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Monday, November 16, 2009

Colander

This weekend I discovered a large puddle of water on the first floor. On my brand new floor that is, which I laid only three weeks ago. Water was dripping from the ceiling; at least it dripped until I touched the rock wool insulation with a finger. It went right through and the very next moment I had a whole waterfall streaming down.

I couldn’t believe it, ANOTHER bloody hole in the roof! Last summer, I got so fed up with plastering the roof with repair kit, that I re-roofed one side of the roof with a new roll of bitumen. Needless to say, the leak is in that part of the roof that I thought was still pretty fine.

Luckily, the new bathroom ceiling isn’t up yet, that’s for next month. But I can tell you I’m getting pretty fed up with this colander we’re having for a roof.

Posted by Bart at 8:33 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Short Circuit

With autumn well under way and winter fast approaching – Christmas decorations anyone? - it is time to prepare the garden. I must admit that Mrs. B is the one with the green fingers, my services are only called for to do the heavy work such as pruning things and digging out old shrubs and things like that.

So this weekend I pruned our grapevine. Almost all its leaves had gone, and the bugs had left nothing from the last grapes but a few dried-out and rotten corpses. Previous years, I just cut off the long branches and tried to stuff them in the green container. But this year, I had a secret weapon in my arsenal: granddad's Ultimate Destroyer. A handy machine that allows you to feed whole branches one way and turns them into small slivers of wood.

So instead of having three containers of branches, I ended up with half a bag of atomised grapevines. Super!

Then I attacked the mountain of pine branches that lies next to our neighbours garden shed. If you remember, last spring we took out the 25 meter long/4 meter high/1.5 meter wide hedge that separated our garden from our neighbours. They kindly offered to stack the branches in their garden, and when we were done they had a mountain of pine branches so high in their garden that planes need to make a detour. Ever since, the next door neighbour and I have been taking tours at pushing those branches in the GUD (Granddad's Ultimate Destroyer).

It's an annoying task, because the flexible small pine twigs sooner or later make the cutting disk inside grind to a halt. Which means you have to open the GUD, remove the twigs and shavings that didn't come out and close it again. On top of that, there is this security mechanism with an interrupter that keeps getting clogged by the pine needles. All this makes for a fun afternoon in the garden.

So I was happily feeding the GUD with pine branches, until I had a couple of them that were too large to feed in one piece. No problem, because I have some mean pairs of cutting scissors. And while the machine was turning in the back I was cutting happily away at a big branch on the ground.

However...

The GUD's electrical wire was also on the ground. Under the branch I was cutting. And then the inevitable happened. SNIPFlash! - and then the cutter ground to a halt. It was a good thing those cutters had plastic handles (and I was wearing gloves of course). I had taken off a good 50 cm of wire.

Half an hour later I'd put the plug on the remaining end of wire and I was back in business. But I decided to cut those branches a bit further away from the machine.

Posted by Bart at 9:39 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Bicycle Repair Man

It was rather nice and sunny last Saturday, so we decided to head for the big city and go by bike rather the car (parking tickets/costs!) or the bus (moving greenhouse). I decided to give my bike’s tires a refill of air, and while I was at it, I also resuscitated the tires of Mrs.B’s bike.

I’d just finished the last tire, when I heard an ominous ‘PSHSHSHshshshsh’. Within seconds, the front wheel tire was as flat as a slug on a test course for steamrollers. The tire had ripped where the valve is attached.

So we took the bus to go to the city. It was damn hot inside.

Not that this was so surprising, because the ruin on two wheels that serves as Mrs.B’s mode of transport only resembles a bike of you look at it from a great distance, with your eyes squinted, in the mist, and without your glasses if you wear any. Up close you’d only see a big pile of rust, worn down rubber and various bike parts that are crooked, broken and/or all together dysfunctional.

Yesterday Mrs.B handed me a new tire and asked me to change it. Taking out the round piece of smudge and grease that once was the wheel wasn’t that difficult, it was just very, very dirty. When I took the outer tire from the rim I noticed just how worn the rubber was, it was cracking everywhere. Luckily I didn’t tear it apart, and once it came off changing the inner tire was a work of minutes (once I’d finally found my bike tools that is).

