Well I have just completed the most significant planned task of lockdown 2. The task in question was to lay a new floor in the office and, whilst this may sound simple I can assure you it was not.
First task was to clear the floor. Okay, you got me, the first task was to push everything to the back to give space to start. Next up was removal of the existing lino and half a dozen layers of various tapes used to patch it over the last few years.
In the corner of the office is an old rain water gulley from when that wall was the back of the pub. The gulley is dry and has never caused me any issues but it has always been a source of concern. Since it is redundant it just feels that it should be covered with something more substantial than beer mats.
When the ladies toilets were removed during the refurbishment I looked around for people a couple of times before realising that the voices I could hear were the builders, coming quite clearly through the ‘sewer telegraph’. So knowing how close that dark hole is to the sewer system and to my computer meant it had to be blocked.
Having removed the beer mats I cut a piece of ply to fit the outlet and set about filling the remaining hopper with expanding foam. The void needed about a third of a can to fill it, I know this through the wonder of hindsight. I hadn’t appreciated just how much cold temperatures slow down the expansion of these products so I used two thirds of a can (yep about twice what was needed).
Obviously cutting the foam back is not a problem but I did need to make sure that any excess stayed put and didn’t start reaching out over the floor to other items. So of all the things that have happened in lockdown probably one of my oddest was sat with a glass of wine watching expanding foam.
Drain appropriately sealed it was now time for my nemesis… wood. I do not have the patience for carpentry in any of its forms, all power to those that do but it is not for me. I should point out that despite living most of my life in the office this is not some wild extravagance, the oak flooring is left over from the bar because my builder was a nervous estimator.
With the rule ‘measure twice and cut once’ fresh in my mind I set about it. The first few rows took a significant amount of fettling (there is probably another word for it) since the rim of the gulley was raised. My two main issues were that I had to accommodate the ‘bulge’ of the gully and minimise height at the door to the safe on the opposite side.
Before you go predicting my failure let me assure you that I had checked and the safe door cleared the wood flooring…. just. My logic was that if I could get it low enough the door would wear its own path and in so doing save me a job. With the first eight or so rows prepped I opened the glue and I have to say it started well.
About half way through I was running like a pro, well a slow incompetent pro at least. Then I hit a board that just wouldn’t fit, no matter how hard I hit it. I know it fitted on the dry run so why not now? I examined the board all was good but it wasn’t a fan of slotting in to its given location.
Having considered it for a moment I realised that the concrete screed had a slight bump in it and there was not enough adhesive to level the board. I liberally applied adhesive to every available area of my skin and clothing before wrestling the board out of the swamp of adhesive. The board skidded, slid and twisted but was no match for my determination to cover everything in adhesive.
To get some extra leverage, and ensure I tore my finger nails off, I applied a barrage of offensive language. I think the language made the board reflect on its position and it came free with an almighty slurp. With the resistance suddenly removed I yanked the board high enough to allow the dripping tendrils of adhesive to reach any areas of my body that I had missed in my previous dousing.
One advantage to doing tasks like this in the pub is the readily available weights in the form of beer kegs. Additional adhesive and weights appropriately deployed I retired for the evening, after all in lockdown 2 we need to pace ourselves.
The next day the floor greeted me with one of those opportunities to learn. I learnt that I should have cleaned the tongue/groove joint out while the adhesive was still wet. Still, its lockdown 2, plenty of time to waste so I manually hacked all the dried adhesive out with a scraper. Having moved everything onto the completed floor and, in so doing, seriously restricting access I carried on laying the floor out.
I clearly needed more glue and ordering this proved to be the usual roulette that islanders will all know so well. The first few companies either wouldn’t deliver to the island or would for a courier charge far exceeding the cost of the product. The frustrating thing is that those that don’t want island business are always those that you have to jump through hoops before they tell you. For those that don’t live on the island let me assure you that there is little as frustrating as registering with a company to check out a basket, being told they don’t deliver to the island and then being plagued with marketing. You don’t deliver to me, we have had this debate, stop trying to sell me what you won’t let me buy!
