Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Adventures in Home Repair

We may have to mudjack the driveway again sometime soon. I’m a bit concerned about this, however. It didn’t go so well last time.

Because our house is about three paces too wide for the lot it currently sits on (which is not the lot it was built on) our driveway runs right along the north foundation wall. The joint where they meet has always been problematic because water gets down into it, seeps through the wall and runs into our basement. I may not be Mr. Fixit, but even I know this is suboptimal.

Over the years we have tried a number of remedies. We put this stuff called “bridge tape” - eight-inch-wide asphalt tape – over the joint once, and that held up for a couple of years. But the root of the problem was that the driveway slabs angled water toward the house rather than away. So one hot summer a number of years ago we decided solve this problem at its source and have somebody come over, drill strategic holes in the various slabs, and pump slurry underneath so as to jack the slabs up and angle them away from the house.

This worked just fine, really. It did exactly what we wanted it to do, in fact.  But as always with home repair projects, there was a small unforeseen complication.

The mudjacking, as intended, raised the driveway edge closest to the house by a couple of inches. This in turn created a gap between the driveway slabs and the house. The mudjacker told me that he could fill that gap for an unholy amount of money, or I could just fill it with sand to about a half-inch from the top and fill the rest in with self-leveling concrete caulk. As he really did not want to hang around any longer, not even for the astonishing sums quoted, he assured me that even I, historian though I might be, could handle this job.

Now, two things you should keep in mind at this point. First, it’s self-leveling because it’s very liquid at the time of application – it has the consistency of latex paint and takes about a week to cure fully. And second, I am the proud owner of two cats with the collective brainpower of Who Hash.

These are not good things to have in combination.

It was a hot day when I did the caulking, but the guy was right – even I could handle this job. When I was finished, I headed off toward a well-deserved shower, at the end of which I heard an awful caterwauling coming from somewhere.

I figured that someone had locked one or both of the cats in the closet again, something that happened fairly often with the girls being as young as they were at the time. You got used to it, really, and the standard procedure was for whoever stopped laughing first to go and let them out. So I made my way downstairs, only to find Kim standing over the kitchen sink scraping caulk off of one very annoyed grey cat. Apparently Mithra had decided that liquid caulk would be fun to roll around in – perhaps as a complement to her coat, since it was about the same color.

She was very, very wrong.  Oh, so wrong.

Kim managed to get most of the caulk off, leaving Mithra looking like a radiation victim for a while, with random patches of bald scattered around her body. But there was one big clump of caulk right at the end of her tail that was too close to the skin to remove, so Kim figured she’d let the fur grow out a bit before trimming it off.

Do you know what cats do with their tails? I had never really had occasion to consider this before. It turns out that they twitch them back and forth a great deal, particularly when they are annoyed – which, having a large clump of dried caulk on the end of her tail, Mithra was continuously for about two weeks before we got it off. She especially liked to let us know how annoyed she was while perched on the hardwood floor.

It was like living with a metronome.

You’d be sitting there, quietly doing something, minding your own business, when you would slowly become aware of a rhythmic noise in the background – clip, clop, clip, clop, clip, clop – and you’d look over and there she’d be, The Tell-Tale Cat, reminding you of your sins.

I don’t have a lot of time or energy left over for sinning anymore, but even so – it does give me pause when I think about mudjacking the driveway again.


Jennifer said...

I love the description of your metronomic cat.

Beatrice Desper said...

And how is the carpet in your office?

David said...

The carpet has recovered from this summer's assault, thanks. And it my office no longer smells like grapefruit.