Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cast Away!

We took Monday off, okay? We needed some time to let sore muscles heal, to do some laundry, give the cat some attention, and you know...make a week's worth of chili for the coming push.

So yesterday, Tuesday, we went to our local Habitat For Humanity store to see what we could find. Specifically, we were looking for windows to replace the upstairs bay, and an exterior door to seal up the attic exit to the deck. This is harder than it seemed. We brought with us measurements of the rough openings but that wasn't enough. Used windows come in all shapes and sizes, conditions and styles, and we actually left with more questions needing answers researched.

We didn't get to the house until around 7. A late start. Sat on the front porch eating chili, and listened to two songbirds calling to each other - one near the porch, another across the road, deep into our neighbor's yard.

The first order of business was to cut out the rotted planks in the bathroom that would need replacing. It wasn't so hard to get these sections of plank out, and once we did, we were able to get a good look into the once impenetrable section of crawl space.

Erika, as if driven by instinct (or maybe it was revenge), dove in head first and pulled out the remaining insulation. There was a huge rock that had also blocked the way, snuggled up to the drain pipe. I was able to step into the space and excavate that. We pulled out old pvc pipes and various scraps. Just to see what we were standing on, we thrust our trusty spade fork into the earth below - soft. We can dig this out.

So now we had a couple of things to decide. Earlier in the day, I had discovered a great tiling forum while in search of subfloor considerations for soapstone. Some there suggested removing the remaining planks altogether and replacing them with two layers of 3/4" plywood which would provide better "deflection" for tile floor while keeping our floor thickness to a minimum (the planks in place now are 2" thick). Floor thickness is a concern of ours since we plan to install a radiant floor heat system.

Do we tear up these planks? It's sort of scary to think about big hole in the corner of our house, the size of a bathroom. And what about that bathtub over there? The layers of linoleum and ply underneath it are pretty rotted and probably moldy. Are we delaying the inevitable? Think it just needs to come out, if we're going to do this right.

After a quick consultation with Dad, we decided we should just go for it. We disconnected the pex fittings and the brass tube of the stopper. With a utility knife and a flathead screwdriver I cut and stripped away the sealant all along the wall (okay, it's just a 2x4!) and under the remaining tile.

Now you've got to understand - a cast iron tub weighs close to 300 lbs. We gave it a few jerks and it did not budge, but it was difficult to tell whether this was because it was still connected somewhere. We got the scissor jack out of the van and found a tiny edge that we could stick it under. We jacked it up a bit and saw that it was moving. Long story short, we ended up having to cut away part of the 2x4 ledge that the long end rests on and we had to remove the lowest layer of tile. This was a slight emotional setback since we kind of hoped that this tiled wall could stay (save money, save time), but it was probably for the best that we did this because behind it was revealed to be old moldy backerboard and rodent-chewed insulation.

Levering the tub with the crowbar, Erika noticed the drain was still connected. I spent a half hour in the tub trying to free the drain connection with WD-40, the screwdriver, and a hammer, while Erika started pulling out nails and sheet rock scraps from the dining room ceiling. After a second good WD-40 soaking and having bent up enough surface area to get a grip, I was able to unscrew the drain flange inside the tub with a pair of vice grips (which were left at the house...thanks again sellers!). So that's how it comes off!

Having cleared a path over the electrical and rough in plumbing, we were ready to try and move this thing out of the bathroom and into the kitchen. With a lot of body repositioning and unsure footings, we managed to hoist it several feet and onto more solid ground. That's when we discovered that if you tilt it onto one edge and find that balance "sweet spot," the tub isn't so heavy. Keeping it balanced, we moved it through the kitchen door and against the wall in only a few minutes.

We tore up the subfloor that was previously under the tub. I've got that technique down now and it only took a few minutes to pry all the flooring away. We cleaned up our mess. It was 11:30. Time to go home and go to bed.

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