Ebay appeared to save the day on this occasion, order placed I awaited the dreaded email/call to tell e that they don’t deliver to the island. The message arrived the next morning, to tell me the item had been shipped! When it works, when it goes your way, the elation of knowing that you have found a supplier who will ship to you is something amazing.
Safe in the knowledge that adhesive was on its way I set about cutting the rest of the floor yesterday. I was going to do half of it but got carried away and ended up with the entire thing (look at me biging it up) cut and dry laid. Now this is one of the oddities of lockdown 2, time is incredibly slow moving. I am not kidding when I say slow I mean a day is basically a week long at least.
With an aching back, sore knees and generally pretty tired I stood up checked my work and wondered why it was still daylight (there are no windows in the office). Obviously I had done a hard day so it must be at least 6pm right? Wrong, it was 1pm, once again the clock had paused while I was working. It was never like this in lockdown 1, who has slowed this one down? I suspect that if you watch the briefing when they closed us down you may spot BoJo muttering under his breath ‘this lockdown will last 4 weeks (but feel like a year)’.
The adhesive arrived at 3pm and it looked like I was perfectly set to do the rest of the gluing today. The problem is that at 4pm it was too early to finish for the day, maybe there was something else I could do? After a brew and a couple of messages insinuating that I had done half a job (cheers CB) I committed to get it done. Needless to say this was not, necessarily, the right decision although I guess otherwise would have only been delaying the inevitable.
Just to recap, at this point the remaining floor was dry laid and no other flooring was in the room save for a few small pieces used for knocking planks in. I carefully lifted all of the pieces and meticulously stacked them in order in three distinct piles one for the room width and one each for either side of the safe.
My technique (remember measure twice) was to lay the next strip out on the previous board and ensure that it was correct before placing it into the glue. So I would check cut ends to the walls and joint spacing staggered against the previous run. It all went well until the last full width run, there was a large plank missing. I had the end piece, the spacing was good but there was an 810mm plank missing.
I sorted through both of the other piles, they were correct and complete, so where was the missing piece. Perhaps it was in the area where I had been cutting, despite not having left the room. So I trod in the wet glue and paddled (now in just a sock) to find it wasn’t there. Not only was it not in the office it no longer existed. Somehow, in this weird lockdown 2 time shift, it had disappeared.
It genuinely threw me I checked and double checked everything and it was all good, even the joint spacing, but there was an 810mm gap. I gave up and resigned to cut another piece but the only stuff available was holding the filing cabinet up. I gave the matter some thought, helpfully spreading adhesive through my beard, and decided to go grab another pack. Gently treading on the lid of the adhesive I trod more across the boards before realising and discarding my sock as well.
New piece selected I steamed ahead and was soon left with just the narrow gap down one side of the safe. The problem here is that whilst dry fitting was easy the drinks pythons run around this area and make it very difficult to get the adhesive in place (they are only about 4″ off the floor and are too tight to lift). My solution, some would say it was inspired, was to pour adhesive out behind the pythons and drag it forward with a scraper.
Sometimes in life we over achieve, so it was with my adhesive distribution system. I managed to scrape some of the excess up and dribble it over newly laid boards on the way to the tub. When I placed the last boards down they were floating like a ship on an ocean. I pressed them in and scooped the excess adhesive from the edge safe in the knowledge that it is well hidden.
A quick wipe of the joints and I couldn’t work out why there seemed to be growing patches of adhesive on the finished floor. After clearing a few more I realised that my adhesive had been dripping down the side of the tub onto my joggers so quickly scraped that off. Now I have said before that I will always wipe stuff on clothes when I am working, I consider them to be readily available cloths really.
And so it came to pass that I was finished, surveying a job pretty well done, at 8pm last night. But this is me, so I was surveying my handiwork in my underwear. During the course of the task I had lost a shoe, a sock, my joggers and my T shirt in order to stop them spreading more adhesive than the spatula!
Yes the safe door opens without touching the floor and no, I never found the missing plank.