After I’d put the wheel back, I took a good look at that old bike and decided to try and improve it, as far as that was still possible. I liberally drizzled oil on the chain, the wheel axles and the brakes. Now it moves like lightning but your bum slides off the saddle and your feet off the pedals. Then I removed the remnants of the gears and one of the two old bells that dangle on the handlebars. I might as well have taken off the other one, because it doesn’t work, but then an overzealous policeman/woman might stop my wife for driving without a bell and at least now it looks as if her bike has a functioning warning apparatus. I also reattached the front mudguard, although it really needs to be replaced because under the fork the attachment point rusted away and Mrs.B reattached it with a piece of string. So every time she drives over a cobblestone road, it sounds as if someone is rolling a container of crockery off a steep hill. At least they’ll hear her coming without needing a bell.

When I’d finished my work, I took it out for a spin and a noticed that instead of riding a slow heap of rust and dirt, my loved one can now ride a moderately fast heap of rust and dirt to work.

Not that is safe to ride it at any speed, because quite a lot of the oil came on the wheel and break pads, so you need at least five hundred metres to come to a full stop. If you don’t have a backwind, that is.

Posted by Bart at 9:27 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Summer Holidays – Part I

Wolf's child minder went on holiday last week, so I had to stay home to take care of the little guy. My initial dreams of playing with my son and going to various places – the zoo, the beach, the tram depot (he is very fond of trams and trains at the moment) – were quickly and efficiently torpedoed by Mrs.B though. The living room wall-to-wall carpet was an eyesore she wouldn't live with any more. It just had to go, and besides: laying a new laminate floor would only take a weekend, wouldn't it.

Well... NO!

I was a bit apprehensive right from the first mentioning of the idea. Granted, the old rug did look like it had been rotting on a cold and stormy sea shore for a number of years. But nothing ever 'only takes a weekend' in this house.

First of all, the floor wasn't exactly level. In fact, there have been requests from various cycling teams to use it for mountain practice in preparation for the Tour de France. Our cupboard on one end and the shelves and nappy changing table on the other were situated on some 'véritable cols de première catégorie'. In between lay a deep valley that opened to the part of the floor that's above the cellar. This part has wooden floor boards and is somewhat more level. But all in all it was easier to go from the kitchen to the TV set than the other way round.

After the first weekend, it was clear that this job would really take some time. Taking out the furniture already took my a whole day. Then leveling the floor was a long and arduous job. Meanwhile, I also took it upon me to hide the truly hideous yellow bricks of the chimney under some plasterboard, which I then gave an additional layer of plaster to get everything more or less straight and level.

Laying the laminate floorboards was pretty straightforward in itself. Also because I'd bought me some new toys/tools: a miter saw and a saw table. But then again the weekend was over and I had to babysit on Wolf in the morning, until it was time for his afternoon nap. Then I could hush-hush silently fire up the electric saws to cut the boards and hammer them in place. 'Click system' my arse, those things needed a good pounding to fit into place.

By 4.30 PM Wolf would wake up, and I had to babysit again until Mrs.B came home from work. Then I'd work on until 9 or 10 in the evening. This went on for the whole week, but on Friday the weather was just fine enough to dash off to the zoo with Wolf. But in the weekend, it was work-work-work again. On Saturday we bought the skirting boards and on Sunday I finished installing those. Then we had just enough time in the afternoon to put all the furniture back in place. At 6 PM on the Sunday evening, I could finally relax and enjoy the rest of my summer break.

When the alarm went at 6.30 AM on Monday morning, I had a moment of doubt: would I whack the alarm clock or the person lying at the other side of the bed?

Posted by Bart at 9:19 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Monday, March 09, 2009

Bring Us To Your Leader

It is said that a Belgian is born with a brick in his belly. So it’s no surprise that every year, we flock ‘en masse’ to the ultimate building festival known as Batibouw. Twelve giant halls with a total of 150.000 m² of doorknobs, roof tiles, windows, garage doors, bathtubs, radiators, wall sockets, gazebos and the lot.

