It is a very special day in a person’s life when you buy your first set of scaffolding. In my case I was literally dancing around the house, singing with joy. “It’s here! It’s here!” I sang roughly to the tune of “The Lusty Month of May” from “Camelot.”
Last spring I realized I was going to need scaffolding. Slowly, I have been pricing, planning and preparing for its arrival ever since. That’s a lot of build-up and anticipation.
“If she breaks out ‘I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,’ I’m outta here,” Jef commented to John. In spite of my dancing and excitement, we got it unpacked, into the house, and managed to set up the first level with minimum fuss and no injury. It helped that John scanned a QR code on the box to bring up a video for assembly. The guys danced along to ‘80s music with NKOTB moves while we watched. I had to admit: Like most things in life, this was pretty wonderful to share with friends.
“Look!” John pointed. “He got the message—he’s in uniform, too!”
Pretty much everyday I wear a black shirt and jeans. John and Jef both showed up that day also wearing black shirts and jeans. Then a second guy wandered into the video to help assemble and he was wearing a black shirt and jeans. It seemed like everything was in sync with the world.
But no one had tried to remove the ceiling off of the library yet.
“You bought scaffolding—you didn’t rent it?” It has been a surprisingly frequent response to my announcement regarding the beautiful, bright yellow erector set in the library. “Why didn’t you rent it?” My answer is simple: I have about three years’ of work to do on scaffolding, and by the time I rented it for two months, I would have spent as much money as just buying a set. The long-term plan seemed more cost effective.
“Did you buy it used from someone getting rid of it?” That is usually the follow up question. Though I do love the magic of Craigslist and second-hand stores, when we started comparing used scaffolding on the market against the prices to buy new (read: complete) scaffolding packages, we realized pretty quickly we could buy about two and half times the scaffolding new for what most people were asking for it used.
Jock began reminiscing about “the most beautiful aluminum scaffolding [he] had in Canada that snapped open and was so strong and so lightweight…”
All I have to say: If he ever describes a woman from his past with that same wistful tone of voice and look of nostalgic longing, I will crumple into a heap on the floor and die.
“Of course you can sell it when you’re done,” people also comment.
Well, yes, but I have a feeling once Jock gets used to having scaffolding at his disposal, he will have hundreds of ways to use it. Just a hunch, mind you.
This represents a pretty major step in the chain of events regarding the renovation of my house on Market Street. The bathroom above the library needs serious work, and the only way to access the plumbing is from the ceiling below. About six years ago our favorite plumber, Bart Duarte, diagnosed the problem, and when asked about the fix, he looked around at the situation with my then invalid father and responded, “Gwen, you have one person living in this house and three bathrooms. No one is using this bathroom. I think the solution right now is not to use it.” So he shut the water off to that room, and we tabled it until later.
Later is now.
John and I scraped one of the most tenacious wax seals from the tile floor when we removed the errant toilet and agreed the water having been turned off to the toilet for several years did make the job more pleasant than usual. But the portion of the ceiling below that had to come out and get replaced because the water damage was vexing.
“Was it as bad as you expected?” Jock asked when I got home.
“It wasn’t as nasty as the drop ceiling above the bookstore,” I answered.
When we bought the bookstore building, there was a horrifically ugly brown drop ceiling that had to be removed. (If a contractor ever tries to sell the idea of a drop-ceiling, please, recall vividly this description, and absolutely refuse to be taken in by the snake-oil known as ‘the drop ceiling.”) Above it we found mummified vermin and more filth that showered down on us than I could describe.
“So, no dead seagulls or mummified rats, no—but you know the plaster dust that just settles all over you and in your hair?”
“Oh, do I!” he chuckled. “Oh, do I!”
The ceiling repair is just one step. I have to paint the house inside and out. After considerable thought, I decided painting the peak of the roof was not something I was prepared to do from an extension ladder. Neither is painting the staircase, landing or the minute picture-frame molding that decorates the walls of the dining room. For both my safety and sanity, the scaffolding is essential. Within 20 minutes of assembly, both John and Jef agreed.
Containing the mess is another problem all together. Plastic is draped over all the bookcases, the windows have cardboard to protect my beautiful 120 -year-old glass (they just do not make it like they used to…), and the shop vac is doing overtime. But this is what I signed up for with historic restoration. It is interesting that, in almost 30 years our family has owned this house, we have renovated it twice—now, I am starting again.
I am already exhausted.
But there are things in life important and worth saving. To make that happen, hard work is the key ingredient. In order to keep the house, I need to open it as a bed and breakfast. So I am hustling to get the first room open by this time next year. In order to do so, the kitchen and public spaces need to be redone, the yard landscaped and the slate roof needs work. I discovered from working on the loft above the bookstore that, if I get my mind wrapped around what the bed looks like, the rest will come together pretty quickly. The first room in the house will be dedicated to and decorated in homage to Maya Angelou. It is a small room with beautiful French doors and lovely west-facing windows for catching the sunsets through the magnolia trees. After two months of searching for the right bed, I stumbled upon a beautiful, white wrought-iron frame (with side rails) at Michael Moore Antiques on Castle Street. The bed needs a little TLC (don’t we all) but it should work perfectly.
I walked into Steven’s Hardware last week and asked Heather if she could mix me paint the color of the “purple dry wall board” that goes in bathrooms. I have been staring at it for so long in a bathroom project that ground to a halt that I have actually gotten used to it. Now, I can’t see another color in that room. She laughed but matched it exactly.
It is a long road ahead, but so far I have shared the first steps with wonderful friends who laugh and make even the most intimidating tasks a joy to tackle. You can’t put a price on that or resell it on Craigslist when you are finished.