First let me say that my purpose in chronicling the sometimes-rocky path we’re traversing in our efforts to renovate the downstairs isn’t necessarily to be entertaining, as I’m well aware that perhaps not everyone is as fascinated as we are with this whole process. Most of this saga falls into the “lessons learned” category, although, as our favorite author on home remodeling/renovation, David Owen, says, in any home improvement project you learn what you need to know as you go along, so that by the time you’re finished you know what you’re doing—but by then it’s too late. The project is done. If you’re a professional, then of course every mistake you make helps you not to make that same one on the next job. But for those of us who are simply trying to do a one-time item, it can get a little discouraging to realize that we’ll probably never use our hard-won knowledge again.
So, as I wrote last week, we were told that our new carpet hadn’t been stretched properly and that we would therefore have to clear the main room in order for that to be redone. Jim, Gideon and Ed worked Sunday afternoon to get everything out except for the two heavy desks, which we had been assured the carpet guys would help move. Yesterday just one guy showed up, ostensibly, we thought anyway, to do the re-stretching. He took a look around. No, he said, the carpet did not need to be re-stretched. That was not the issue at all. The real problem had to do with the tack strips, those horrible awful wood thingies that they put around the edges of the room for the carpet to hang onto. They were not anchored properly, and so that was why the carpet wasn’t tight. But wait! There’s more! There were two reasons why those strips weren’t firmly attached: 1) there were places where the underlying flooring had deteriorated and therefore could not hold the strips firmly, and 2) the installers had re-used some of the old tacking strips that were already in place, which normally would be fine, but those strips had been water damaged because of a bathroom flooding incident and were therefore, not to put too fine of a point on it, rotten. The installers should have taken them up and put down new ones. If they had done so, we probably wouldn’t have realized that there was such a problem and soldiered on in blissful ignorance. We would have had them come back to re-do the threshold between the main room and the laundry room and that would have been it.
So then the guy said, “This stuff is old enough that it may have asbestos in it. We can’t have the guys work on it without knowing whether or not that’s the case.” Wh-a-a-a-a-t? A whole new wrinkle had now appeared. I’ve been wanting to say to someone, “When were you going to tell us about this?” Jim and I sometimes clutch our heads and roll our eyes about the fact that professionals can at times seem to be completely clueless about their actual, like, professions. So I primarily fault the salesman, the one from whom we bought the stuff and who came out here and measured the space. He had to know the approximate age of the house and of the carpet. He had to know that there was every chance that there was nasty stuff underneath. All he had to do was say, “You guys need to pull up a corner of the carpet and check out the old flooring. We have to have a decent surface to use for installation.” Why, why, why didn’t he do that? Beats me.
So, to make a long story only slightly shorter, we managed to get someone out here last night who does the asbestos testing, a friendly and competent (whew!) woman who took a sample and said she’d let us know this morning, and who did so, and who told us that we do, indeed, have asbestos in the old tiles that are stuck to the original concrete. So now, in order to get the flaking-off stuff removed from around the perimeter of the room we have to call in the Asbestos Abatement People. (We aren’t going to remove all of the old tiles; as long as the asbestos is undisturbed it’s fine.) As soon as she gets back to her office she’s going to send me the contact info for a company she recommends. The saga continues.
And what are we to learn from all this? Well, I guess the main thing is that there’s always something. And that there was no way we’re responsible for failing to know about the possibility of asbestos. Or even about the rotten tack strips. So there it is. There’s no point in getting upset. I was reminded as I finished up this post of an article I read once about a chef. He’d had an order of seafood delivered to his restaurant, but the lobsters hadn’t arrived in pristine condition. So he got on the phone to the supplier. “I gave you a good order,” he said. “But the lobsters all died.” He was perfectly polite, but he didn’t stand for any nonsense. Those two short sentences summed up the whole situation:He had given the guy a nice slice of business. (As did we.) But the product (or in our case, the service–we’re very happy with the carpet itself) was unsatisfactory. They’d have to make it right.
Stay tuned for Part III, which, I hope will be The End.