My sister had got hold of a couple of free tickets, so little brother and I made the long trip by public transport to this building and renovation bonanza. To be honest, it was all a bit overpowering. There were thousands and thousands of people making their way from one stand to the next, staring at demonstrations, touching the different fabrics and materials, shouting at their children, looking in desperation for their children and feeding hamburgers to their children in the hope they’d stop whining. I sure was glad I left Wolf at home with his mum. After all, renovation is a men’s affair, not something for feeble little women. (Will have to disappear in hiding for four weeks after this one.)

Every year, there are different main topics. Apparently, hot tubs were one of these main topics, because there were hundreds of them. You could say they come in every size and colour. Lots of colours. All mixed together in horrendous mixtures of purple and blue and green all together in twirling patterns that could give you an epileptic seizure in minutes. And other had lights! That changed colours! And ‘rustic’ sounds with ocean waves and digital songbirds!

You wouldn’t believe the number of jets contemporary hot tubs have. There are jets behind your back, there are jets under your bum, there are jets under your arms, there are jets under your feet and behind your legs. If you put them on all at once, I bet you burst right through the ceiling.

And all this can be yours for a measly twenty-six thousand euros, so you can take a bath for the price of two medium-sized cars. On the other hand, I bet you could fly one of those things if you turn it upside down. In fact, they really are UFO’s, the jets are really part of an advanced propulsion system, and the pulsating lights and strange sounds are a dead giveaway. That’s what we do with extraterrestrial life here, we don’t start interstellar wars, we turn it into something useful.

Posted by Bart at 9:22 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Saturday, November 22, 2008

House Warming Party

It’s alive! ALIVE!

Or rather, it works. My DIY buy-the-kit/decipher-the-manual/tear-down-the-house-without-a-clue central heating system. The day before yesterday a technician came over to fire up the boiler. My installation was fully approved – apart from a vent I have to place on the other collector and a pressure safety that was upside-down. We can now make warm water without burning up a fully loaded LNG tanker each time.

And we have heating in every room, apart from the hall-way because you never open the radiators there anyway and not in the kitchen either because the gas stove and the oven provide enough heat and anyway there isn’t even a door between the kitchen and the diner room so it gets warm anyway and…

I’m as happy as a child.

Not only because I pulled it off (without ruining a 5000 € investment), but also because this means that after months of non-stop work I can finally enjoy a free weekend now and then. Or as much as you can get a free weekend with a toddler running around and a wife that’s managing the social calendar.

And there are other perks too: winter sex will be so much easier without 400 blankets and duvets and animal pelts on my back (or on her back, depending on who’s burning the calories).

Wooh-hooh!

Posted by Bart at 1:26 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trench Warfare

In honour of my dear old great-grandfather, who fought in World War I and lived to tell the tale while consuming huge numbers of Belgian waffles each 11th of November to remember his fallen comrades, I've dug my very own remembrance trench in the back garden.

Well allright, I didn't mean to dig as deep as I did, and it was pure coincidence that I dug a four-by-one-point-five meter hole on armistice day. It's only 60 cm deep, so it would hardly provide me any cover for german machinegun fire. But given the fact that I just wanted to clear the top soil of any rocks and stones, it's a pretty mighty trench.

Last spring, I removed the garden path, made partly with concrete sidewalk tiles while other parts were just concrete poured over old bricks. There's a lot of bricks and old rubble underneath it, and it's very difficult (or bloody impossible) to dig the blade of a shovel into that stuff. So I had to dig underneath it, and pry the bricks out by hand, then sift the sand to get the remainder of the rocks out. It's a tedious job, and so far I did about 10 meters, which means that 15 more meters of garden await me.

At first I tought I found the remains of a Roman village, but actually it's a whole city, complete with Collosseum, bathing house and protective bullwarks. I also found a genuine Roman bycicle, although I still have to carbon date it because it's also possible that it dates from the Neolithic age.

I'll keep you posted if I find any dinosaur skeletons.

Posted by Bart at 9:06 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bit Nippy

The seasons are changing – not that it easy to notice with the summer we’ve had. But it’s clear that the days are shortening and it’s getting quite chilly in the morning as I leave for work. Mrs.B put on an extra cover on our bed, and we stuff Wolf inside a blanket inside his winter sleeping bag, as he keeps pushing his covers away only to wake up in the dead of night because he’s too cold. As a consequence, there’s a giant sausage roll lying in his baby bed now.

