Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Saturday was a kick-ass beautiful day, which partly explains why we dawdled getting over to the house, buying coffee, nursing sore muscles from Friday's floor-ripping workout. Finally pulled into the driveway at 11:20 or so. I don't honestly remember how we started our work that day—we probably putzed around for a little while, putting off the inevitable—but before too long we were standing at the entrance to the crawlspace, feeling like we were staring into the gaping maw of Hades.

Nothing for it but to crawl on in. We put on dust masks, hoodies and gloves and wiggled into the downhill entrance. I quickly realized that we actually have two small crawlspaces rather than one big one. This is not such great news on the claustrophobia front. Where we first went in is definitely the easiest part to deal with. You can actually sit up and there's relatively little plumbing to get in your way. However, there is a dead snake in there. It's probably 3 feet long and is draped over some rocks in the corner, looking dead. Skeleton, some skin, a sort of motionless-motion look about it. We didn't touch it.

We did, however, pull out abandoned aluminum ducts, which involves tearing off duct tape and then just crumpling the joints with your hands in order to pull the sections apart. And we moved some big rocks out by rolling and dragging. The floor of the crawlspace is fine, dusty dirt strewn with rocks of various sizes. We plan on just raking out the smaller ones on some future day when we're feeling totally masochistic. There are also wooden forms left from when the concrete foundation was poured—invitations to termites which we'll also take out sometime with my new favorite tool, the prybar. And sprung mousetraps, bits of foamboard, galvanized pipe fragments, weird bugs that look like roaches with grasshopper legs.

This first crawlspace narrows in the middle where the basement stairs come down, then open out again into a back "room" under the dining room. There's a big rock in there on which I laid on my belly for a while, trying to cool down. And, tucked against a wall that separates the crawlspace from the basement, I found a stack of naughty Polaroids! Some young woman posing in a red negligee. Also, out of the red negligee. Ahem.

After pulling the big trash out, we figured it was time to get serious and take out the fiberglass insulation on the crawlspace "ceiling." Here's what I wore in order to tackle this job: jeans, 2 shirts, hoodie, thin disposable overalls from the hardware store, ski mask, respirator (the kind w/ two cans), goggles, latex gloves (both the short doctor's-office kind and the long toilet-cleaning kind), rubber bands around wrists and ankles. I had a bad encounter with fiberglass as a kid and was not interested in repeating the experience. John helped me get it all on and then sort of steered me to the entrance.

Tearing down insulation is easy (the metal braces pop right out), but getting it out of the crawlspace is not. It gets really hot in all the layers, and my glasses and goggles would get fogged up from my breath. Those little glass fibers were floating all around; the can light was shining in my face as I tried to look back to the entrance and find John. He brought me a long stick to poke the batts toward him so he could pull them out. I'd be lying on my back, on my side, on my stomach, crawling hands-and-knees in some places and just belly-worming in others. Everything bottlenecked at the narrow point near the stairs. I was carrying a utility knife with me and tried not to put it down, but when I had to I'd get this very focused thought "I have to remember my knife…" as though I'd need it later to kill my dinner or something. John was always there in the entrance, not really wearing the right gear, getting fibers in his face, hauling the stuff out and making a giant pile in the side yard. We hardly talked because I had to yell to be heard through the respirator. Every so often I'd emerge, stagger around the other side of the house to avoid the floating fibers, rip off the goggles and ski mask and respirator, and rest on the grass for a while. John fed me water. The world is so nice, you know? So warm and sunlit.

The second crawlspace is further uphill, thus shorter ground-to-ceiling, and has a lot more plumbing in it. The pipes run the whole length of it and make it into two separate highways. As you get further from the entrance, the ground rises to within 6-8 inches of the ceiling and the pipes get more tangly until—inconveniently enough—the whole thing becomes just about impossible to deal with, right under the bathroom where we need to do the most work. I did not make it to the end and recommended to John that we instead pull up several floorboards in the bathroom and go at it from the top.

It's effing crazy under there.

Other stuff we did that day:

- removed the water supply line to the attic that was hanging in the middle of the house
- disconnected the tub drain pipe to nowhere--formerly emptied out the side of the house into thin air
- took the air conditioning dinosaur unit out of the downstairs window
- took the bathroom door and dining room door off to start to open up the downstairs

- Erika


lil sis said...

r u a bee keeper?
I could feel my heart rate and blood pressure rising just thinking about and reading about your adventure in the crawl space...not fun.
You rock girl!!

Anonymous said...

Fiberglass outfit = sexy

-Leigh Anne