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Renovations 2

I now have a full basement, and the house is stable and ready to renovate.

Hold on.

Hmm. The carrying beam that supports the upstairs is not strong enough for the load, and has to be replaced. How do you replace the main carrying beam without the house collapsing? I'm glad you asked.

The first thing you do is build new supports on either side of the beam so when you remove it, the house doesn't fall down. Check. Next you order a new beam made of southern yellow pine that's 28 feet long by 10 inches wide by 12 inches high and weighs about 8,000 tons. My contractor had trouble figuring out how to lift the damn thing into position.

At that time I had Ranger Jack helping out around the property. Ranger Jack was 87 years old, and had gotten his name from being the Ranger at the local Boy Scout Camp. I knew him because he was the one who had gotten me thrown out of the camp, but that's another story. I told Jack our problem and he said not to worry, that he could do it. When I asked how many people he needed, he replied that he didn't need any; he would do it himself.

The beam was lined up outside in line with where it would come into the house. Jack built a ramp to slide the beam into the house at the right height. He then built a frame inside the house for the beam to slide on. Okay so far, but how was he going to get it into the house?

I had never heard of a “come along.” A come along is an amazing contraption: It's a cable that attaches to two objects and then uses a ratchet to pull them together. Ranger Jack attached a come along to the end of the beam and to the inside beam where it would attach, and started cranking. I watched in amazement as that massive beam slid up the ramp and traveled through the house to where it was supposed to be.

It took two days. Ranger Jack would crank that thing, take a break, crank some more, and then take another break. He moved the whole thing by himself. From this I learned that old guys know stuff the rest of us don't know, and we should listen to them.

With the house now secure, I could start on the inside. First project: renovate the master bathroom. Time to tile the floor. I'm sure I can do this, I thought; it looks simple. I got the tile, opened the box, and thought “How nice. They put all the little tiles on this sheet to keep them organized.” I started peeling the tiles off the sheet and laying them on the glue I had put down on the floor. The tiles are about an inch square, and I was having trouble getting them to line up properly. After several hours of frustration, my friend Jimmy, who is a builder, came by to see how I was doing.

Jimmy: What are you doing?

Me: Laying tile.

Jimmy: Why are you peeling them off of the backing?

Me: How else am I supposed to do it?

Jimmy: You lay the whole sheet down and the backing keeps the tiles properly spaced. What are you? An idiot?

Me: Ohhhh . . .

That was the last time I tried to tile anything. The Lovely Louise wants to do new tiling in the kitchen in the Florida house. She says that she knows how to do it, and I've decided not to try to help her. I've realized that some guys just aren't meant for actual manual labor, and I know now that I'm one of them. I am useful for some things, though. If you need someone to do a discounted cash flow analysis, I'm your guy. If you need someone to set up and manage a sales or marketing program, give me a call. But if you need something that might make someone break a sweat, you'd better call a real guy. That's what I do.


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