Yep, it’s time to put on the heating. Except that we don’t have a heating for the moment yet. There are numerous parts of a heating system installed all over the house, including five of the nine radiators, kilometres of red and blue pipes decoratively running over ceilings and behind closets and over walls and so on. Impressive technical installations and a boiler with many – but not all – water, gas and exhaust connections linked to aforementioned pipes, complete the picture.

The new central heating doesn’t heat yet, but it does chill. The wind blows through the many holes I drilled for the pipes and connections. Floorboards were removed, so that we have now various interesting and exiting new ways of going from one floor to another. A number decorative panels were removed to reveal a pletora of less than decorative walls with ghastly fifty year old wallpaper. The trenches that I cut into the walls, floors and ceilings produce a slightly moist, dusty odour; as if the mummy of Tutankhamen just farted.

I think my fellow residents would appreciate it if I finished the whole damn installation a.s.a.p. Preferably yesterday, thank you very much. So I toil and I toil until my fingers hurt – give me a hammer in my hands and I’ll whack them to a pulp, guaranteed. But try as I may, it’ll still take me a couple of weekends before I get this thing finished.

I hope we’ll all survive.

Posted by Bart at 11:01 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Monday, June 30, 2008

DIY: Dumb Is You

When making the aforementioned gazebo, I commited a small yet significant error:

DIY disaster with ladder and gazebo  

Please, refrain from laughing. I am a very sensitive man.

DIY disaster with ladder and gazebo  

No other option but to unscrew that beam again, wriggle the ladder out and screw it back on.

Posted by Bart at 9:29 PM
Edited on: Monday, June 30, 2008 9:31 PM
Categories: Framed, Home Improvement

Monday, May 26, 2008

Heavy Goods Vehicle

A collection of random facts:

  • Wolf is almost one year old, and we’re having a giant big fun birthday party next Sunday. A garden party, if the weather permits (weather forecasts are rather bleak at the moment).
  • Before the weekend, there was one metric tonne of ex-chimney lying on the roof of the annexe. There was also one point five metric tonnes of bricks, cement and dust lying in the two rooms upstairs that one day – knock on wood – will be a solicitor’s office and a bathroom.
  • Next Thursday, all the bits and pieces of our new central heating system will be delivered. Everything will have to be stacked into those two rooms that two days ago were warehouses of dust and debris.
  • Before the weekend, our garden looked like a dumping ground for industrial waste, the only thing that lacks is a rusty car wreck sticking out of the building waste.

So I slaved like a maniac the last couple of days, in a ridiculous attempt to haul everything to the recycling park. During the weekend, it’s only open on Saturdays from 8AM to 4PM, and you can be sure there are endless cues. I managed to drive up and down three times in one day. Every time, the car was jammed with big bags of stone, concrete and dust (Oh, the dust!) to the point were the wheels were less than an inch away from the wheel bays. This is gonna cost us a fortune in shock absorbers.

But after two days of hard labour, the results are there: all the bricks and mortar are gone, together with most of the dust. Although I left quite a bit throughout the house – we’ll have some cleaning up to do before the guests arrive. And the garden actually looks a bit like a garden now, with patches of green showing up between the decorative mounds of broken up concrete. And I cleaned up the two rooms I’m working in so that we have a place to store the radiators.

I, on the other hand, feel like a pudding with lumps.

Posted by Bart at 9:27 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tearing Down The Walls

Official confirmation that I’m not dead. My absence in blogland is due to the fact that the new DIY-season has started – which is perhaps a fate worse than death. Not that I’m hammering away 24 hours a day, but the place I’m currently refurbishing (read: slamming to pulp) is the room where my computer was located. So obviously I had to move it, and the only empty spot I found was in our bedroom, right next to the baby’s bed. And as we all know, babies sleep a helufalot – even when their daddies break down walls – so the access to my computational entertainment device is currently heavily restricted.

My father and brother helped me this weekend remove the fake wood panelling on the walls. As usual, the previous owners had secured every little piece of wood or panelling with nine inch nails. We crammed our nearly new car with all the debris and drove to the recycling yard, but half of our second carload was refused because the container for ‘inflammable construction waste’ was stuffed to the rim.

