and that would be a bad situation. But if I just covered it all back up with new tarpaper, I would know that there were holes in my roof and it would make shingling a lot more delicate. If I just temporarily covered it up with new tarpaper, it would just postpone the same situation for a little bit, but the constant rainy forecast seemed inevitable.
None of the options seemed great, and honestly I felt like just calling a contractor and worrying about the money later, but I decided to take a risk and get some more plywood. If we had any hope of completing it before the rain, we had to fully commit ourselves and so John starting opening up gaping holes in the roof by ripping off the old sheets of plywood (which of course made it even more essential that we get them back on before the rain because now it would go straight into the attic) while I raced to Lowes. Unsure of how much to get, I just had 15 pieces of 4x8 loaded up on the truck - the paperwork I had to laboriously fill out before I could rent the truck seemed endless as I could hear the thunder getting louder overhead. Finally, it was done and I zoomed back to our house where it luckily hadn't started raining yet.
We decided to replace the two pieces John had already removed and then just go piece by piece removing and replacing as much as we could before the rain, starting from the worst pieces. Since the original construction had used several awkward shaped pieces, we set up Joo and Kiwi as the cutting crew down below while John and I tore out things on the roof and then shouted down the dimensions of the next piece to the Kims.
Things went incredibly smoothly and we got more done that we had anticipated, but there was still one piece left that I really wanted to replace. The problem was it was the piece surrounding our electrical pole and by this time we could already see lightning around us. To add to the fun, we would need to nail down a metal sheet to cover a hole in order to seal it properly. I had been running on nervous energy this whole time with my mind racing fast to make sure we had everything lined up. I started climbing the latter while my mind already had me on top of the roof and the combo must not have worked out, because I found myself on the ground a second later with John rolling around in laughter shouting, "You fell off the ladder! I can't believe you fell off the ladder!!" Not finding it quite as funny myself, I went back up and tried to nail the metal sheet in which wouldn't seem to nail in since it kept bouncing up and down. Finally the new plywood and metal sheet were in, and we rolled and stapled the tarpaper just minutes before the heavens unleashed and christened our project.
The next day we started the whole process over on the other side, again with the gray clouds in the sky.

This time, we just ripped off a little tar paper at a time, replaced what needed replaced, and then covered up. It did start to rain again and so we just used tar paper to cover the small sections and then tore it off again when the rain let up for a bit and kept going.

We were much more efficient this time around and before long, we had a roof ready to shingle. We rolled into Lowes to get the shingles around 8 pm, and knew that they closed at 9 pm. It took them until 8:35 using the skidloader to put the 2 1/2 tons of shingles onto the rental truck, and they repeatedly told me I needed to have the truck back by closing time at 9 pm. With a 10 minute drive to and a 10 minute drive back from Lowes, that left us with approximately 5 minutes to unload 2 1/2 tons of shingles by hand. Somehow, with everyone's help (ask Joo sometime what an 80 pound bag of shingles feels like), we managed to get back only a couple minutes late and were ready to start the shingling early the next day.

John gave Kiwi and me a quick lesson in how to line up shingles and nail them in properly and then set some other things up to make it all run well. The shingling itself was quite fun and went quickly (although it was suddenly hot now that the forecasted rains had run away)

In the end, it turned out beautifully (the new chimney is the metal stack in the background- and yes, it is level even though it appears crooked from the picture's perspective- getting it level was quite an extensive process in itself). So this is the AFTER shot:

Now I can back to a more friendly arrangement with the elements of nature, under the protection of our new roof :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Giant Zucchini

I had plenty of tentative plans for this summer- camping out for several days, road trips here and there, meeting with old friends, reviewing and refreshing my math abilities, developing some new hobbies, etc. But they've been overshadowed for the most part ever since Joo and I bought our house a month ago and dove into full-on home repairs and remodeling. Not what I expected, but it's still been an exciting adventure, especially because of its positive momentum where the good feelings at all the repairs accumulate over time. We even were able to host our friends the Stricklers on a weekend visit. Together, we went to Old Man's Cave in Hocking Hills...

