Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Hole

When I got home yesterday, I found a big hole in a wall of my house.

By "big," I mean about 8 inches in diameter. By "hole," I mean I could stand inside the house and see outside. By "wall," I mean one of those vertical things that aren't supposed to have holes in them. And by "house," I mean the place where I live.

I don't know about you, but I'm not used to coming home and finding big holes in my walls. Nothing in my past has led me to expect something like that. So I wasn't happy to see the hole, but on the other hand, I'm fully aware that all around the world, every day of the year, people come home to find that much worse things have happened.

For example, people get their cities bombed into rubble and their villages burned to ashes, because there is war and strife all over the world. Our little planet is not a very happy place and it probably never will be.

But I don't live in a war zone. I live in a construction zone. But the construction isn't supposed to involve putting big holes in the walls of my house. As a matter of fact, it isn't even supposed to involve my house at all.

In case you're interested, I'm building a retaining wall along one side of my property. But before they can build the wall, they have to do some excavation, and the little bulldozer or whatever it is they're using apparently kept bumping into the side of my house and knocking little holes in the wall. Only one of those holes actually went through to the inside of my house, so I guess in that sense, I'm pretty lucky.

I called the contractor and he said he'd take care of it, but he didn't say when. It's not one of his top priorities, so I assume he'll get around to it sometime after the retaining wall is built. But since I don't want to wait four or five weeks, I decided I'd patch the interior hole myself. I'll let him take care of all the exterior holes.

Unfortunately, there's a big bookcase in front of the hole, which means that in order to patch the hole, the bookcase had to be moved. But before the bookcase could be moved, the books had to be removed. So now, there are books all over the floor. Lots of them.

I went to my local hardware megastore to buy some button board. If you don't know what button board is, don't feel bad because nobody who works at the store I went to knows what it is either. Button board is like drywall, except it has holes in it. Why would anyone want such a thing? Well, apparently no one does, because they don't sell it anymore -- at least not at the store I went to.

And now, here's a brief lesson in the history of walls: Before the days of drywall, people used to apply plaster to interior walls. For wood frame walls, they obviously needed some kind of backing material (or "lath") to apply the plaster to. At first they used strips of wood, but after a while they started using button board instead. You nail the button board to the studs, and then you plaster over it. The holes in the button board are so the plaster has something to grab onto, so when it dries it has a good mechanical bond and won't just slide off the lath.

My house was build after the days of drywall, but for some reason they used plaster instead of drywall. So I figured I'd repair the hole with plaster. But I couldn't find any button board. I don't even know if they make it anymore.

Fortunately, you can make it yourself. Just get a piece of drywall and start drilling holes into it. I'd probably go with 3/4" holes spaced a few inches apart, but what you decide is entirely up to you.

And even though the store I went to didn't sell button board, they had a lot of scrap pieces of drywall lying around. I asked the guy if I could have a piece and he said I could take all I wanted since they were just going to throw it away. All I wanted was one little piece, so that's what I took. And since it didn't cost me anything, I suppose I can consider myself pretty lucky.

Here's another way in which I'm pretty lucky: If they had driven the little bulldozer another twenty or so feet before knocking a hole in the wall, they would have broken through a tiled bathroom wall. Since the tiles I've got aren't even manufactured anymore, it probably would have meant retiling the entire area, which is not a simple job since there are about ten or twelve tiled surfaces. Of course, they're not through excavating yet, so there's still the possiblilty that they'll break through another wall.

But while I'm thinking of ways in which I'm pretty lucky, here's another: I don't live in a war zone, so there's very little danger that my neighborhood will be bombed to rubble or burned to ashes. Of course, if I were really lucky, they wouldn't have made any holes in my house at all. But then I would have had to think of something else to write about this week.