I also devised a revolutionary new way to remove wall paper: tear down the wall – build new wall – hang new wallpaper. No more mucking about with wall paper remover or steam dispensers. Just a solid hammer and you’re good to go. Apart from two walls, I also tore out two ceilings.

I only suffered minor injuries, three blows to the head to be exact, so nothing vital was hit. I succeeded in preventing any irrational outbursts of anger by ventilating my feelings in a positive way through the complete and utter destruction of the innate pieces of junk that caused my pain, swearing so loud that the neighbours’ kids have to go in therapy. But otherwise, work is progressing just fine.

Posted by Bart at 8:20 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Monday, March 31, 2008

Caber Toss

The Scottish are famous for their Highland Games, amongst other things – such as drinking strong beverages in women’s clothing. One of the disciplines in the Highland Games is the ‘Caber toss’, or throwing a long wooden pole as far as you can without having it land on your own head.

I’ve been trying out this sport myself lately, but of course wooden poles are a bit wimpy for a strong Belgian lad like me. No, I prefer to hoist a concrete pole in the air. One that has one end buried five feet in the ground.

There were five of these concrete poles in our backyard, in fact they really were there to hold up the washing line. It must have been the sturdiest washing line in the world: each pole measures up to 12 ft and ways about 150 kg. Add to that about 27 cubic feet of concrete to set in the ground. With five to six iron bars in each post, that washing line could withstand a nuclear war in its day.

In my initial optimism, I wanted to wiggle them around a bit (I didn’t know about the concrete foot) and lift them out of the ground. In fact I did manage that with the first one, which didn’t have that much concrete. I even managed to break it in two with my bare hands – I really don’t know my own strength. Fortunately for me, I didn’t catch me in its fall because it would probably have killed so. It landed on a plastic box and crumbled it to little pieces.

The next two were even harder. I had to dig a big hole next to each post, four to five feet deep. Lifting them out still was impossible, let alone doing a caber toss. I brought out my brand new pneumatic drill to chip away the concrete block at the bottom and break each post in three pieces. Even then, I was barely able to lift the individual pieces, although I did caber toss them – making big dents in our lawn and ripping parts out of the hedge. Collateral damage, but it was satisfying to see those bastards plummet to their death.

Posted by Bart at 8:48 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Getting Warmer

Spring's here – a bit too early but there you go – so it's time to dig up the old hammer and start DIY-ing. On the agenda this year: install central heating and a new bathroom, and refurbish Milady's office.

The central heating thing is the biggest challenge (not that I ever installed a bathroom before – or revamped an office space for that matter), so some preparation and homework is on the order. I snooped around on the internet a stumbled upon an interesting formula: some companies make all the difficult calculations of how many radiators you need and how much capacity the heater needs to have based on the plans of your house. Then you get a training on how to install everything, and they deliver a number of kits with easy-to-follow plans to your doorstep. Then you have to install everything, and in the end their specialists come over to check if you didn't do anything stupid, correct it if you did and finally do the difficult jobs like setting up the central heater.

Piece of cake! And it costs about half of what you'd pay for a professional to turn up somewhere between today and mid-November 2814 AD.

So last week I drove to an appointment I had with one of the firms that I contacted. It was in the evening, so I half expected to be there alone with the salesman. Was I a measly bit wrong! It was a coming and going of people, there were desks all over the place with scores of salesmen and -women trying to sell-sell-sell. I don't want to imply that they were pushy, but before I had settled in the comfy chair the guy had already tried to jam a rainwater recycling installation and a new sanitary installation through my throath.

It took a while before he finally started with what I came for: a central heating. I felt he was barely interested in what I wanted, it seemed more important for him to get all the information HE needed. I really had to press him to include a condensation boiler in stead of an ordinary one. 'Yes', he said 'but it will be easier to install, with the exhaust and all'

'But doesn't it burn much more gas?' I asked.

'Well, only 25 percent.'

'Only 25 percent?' I said. 'I want that condensation boiler, I don't give a damn if it's a bit more difficult to install!'

The difference with the second supplier couldn't be bigger. It was as busy as the other one was, but here the salesman took their time, really listened to what we wanted and gave us some pretty darn good advice that will save us a lot of money and make installation easier. Not unimportant if you do such a major job in a house that you still have to be able to live in the whole time.

