Monday, September 19, 2016


On a positive note, that floor was never going to make a sound.

That's about the only good thing you can say about it.

When we bought our house, in late 1999, we were lucky enough to see the construction first-hand. All that had been laid was the foundation and we had been through the model home. Through the negotiations with the bank, the outer frame was erected and by the time our purchase was signed, sealed, and delivered, the roof was in place and construction had begun on the second floor.

We took delight in visiting the design office for the builder: picking out colours and patterns for the ceramic tiles, the counter tops, the cupboards, the carpet, and the vinyl flooring for the kitchen floor.

We could have gone with ceramic tile in the kitchen, but I remembered living in one of my parents' homes, where we had ceramic. Anything that fell out of your hands, anything that hit that floor: it was gone. One autumn evening, I had just cut myself a slice of pumpkin pie, had delivered it to a ceramic plate, had smothered it in whipped cream. As I headed to the table, the plate slipped from my young hands. I remember it clearly, how the plate managed to turn upside-down, how it landed perfectly flat against the kitchen floor. The whipped cream escaped first, spraying outward in all directions. Next, came the pumpkin filling, like Play-Doh squeezing out. The plate spread, too, only slightly cushioned by the pie: instead of a crisp shatter, it made more of a "pop" sound.

No. No ceramic in the kitchen.

DW and I also had our sights set on children, and that gave us even more reason to have a nice, cushioned, vinyl floor. We didn't want any toddlers falling on such a hard surface that ceramic brings.

When the builders laid the first floor, they made an error where the vinyl met the carpeted floor near the refrigerator. They cut a squared angle of carpet that cut into the kitchen at a sharp angle. The carpet was too close to the fridge door: if something were dropped there, it would make a mess on the carpet.

Because the builders would let us come into the house any time we wanted, we were able to catch the blunder as soon as it had been made. The vinyl was pulled, another section cut, and it was rolled out onto the space.

This time, the builders noticed a huge flaw in the vinyl, right in the middle of the floor. With little time left to complete the kitchen, they rolled a new cutting and laid it on top of the flawed piece.

Extra cushioning for our wee ones.

With our home reno, that vinyl came up again—both layers—for the last time, to make room for hardwood flooring. Our kids are now old enough that they run a low risk of falling, and while wood is harder than vinyl, not everything that hits the floor is destined for destruction.

DW and I pulled up the vinyl with little effort. Same, for the carpet. But in removing the vinyl, we discovered quarter-inch-thick sheets of plywood that raised the vinyl for the kitchen area. All of it had to be removed so that our hardwood was at the same level throughout the reno space and the existing hardwood, in the front half of the house.

The plywood was held in with staples, so we thought it would take no time to pry it up and remove it. What DW and I discovered was that this was the most labour-intensive part of the demolition.

There were a lot of staples in the hardwood. A. Lot.

Prying up the boards was next to impossible because there were just too many staples in place. I had to use a circular saw to cut each sheet of plywood into many squares—some, only about a square foot each. I then had to use a pry bar and sledgehammer to knock the boards loose, and the staples didn't come up with the boards: they stayed in the floor.

The noise was deafening, and I apologized to my neighbours for the racket.

It took me about 15 hours to remove all the sheets. Some where held together with glue, in addition to the staples. In some areas, in the space of a square foot, I counted nearly 100 staples. In banging and prying off the plywood, I strained my shoulder and aggravated the wrist that I fractured, last year. 

But we weren't done.

After the boards had been stripped away, we were left with thousands of staples to remove. And the only way we could do it, properly, was to pull them out one at a time.

Some broke and would require vice grips to pull out. Others were bent and pressed to the floor. DW and I worked tirelessly over three days, putting in nearly 24 hours, to get them out of the wood.

I spent more time on my knees than an alter boy in front of a Catholic priest. (Too soon?)

Blood was drawn. Backs broken. Necks strained. Fingers skinned. Sweat shed.

I don't know what the contractors that laid that floor were thinking. Was it a new staple gun and were they having fun? Were they just trigger-happy? Whatever it was, they made damn sure that that floor wasn't going to make a single sound.

Until it came up. And some of that sound was me, cursing their very existence.

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