The Stricklers were all up for some fire treatment after their long drive and so Joo lit up several deum on their hands. The heat apparently restores a healthy balance to blood flow.

Our garden harvest has been coming in huge bunches, but none so large as the giant zucchini. We thought of several uses for it, including baby practice (no Joo is not pregnant yet, although I did wonder the other day when some Chipotle found its way back out the esophagal route) and weaponry...

But it ended up as a delicious stuffed zucchini that we polished off quite quickly despite its massive size.
The MVP of the recent weeks has been Kiwi with his dedicated English studies. He speaks slowly and repeats things often, but when he has learned something, he remembers it permanently and knows well when to use it. It's amazing to see how far he's come in just a few short weeks. We've played around with the idea of him returning here to the US to work or study after he finishes his final semester in Korea...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lessons for Kiwi in American Life

After a nice sunny vacation from the real world in the Outer Banks, our family said our goodbyes and went our separate ways- Heather to her new home in Virginia- Joo, Kiwi, and I to our new home in Athens- and Mom and Dad back to their long empty nest in West Liberty. Of course, it was the closest our family has resided in over six years so it really didn't feel that far this time!
Kiwi returned with us, equipped with a rapidly growing base of colloquial English like "Clear my way!," "Liar, liar pants on fire," and "It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring."

We had a rare and special treat of having John (and his parents for a couple days) working on our bathroom the entire time we were gone, so it was much improved by the time we arrived back (to Joo's deep relief!) While I had felt that our house in it's daily improving condition was like a castle, especially after some of the budget hotels we had crashed in on our South American journey together, Joo felt much more of a sense of urgency to have the house presentable for guests. So thanks to John, we took a giant leap forward when we saw all the work that had been done on the bathroom- the rusting window replaced, the drywall completed, the corroded sink and counter swelled from moisture damage removed, the tacky wall plastic ripped off, and the smelly linoleum tiles removed... all replaced with a beautiful tile floor and clean, new (or gently used) everything :) It still has a few steps to go so we'll save the before and after pictures, but I will say that in the first day after our return, Joo walked into the bathroom about every 30 minutes, turned on the lights, and screamed with delight!

With John back home, the three of us home repair rookies were forced to stumble through trial-and-error in a crash course of remodeling. The painting wasn't too bad of course (although apparently Korean kids aren't taught that you should never stick metal into a live electrical outlet and so Joo naively cleaned out some stray paint with a screwdriver...), but I learned just how hard it was to drill precise holes into ancient concrete without a hammer drill.

There were a few positive surprises too like when it came to patching potholes in our asphalt driveway which was actually much simpler than I thought it would be.

We slept well this past week- Kiwi and Joo especially since they were enrolled in intensive English classes. Joo found a second English class that was more for long-term immigrants and is even helping prepare her for the citizenship portion of her test she'll have to take in a couple years if she wants to become a U.S. citizen (which is good because I'm sure I don't know much of the material on the test!) She's also busy studying for her driver's license test which she'll take soon, although she still can't get why we stop for red lights in America, which I'm guessing might be a pretty key element on the driving portion of the test.

When we weren't doing home repairs, we did a lot of biking on the beautiful Hockhocking bike path, played disc golf on a couple courses, tennis and badminton, listened to some live music and introduced Kiwi to the lovely American opportunities of thrift stores, garage sales and freecycle. Speaking of freecycle (an internet website that allows people to donate items and services to each other), we needed to get rid of our sink, counter, and an old printer (hopefully without paying the $25 per item trash removal fee) and we also needed to somehow pick up a sofa we had bought at Big Lots (that had sat there for three weeks since we had no transport to carry it with). I posted it all on Freecycle and it just so happened that a girl named Jen who lived nearby needed a new sink, counter, and printer and had a huge Dodge Ram, so she met me at Big Lots, hauled our new couch back and I loaded her up with our stuff- what a win-win situation!!