Now even when the first company offers us a better price, guess which one will probably get the contract?

Posted by Bart at 9:15 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

This Is Spinal Crap

I took the week off, so I've been working my ass off at home. New DIY projects await me; 2008 has already started a month ago, so high time to get in gear. But before I can start breaking down walls and ceilings, I need a bit of space to work.

So this week I've been busy with my manhood, slapping some wood on it to be precise, to stop the leaking. I'm talking about my shed of course. One wall was made of old wooden blinds and when it rained, the water just seeped through. This made the tools on the shelves in front of that wall rust. So out with that old ugly wall and replace it with new planks.

I thought it was going to be easy, one day's work at most. But then I'd forgotten how the previous owners built things: with colossal pieces of lumber and twenty inch nails. To make things worse, there were two concrete pillars to remove as well and the shops were clean out of dynamite. On the positive side, my parents gave me a pneumatic hammer/drill for my birthday, so I finally had the chance to try it out. Together with some mean angle grinder action, those pillars were gone in no time. Well, in under four hours. One of them did scrape my leg as it went down, and if my sweater hadn't got caught in one of the iron reinforcement bars, it would probably have slit my leg right open. Isn't DIY loads of fun?

Anyway, I got that new wall mostly up by yesterday evening and I had to hurry today to finish it (in the rain) and paint it once the sun came out for a couple of hours. So the shed is almost finished, but so is my back. I'm trying to keep it as straight as possible while I type this, but it's hurting a lot. In fact, I had a lot of pain in my back lately, and these last few days did no good at all. I'll probably be all stiff tomorrow, so I can spend the rest of my vacation like a plant in front of the television.

Posted by Bart at 8:53 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heating Up

After two winters in our new house with only one (electric) stove, we’re getting fed up with freezing up while we work on our computers, turning into giant ice cubes when we take a shower and waking up only to find that our blankets are covered in ripe. Two weeks ago we went to a building fair to look around for prices of different types of heating systems. We definitely want to get rid of our accumulators (we have two, but we only use one) because of the truck loads of money we have to ship each month to the electricity company. Accumulators are also notoriously difficult to use: either it’s too hot or it’s too cold every time the weather takes a turn and you didn’t see it coming or you simply forgot to crank the bloody thing up or down.

On the other hand, installing central heating in a house that you already use is not exactly a snitch. Installing the radiators and the heater is not so difficult, but then you have to link them with copper or plastic tubes. This will mean breaking open walls, floors and ceilings of rooms that are in use. And did I mention the baby and his allergy of loud noises during his frequent napping times? My initial optimism about this job has sunk to deep-sea levels.

But first there is the question of what type of heating we want. Gas prices are soaring at the moment. A super efficient condensation heater will save you 15%-20%, but that is exactly the amount that the gas prices are rising. We looked at wood pellets for an alternative, but although this is better for the environment in the end, this type of heater costs about ten times as much as a gas heater. If we’d have the money we’d do it, I guess, but even with subsidies this is way too expensive.

Meanwhile, I’ve been measuring up the whole house to calculate how powerful our heater must be, how many radiators we need and to plan how on earth we’re going to lay this tubing. Both Wolf and the cats are very surprised to see me crawl through the house on hands and knees, dragging a meter behind me. So far I’ve done the ground level floor, next weekend I can start on the first and second floors (or second and third floor for you American viewers).

Posted by Bart at 8:28 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Man And His Shed

When we were looking for a new house, I made sure there was a shed in the garden. Because what is a man without a shed? Nothing, I tell you.

The shed is my exclusive domain. There's practically nothing there that belongs to Mrs.B, apart from some garden equipment and pots and fertiliser and things. It is stuffed with all things male, such as power tools and big pieces of lumber and testosterone.

And rubbish, plenty of it. So much that it had become impossible to get in, unless you made a silly kind of dance jumping from one free spot on the floor to another. The previous owner also made a mess of the shelves he made from various pieces of scrap wood and metal. Inconveniently low beams kept a stack of all sorts of old pieces of hardboard and timber in the air. I couldn't really stand in there and I kept bumping into the wooden beams. And then there were the leaks, I couldn't figure out where but water was seeping in and a lot of the wood was starting to rot. It smelled of mildew, and I'm allergic to mildew.

