Thursday, October 25, 2012

Filling My Cracks

At fifty-something, manless, and poorer than a millionaire next door pretends to be, I tighten my muscles and tackle most big jobs myself. In the two years past, I’ve had to buy new batteries for my drill, a pump for my hot tub, a new bathtub and surround, roof, windows, manpower, and crack fillers of many kinds—evidence of a writer with too much time on her hands.

My neighbor loaned me Home Improvement 1-2-3: Expert Advice from the Home Depot (1995) that teaches in blonde terms and illustrations how to build and repair things around the house. They usually feature male illustrations, further convincing me I’m attempting gender-inappropriate work and should really return to carrying a briefcase filled with sales material and gender-inappropriate items.

Due to my 1954-vintage house founded on shrinking-when-dry then swelling-when-wet bentonite clay soil coupled with a 10-year dry spell, Mississippi River–size cracks creep up walls and across ceilings making thick moaning and breaking sounds like a lake freezing in wintertime. It’s ominous, though my nightmarish thoughts are prime fodder for a horror flick. Imagine drowning in a king-size waterbed after it fell through the floor. It’s happened to me twice.

In DIY mode, I researched and learned that each of my cracks might need a different filler, sort of like being on the air again (DJs and radio/TV types unite!). Depending on size and location, each substance has its own problem if not inserted into the appropriate crack. Believe me, I’ve had my share of experimentation, not always choosing correctly, and it has led to time-consuming extraction complications. There’s joint compound, Spackle, expandable foam, vinyl concrete patch, concrete latex crack filler, epoxy, and a dizzying variety of caulks. Some materials, once inserted and allowed to age, tend to be rather difficult to remove. I chipped away two-year-old silicone caulking from the upper periphery of my lower brick fireplace with putty knife and hammer. It was no easy job to pull off. Now I understand how hard it must be to remove those big, expensive boobs girls have installed after their spines atrophy.

Last Saturday I used expandable foam to fill a two-inch crack between drywall and the entire chimney masonry unit, an 8’ x 4.5’ x 30’ structure containing two fireplaces and four chimney pots that is literally heading south. It is separating from the rest of the house, headed for warmer climes. By next year, I’ll be able to add a large gun closet where the fireplace used to be, and I’ll build a house around the chimney’s new location. That two-inch crack allowed me to see the garage from inside my home. It also created quite the draft, so I foamed it.

Since the entire can of expandable foam had to be used or it would self-seal, I decided to use the remainder and fill the open-air space between my large, wood garage door and its frame. I don’t waste stuff, including Great Stuff, but I’m blonde and tend to use materials in unconventional ways. A 70-year-old cashmere sweater has been transformed into door insulation, for example.

The day after I foamed the garage door, I got a call from an old friend, “Hey, you want to be spontaneous and enjoy fermented grapes with me?” I said sure, I’d be over in a bit.

But my garage door wouldn’t open. It was expandable-foam shut. Being a bit later than expected, I called my friend and asked, “Have you ever done anything stupid?” then realized he’s a politician and didn’t force a response. So I powered off the phone and chipped the hard, foam-looking material from my garage door, then drove up the caƱon for a grape tasting.

That said, a result to seriously consider is that crack fillers are not eternally pliable as girls are with wine. Spackling dries and separates. Some caulk has elasticity, though it’s unsuitable to span large crevices between parting walls. And not all foamy liquids make you burp and pass wind.

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