It’s been a while since I did my last “Home Improvement” post.  And things have been improved!  To tell this story in particular, though, we must go back to the very beginning.  To this:

Last summer, I bought some land.  For cheap.  The reason it was so cheap is that this happened to be sitting there.  No one wanted to deal with this for some reason.  Maybe it was the giant, menacing tower of bricks stretching so far into the sky that you can’t even see the top in that picture (it was probably eleven miles tall, give-or-take).

Our plan for dealing with this structure was simple: ignore it until next year, then pay someone to smash it.  Part 1 went super well.  Then next year arrived.  We called people about smashing it.  Most of them never called us back.  Eventually, someone did.  I managed to get him to come out and look at the thing.  He wrote up an estimate.  It was for super huge piles of money.  I told him I did not have super huge piles of money and asked if he could give me an estimate for if he, maybe, did a bad job or something.  His response was something along the lines of “STFU, n00b!  Only rich people deserve to have their houses smashed in!” and then never calling me back again.


We went back to ignoring the problem.

Then, one day, when we were hard at work not smashing the building, I heard a creaking sound.  I went outside…and watched a chunk of the house fall to the ground.  Ignoring it was working better than we could have hoped!

Sadly, it was just a small chunk of the total monstrosity.  But it filled us with hope.  The structure could be defeated!

Later, we had a guy with a big truck come and do some other work.  We asked him if he could use that big truck to maybe pull down the evil chimney of death.  He said he could do it for a reasonable amount of money.  We’re pretty much best friends now.

Suddenly, the house looked different!

See?  No chimney of death!  You can’t see the bit that fell off really, so don’t worry about that.  The point is that progress was being made.  But we needed to do more.  We already knew no one was going to come and help us.  So we turned to the same source of inspiration that had carried us through all the other projects this land came with: punk rock.

What did punk rock say?

It said to smash the damn thing ourselves.

So we rented the Grabber-Smasher.

And we set forth grabbing and smashing.

The Grabber-Smasher did that in a day.  Then a part of it popped open, and Grabber-Smasher blood started shooting all over the place.  The arm part of the machine didn’t work any longer.  The machine had been defeated by the house of death.  All hope was lost.  And we assumed we were going to have to pay all sorts of money to fix the machine.

Turns out not so much.  The Grabber-Smasher company was totally cool with the broken machine.  They came out and fixed it when we weren’t around, gave us some free days of grabbing and smashing, and we were on our way.

Quick break to allow things to get muddier and rainier before finishing the job…and voila!

The house was destroyed.  The rubble pile isn’t even taller than me at this point, which is pretty much a best-case scenario.  We’ve still got all that garbage to deal with…but at least nothing’s going to fall on anyone.


I’ve been pretty terrible at this lately, haven’t I?

I’d like to share one of the reasons for that.

See, I’ve been spending most of my time working on that camp house.  Dry-walling, painting, putting up wood paneling and the like.  It’s time-consuming, and fun in a strange sort of way.  I’ve also been trying to come up with a plan for this guy:


The freaking chimney.  You may notice, if you happen to have an eye for this type of thing, that the top of the chimney doesn’t clear the top of the roof.  The top six feet of the thing fell off an indeterminate number of years ago, the bricks are scattered in the general vicinity, largely buried below grade because the hill behind the house is slowly flowing downward at all times.  What remains is a too-short-to-use, slowly crumbling structure that doesn’t even have a safe liner on the inside.

I’ve been trying to come up with a way to save it.

Mostly this involves using the Googles.  This searching has led me to a whole bunch of people who say “Nope, don’t do that.” and “Chimneys are the wrong things to work on when you don’t know what you’re doing.”

I don’t like taking no for an answer, so I started trying professionals.  It turns out it’s pretty hard to get one to take “The top of my chimney fell off and I don’t want to start over” seriously.  It took a while to even find someone who was willing to talk through the situation.  But I finally got a guy, and he seemed to think the thing could be saved.  At least he did before he saw it.  I sent him pictures.  Lots and lots of pictures.

The verdict came in.

The gaping maw of a failing structure


There’s no saving it.  The best thing to do is tear it to the ground and start over.  I don’t like taking no for an answer, but I think at this point it’s preferable to burning down the house I’ve been working on all summer and fall.

A new chimney it is.

Making my floors great again

When we bought the camp, one of the first things we noticed was how much closer to ready the upstairs was than the down.  There was a ceiling, there was a hardwood floor…and that was basically it.  There was a problem with that hardwood floor, though.


Someone had painted it to match Donald Trump’s skin tone. Doesn't really scream

Which was less than desirable.  We’d thought, initially, to just paint over it, because being lazy is fun and easy.  My wife decided to wash a small section of the floor with a citrus spray, just to see if it looked any better when it wasn’t coated in grime, and she discovered something.  The spray dissolved the paint pretty well.  It was actually really easy to rub off, given the right prompting.

Enter: Citristrip.

Conveniently blends in with the paint it's meant to remove!

This stuff is pretty simple to use, if a bit tedious, and I already knew ahead of time that citrus did a number on the Donald’s paint job.  So we did the floor in sections, spread on a thick layer of the shiny orange glop, give it a few hours, then get to scraping.


Like I said, remarkably easy, if tedious.  The floor underneath is pretty good-looking.  It’s still going to need to be sanded a bit, which requires electricity, but at least it won’t eat through sandpaper like a me through seitan-cauliflower tacos.  The second floor is officially Trump free.

Home Improvement

About a month ago, I bought this: Which can’t be fixed. But!  It came with this: Which is totally salvageable. Even though …

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