So for the last two weekends I've been busy tidying up the place. I dragged all the old wood out and cut the beams below the ceiling. Luckily, this didn't affect the stability of the shed in a negative way, as Mrs.B feared and as I discovered simply by trying out. The wood is for the neighbours' stove, this is the second winter they'll be able to warm their house with pieces of ours. The old rickety shelves went out too. I managed to crush my tumb between the handle bar of the lawn mower and one of those shelves, I can now plant coconuts by pushing my tumb in the ground. And on the very end, I broke my hammer.

That's right, I was firmly engaged in a battle of minds with a stupid piece of wood that just wouldn't come off the wall. No wonder, since it was attached to the wall with those big old hand-made square nails that were probably used to hang Christ on the cross. I threw in everything I had, and then my hammer went 'crack' and it broke off just underneath the head. Poor hammer, I had it since university (it's mandatory equipment for Belgian college students).

But now at least the shed is clean and empty. All my stuff is in neat plastic boxes of various sizes. All I have to do now is buy new clean empty shelves to stack the neat plastic boxes in an orderly way. This way, I'll be able to keep my shed tidy for, say... oh at least four days.

Posted by Bart at 9:34 PM
Edited on: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 9:55 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bad Hedge Day

A couple of weeks ago, I gave my loved one a hedge trimmer for her birthday. I’m such a romantic. Because she still hadn’t gotten around to trimming the hedge and because it already took up sixty percent of our garden, I decided to take things in my own hands and trim the hedge myself.

I’ve never trimmed a hedge before, but not to worry: there was plenty of hedge to practice upon. It borders the west side of our garden and separates us from our very friendly neighbours with their very ugly garden. They tore down part the extension to their house and built a new one, so their garden currently looks like a popular restaurant in Baghdad: it has more craters than the moon.

The hedge is about 25 meters long and about three-and-a-half meters high. With my botanical expertise I can tell you that it consists of pine-ish kind of tree-like things with a lot of thin branches and green flattened needle-like stuff at the ends. There, now you know what I’m talking about.

Before starting the trimming job, I carefully read the manual. However I quickly decided that I obviously knew better than those silly people of Black and Decker, who after all never laid eyes on my hedge before. So I invented a revolutionary procedure in hedge trimming.

Ten minutes later, me, my brand new electrical hedge trimmer and my revolutionary procedure in hedge trimming had created a drama. I’d started cutting at an angle, so I dug in deeper and deeper into the hedge. Until I reached the brown layer of twigs at the core, the ones that never produce green leaves/needles anymore. Once you uncover those twigs, you’ve got a brown patch in your hedge for ever. That much I know about these hedges. Bummer.

My wife came out to gloat at my dismal failure and gave me her expert advice (she’s trimmed a hedge one more time in all her life than I have). She stuffed the baby in my hands and set out to enjoy herself with her new toy. Fifteen minutes later, she’d done most of the hedge, leaving the top for me to do.

Of course I couldn’t leave it at that, so the moment she left the house I redid her part just to show that there was much to be improved upon. And I must say, I got it pretty straight once I started with the top (as the manual had suggested). I did take away too much here and there – but hey, it was my first time. And I’m sure it will all grow back one day.

Posted by Bart at 8:47 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Monday, August 27, 2007

You Haul Sixteen Tonnes

Wolf is sleeping downstairs, so read this very quietly please. And no shouting in the comments or I'll skin you alive!

I haven't blogged a lot during my vacation, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy. In fact I've worked my ass off, as you do during your holidays. Apart from the babysitting, I've started the final offensive on the bedroom battlefield. I'm glad to say, it's nearly finished. The ceiling is painted, the wallpaper is holding the walls together and I even installed the electric sockets and switches. The new wardrobe for Mrs. Bart looks as if it's been made by a true professional flatpack maker from Sweden.

There are some more final touches to make, such as the wooden borders between the floor and the walls, and the coverings of the space above the window that holds the mechanism for the blinds, they just need a final coat of paint. And then we can finally start to move the furniture in.

