Monday, August 6, 2007

In which we enter a time warp

The whole passage of time in this renovation project has become so bizarre. There's the long-term factor--when will we finish the project? As we continue working, the probable end date keeps stretching further into the future. I'm afraid to say when it is that I estimate we'll be really done, because A) it's scary how far away it is and B) no doubt it's overly optimistic anyway. I think we're keeping our spirits up quite well, but I'd kill for a crystal ball to tell me when we'll have our last successful visit from our loan inspector. My god what a feeling that will be!

Then there's the short term, which is an ongoing pattern of setting goals for a weekend or a weeknight and, probably 75 or 80 percent of the time, not quite meeting them despite working as hard as we can. Thus the next goal gets pushed back, and the next...Case in point is how we thought we'd run all the tubing for the radiant heat over the weekend. John even thought we might get to the next phase, stapling up the heat transfer plates. But as he's already explained, we only ran one circuit of five on Saturday. So going into Sunday our goal was to run two more.

The first one went beautifully. It was the most straightforward of all the circuits in the house, basically unobstructed, and we already had most of the drilling done. We had our method worked out from the day before and we just ran that tubing back and forth until it was done--me in the rear crawlspace, John in the basement. I learned how to crawl faster, which helped. Eight runs and that was that! We did it in less than two hours and emerged feeling right proud of ourselves. Ate some lunch, did some other little tasks and got ready for the third circuit.

Now this one was gonna be tricky. Our circuits run from the very front to the very back of the house, and this one has the basement stairwell right in the middle of it. We'd have to do a bunch of short runs in the basement, wrap around to the back of the stairwell, do a bunch of corresponding short runs in the crawlspace, then do a few long runs. In short, a lot more complicated.

We started with the short basement runs (after, of course, John did all the tough drilling of joists and braces, with me tagging along holding a map of the circuit). All was well and we were enjoying being able to talk, instead of yell across the house, to each other. But we started to get some twisting in the tubes. Hm. It won't lay right against the floor when it does that. John was able to work it out through some kind of magic laying on of hands.

Here we made a mistake. It was my fault. We were piling up the tubing that was coming out of the end of these five short runs. It would later have to continue back around the stairwell, but I thought we could just coil it up in the basement for now and run it back there later as kind of a separate phase. This would save a lot of back-and-forth between crawlspaces, I thought. We coiled it on the floor and it lay there looking innocent.

And then...and then. I went into the middle crawlspace to have John feed that coil through to me so I could start running it behind the stairs. It was about 7pm at this point. We got the end through the appropriate hole and I began re-coiling it where I was sitting. Now both ends of the tubing were "pinned" as they passed through small holes in wooden planks. Between those two spots were over 100 feet of coiled tubing. You can probably see what's coming. The coils, not being perfectly wrapped onto a spindle, were falling into each other and getting tangled. As he fed more tubing to me, John was trying to untangle them. I was sitting there in the crawl, getting a foot or two at a time, and every time he fed me a little John would then wrap and turn and wrestle with that coil.

This went on for two hours.

Seriously, people, I don't think I've ever seen anybody work on something so completely maddening, without a break, without complaining, as John trying to untangle that orange tubing. I of course was getting pretty bored sitting in that crawlspace (I devised a whole system with nylon cord for keeping my coil from getting tangled like John's, plus I mentally reconstructed the swimming pool I grew up going to, every ladder and tree and chaise lounge and sidewalk) but I wasn't going to be the first one to quit, what with the practically superhuman patience my dear husband displayed. I could see sweat on his brow. It got dark outside, it rained for a while, and then it got darker.

Poor Johnny. Finally there were maybe 20 or 30 feet left, in a couple of big knots. The killer was that we didn't even know whether there was an answer to this puzzle. Maybe there's no way to get it straightened out without having an end free, and of course both ends are pinned.

We decided to call it a day.

Will we have to cut the knot out and put in two couplings? Will we have to work from the beginning of the circuit to untwist and maybe release the tangled coils? Will we sell our house and run away to Mexico?

We've got two and a half circuits done. Stay tuned.

- Erika

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