Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for Xylotomous #atozchallenge

Construction Dude's weapon of choice.

Definition: Boring or cutting into wood.  Applies to the behavior of insects.  Or overzealous father's armed with a power saw who know little about construction.
One of my father's more brilliant ideas was to buy a house when he had no business doing so.  It's a convoluted story about my mother renting the house, the owners selling it out from under her and my father swooping in to fulfill his fantasies of becoming a land baron and holding something over my mother.  
Why take the win and leave it at that?  No, he had to start remodeling the whole thing (while she was living in it) because that's what land barons do.  It started with little things like adding shrubbery then removing it when he realized it was too close to the foundation and the basement leaked.  Then he got the idea to remove the ceilings for a cathedral effect and install sky lights.  There was just one problem; he didn't know how to do any of this stuff.  
TIP: if you know nothing about construction, watching the video library of This Old House won't really change that.    
He decided he was now Construction Dude; well versed in all phases of construction including plumbing and electrical.  I became the unwilling apprentice. Or accomplice.  Unwilling being the significant term.  He got up on the roof and sawed a giant hole for the skylight by eyeballing it.  
ANOTHER TIP: You can always make a hole bigger.  You can't make it smaller.  
After a few new trips to the Window Depot for bigger skylights the simple kitchen roof looked like the ceiling of a greenhouse.  The operation moved from aesthetic to structural when he started removing walls and changing all the wiring.  Several small fires convinced my father to leave the electric alone.  Who knew changing the wiring in an active bathroom could lead to sparks? 
We exposed the brick in the chimney and created a subsequent gas leak from the burner.  He cut into a hot water line while trying to clip a wire.  My mother was thrilled to see all her stuff in the basement get rained on. My mother, trying to get a new box spring up the stairs found my father cutting a channel up the wall from one floor to the other so she could slide it diagonally up the stairs.  He was actually dumbfounded as to why she was upset. 
The best was yet to come.  One hot sticky day we were in the living room.  It was reduced to bare beams and studs.   He wanted to move a bathroom because he saw Norm do it on This Old House.  Norm advised my father to beware of cutting into load bearing beams.  
NOTE: A load bearing beam is, wait for it, bearing the load of the upper floors.   Remove it and you find yourself in the rubble of what used to be your house.  
So...there's my father in his construction gear with his monster power saw slicing through beams like he's trimming hedges.  I ask him over the buzz of the saw how he knows which are the load bearing beams.  He says he did some calculations and he wasn't near any of them yet.  
There was a loud PING sound.  The saw pulled out of his hands, stopped dead and was vibrating to a stop in the beam.  The beam he just cut through.  Then there was the sound of the whole house settling on the blade. 
"I think I found the bearing beam."
I could tell you about the look on his face of betrayal, of how Norm let my father down.  I could tell you about the string of obscenities.  I could even tell you about the initial plan to tell my mother we exposed the beam and found it that way.  
We removed the saw from the blade which was stuck in the beam and shored it up with beams on either side (which was not the right thing to do).   After reaching the epiphany that the bathroom was just fine where it was, he made me cover everything up in new Sheetrock and the. 
We pretended nothing happened. 


  1. So I am proud to say I witnessed first hand many of Anthony's feats of construction. I clearly remember with glee the staircase moment. Leaning against, more like pinned at the bottom of the stairs, behind the mattress and box spring, I watched with awe as he took that saw and sliced the wall from top to bottom. He was like a master surgeon as he sliced the wall at the perfect height to allow the mattress to slide up the stairs. Of course the reality is he was more like a backwoods self taught Doctor performing surgery on the town drunkard to remove a fishing hook from his finger using whisky as anesthesia and a steak knife as a scalpel. Of course he finished and decided we still couldn't make the turn at the top of the stairs since the box spring doesn't bend in half to turn and the wall was left as is and the mattress remained downstairs.

    I also remember how a few years later (the staircase still not repaired) I started in the construction business and he handed me a drill to bring home. It was like Odin handing Thor his hammer or Zeus handing one of his children his lighting bolt. I was just so touched and so excited to jump into my new career with all the knowledge brought on to me from this building legend. Of course when I went to work, armed with this knowledge I discovered that all the moments I watched him do something mechanical, electrical or carpentry related and I thought "Aha, that's how it's done" turned into "nope that's not how it's done at all, not even close"
    Boy was he way way off lol.

    But ya know what. I didn't care. Tony's way was so much more fun.

    1. And you still have some of his tools!