It will be a big move, because when I've dragged our bedroom furniture from the second floor to the new bedroom on the first, I'll have to hoist Wolf's new baby bedroom from Mrs.B's office to the room we now use as a bedroom on the second. It's a nice bedroom, completely in oak. Let me know if you can think of heavier wood to make furniture from...

After that, I can finish Mrs.B's office and get the old wardrobe there from the room where her new office will be once both myself and our wallet have recovered from the current refurbishment/reconstruction. Other things will move from the living room upstairs too. So you see my back is in for some very heavy duty. I will need some good massaging, but since that little weasel moved in Mrs.B. barely notices my suffering anymore, so I'd better get that idea out of my head straight away.

One more week before I have to go back to the office, so much work to do...

Posted by Bart at 4:53 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Don’t Slam The Door

You know how people can get on your nerves in such a way that you could hit them in the head with a heavy piece of wood? It so happened that I was loading about a tonne-and-a-half worth of hardboard panels in my car past Saturday. I’m making a closet you see, in the bedroom. It’s a rather big closet, or make that a huge closet: it’s going to take up most of one wall in our new bedroom.

Anyway, I had dragged all of it in one go to the parking lot, thanks to a special cart with the size, weight and manoeuvrability of an aircraft carrier. It was bloody annoying, I constantly had to chase away F-18 fighters and Sea King helicopters. Anyway, I finally made it to the car, denting only a single vehicle on my way, and started to haul everything in the trunk when this annoying couple passed. Their little car was parked next to mine, and they had bought a solid oak door.

Apparently, she had pushed him into buying the door, which was obviously too big for their little car’s little trunk. And he was complaining – nay, he was whining like a small child that didn’t get an ice-cream because we’re going to eat in a few minutes and you’re going to spoil your appetite. Man, that guy was annoying. Over and over again he repeated how he had warned her that this would happen and that the door wouldn’t fit in their little car and that it was all her fault. ‘Get a grip man, just leave your trunk open and fix it with some rope’, I thought. That’s what he started to do (did I mention my psychic powers?) but not without making great dramas about the possible risks. ‘Look at that, if I have to break suddenly it’ll decapitate you. But it won’t be my fault, you know, because I told you so. They won’t be able to hold me responsible…

And on and on it went. I couldn’t flee, because I had to arrange my own pile of wood carefully in the car. I also had some large pieces sticking out of the back, but I secured them with some rope – I had enough left to hang him on the nearest tree if I wanted to, but then again I’m unnecessarily civilised. Meanwhile he still hadn’t finished. How many ways are there to put a door into a small car? Open the booth, shove it in, fasten the door with a piece of rope and GET OUT OF MY BLOODY SIGHT, SMELL, HEARING RANGE AND RADAR!!!

Oh, this looks great!’, that invertebrate continued. ‘Look at it, are we supposed to drive on the highway like this? I’m sure it’s going to fall out of the back. We’ll be responsible for an accident, we will! There will be a traffic jam for miles and they’ll sue us for causing death and destruction.

By this time, steam was coming out of my ears. I desperately wanted a piece of paper. To write down my wife’s address and phone number. I wanted to give it to the whiner’s wife and say: ‘Here love, my wife is a solicitor*. She normally doesn’t do divorces, but I’m sure she will make an exception for you.

But then they finally drove off.

*Lawyer, for those living in more primitive countries

Posted by Bart at 10:28 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

And This Little Piggy Went To The Hospital

When people get older, they tend to shrink. My father is 62 years old now, but he shows no signs of this phenomenon.

So he decided to take matters in his own hands.

He had offered to help me again with the bedroom on Thursday, but he called me yesterday to say he couldn’t make it. He cut off the top of his finger with garden scissors, you know the ones that can cut through 1cm thick branches. Only a teeny bit of skin still connected the top to the rest of his finger.

So they rushed to the hospital and the doctors sewed it on again. He will be fine, but he can’t use his finger for a while.

The man is really careless with his hands. When he was still studying (to become a pharmacist), he rammed a glass tube through the tendon of his right index finger. Ever since he has a crooked index finger that he can’t move, except where it joins his hand. The ultimate mouse-click finger if you want.

But he really should be more careful (and wear gloves!)

Posted by Bart at 7:52 PM
Categories: Home Improvement


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