Ah, summer vacation time in the States. It goes on and on. And on. And. On.
What to do with your pre-teen girl (PTG) and teen boy (TB) for those 11 l-o-n-g weeks? Park them in front of the computer/wii/tv? Listen to them whine about how bored they are? Send them to camp? NO!!!
Why not get them into some demolition at home? Oooohhh YEAH!
Exercise, entertainment, team bonding and DIY all rolled into one. P-e-r-f-e-c-t.
It all started a couple of months ago when I began to suspect that the oak floors in our living room and hallway continued underneath the particle board and vinyl tile in the space between the kitchen and the dining area.
I’ve never been really sure what to call that space, it is a dead in-between zone, hovering pointlessly between the hall, kitchen and living area. It’s like a kind of entry area, except that it is in the middle of the house. Weird.
When we bought the house this space was covered with same brick patterned stick on vinyl tile that was in the kitchen.
The previous owner’s solution to every flooring dilemma: cover it with stick on vinyl tile (SOVT). In an attempt to make it look a bit better, as a temporary solution, I painted over these tiles with epoxy floor paint before we moved in, with some success.
But my curiosity about the height difference between the tiled area and the hardwood was piqued at about the same time as I investigated underneath the SOVT in the bathroom. The height difference there was not caused by covered over 1950s mosaics like I hoped, but rather by no less than 3 successive layers of SOVT.
My experience in the bathroom discouraged me somewhat: removing the SOVT there led to a epic saga of rotting floors, removing and replacing toilets, tiling and various other bathroomly adventures.
Suffice to say I was a little floor-shy after that. For a while.
But DIY is kind of like childbirth. You either do it once and never ever do it again, or you simply forget how bad it is until you are in the middle of the next herculean battle.
The way the boards seemed to continue straight under the raised floor called to me like a siren song, and soon enough I succumbed and pulled away the trim around the edge. Which confirmed my suspicions: the previous owners had, in fact, laid particle board and SOVT over the top of their beautiful hardwood floors. Really.
I was all for pulling the whole lot out then and there, but the beloved balked. The hall painting had been put off for too long, and I had a paying furniture-stripping job that I needed to get started on.
So I put it on the ‘to do one day’ list and tried to forget about it.
Which I successfully did until I was pondering things I could do with the kids during the vacation. We’ve been to The Exploratorium, and hiked at Montara Beach with the dog. We’ve done jigsaws, and they’ve read a ton of books. We’ve had friends for sleepovers and been on karate camp.
And now here we are in the hump weeks of the vacation. The excitement of no school has long faded, and the beginning of the new school year is still too far away to add that sad frisson of activity that comes as the vacation draws to an end. The kids were listless and too bored to actually know what they wanted to do. Which is the perfect moment for a parent to come up with something that keeps them busy, and distracts them from endlessly baiting one another in an attempt to amuse themselves.
I pondered several possibilities that involved duct tape and trees, but reminded myself firmly that such acts are most likely indictable. Finally I had a light bulb moment: I remembered the floor and figured that they would probably be capable of demolishing it. In fact, chances were it was destructive enough for them actually to enjoy it.
I must admit they weren’t really sold on the idea at the start. I had to issue a parental decree (involving bribery and loss of computer privileges) to stop them complaining and get them started.
Our plan was to remove all the SOVT and particle board back as far as the peninsula bench in the kitchen.
First we had to remove all the furniture from the area, which involved unpacking several cabinets and stacking the contents around the living and dining area. This had a whine factor of about 95%. I started to wonder about the wisdom of my decision to involve them.
But once we had started on the demolition, they actually began to enjoy it. After a little instruction on technique, and in spite of wishing that demolition in real life was as easy as it is in MineCraft, TB wielded the crow bar and hammer like a pro, and PTG collected pieces of particle board and SOVT and relayed them down to the rubbish pile under the deck.
About an hour and half in we were making good progress:
The boards did indeed continue under the floor, and in spite of a ‘tan line’ between the newly refinished boards and the old ones under the particle board, things were looking exciting.
And then the phone rang. It was the beloved calling to let me know that a business colleague who was visiting from Australia was coming to dinner that night. He would be arriving home with the beloved in approximately 1.5 hour’s time.
Given his earlier edict about NOT pulling the floor up in the dead zone to see if there was hardwood underneath, I had kind-of-not-mentioned to the beloved that it was what I was planning to do with the kids that day.
We thought we would get it done and surprise him with it.
‘What are we going to do?’ the kids gasped.
‘We’ll be fine. The only thing we really can do is keep going.’ I replied.
And then quietly muttered under my breath, ‘And hope that it is all done by the time he arrives’.
By this stage both kids were well and truly invested in the task, and we all redoubled our efforts. Cheers rang out once all the particle board was gone, and then we set to work cleaning the floor and pulling out all the left-over nails.
Then we gave it a final sweep, and washed it. And Roxy gave it the ball test.
We were hot, grubby, tired and sweaty, but we couldn’t stop quite yet. First we had to replace the furniture that was stacked everywhere, and return everything to rights as if nothing had happened.
Finally we were done, and we staggered off to shower and freshen up. I was just returning upstairs after my shower when I heard the beloved walk in the door, swiftly followed by a loud ‘Wow!’ Mission accomplished.
And it does look pretty wow. And will look even more wow when I refinish the boards at some point.
The one disappointment? The boards stopped short of the kitchen, so now we have a strange ply patch that I will need to rectify. Luckily our local salvage yard has recently obtained a quantity of the same top-nailed oak boards from a house they demolished. So I suspect it will involve a few of them.
Are we going to continue them into the kitchen? Not for now. As the kitchen will be completely replaced at some point, possibly relocated and definitely rearranged, it makes more sense to leave it as it is, and not expend effort needlessly.
As for the kids, I am extremely proud of them. I might make remodelers out of them yet.
So, I can heartily recommend DIY as a summer vacation activity for your kids. Cheaper than camp with the added bonus of something crossed off your to-do list. Plus they actually enjoyed it.
Best of all, though, is seeing their sense of achievement. That satisfaction of knowing they pushed through and got it done.
That, as they say, is priceless.