In Case You Were Wondering

In case you were wondering, I am a total bad-ass of home improvement.

In my current phase of unemployment/job hunt/soul searching/sleeping-in/ going to the gym in the middle of the day, I have spending a good part of my time upgrading our shit-hole rental apartment into a more livable and stylish space. If I am not working for money, I might as well be working for improvement in our quality of life.

We moved into this particular shit-hole because it met many of our criteria: lots of windows, few shared walls, space for me to grow some veggies and flowers, walking distance to the beach, and most importantly, affordable in one of the more expensive cities in the US on one paltry post-doc income.

One of the striking design elements of our shoebox by the sea was the liberal use of indoor-outdoor carpet. The carpet not only was ugly, but had a distinctive odor. There is a reason why eau de mildew, pet accident, and old dirt are not used in aromatherapy blends. They are nasty, that's why.

Knowing that our landlord is a very nice and lovely woman who is not the least bit interested in putting any money into our shack, we (meaning just me) decided it was better to apologize for after the fact, like when we move out in a few years, for changing the floor rather than asking her for permission, being told no, and having to live with the carpet that gave me a rash.

One of the benefits of being unemployed is that it gives me lots of time to stalk good deals. The internet is a horn of plenty for those willing to put in the legwork. I found a contractor who installed a laminate floor all over some fancy-pants house in Rancho Santa Fe and had a few hundred square feet left over. Oh really? You don't say! Hmmmm. . .I live in an apartment that is only a few hundred square feet! I bought said laminate floor from said contractor for about $ .55 a square foot. What a deal.

I tore out the indoor-outdoor carpet to find a slowly decomposing, somewhat moist, very sandy carpet pad. Did I mention we are 4 blocks from the beach? Who in their right mind thought carpet was a good idea near the beach? The carpet pad was choc full o' bad smells and about 8 lbs of sand.

After tearing that out, I found underneath the pad some carpet cutting utility blades left over from the installation of said atrocity, circa 1988, some old-school asbestos 9x9 tile, and what was probably once a very decent wood floor. The wood floor had lots of water stains. Let's hope those were water stains and not stains from other wet things. Sanitized the floor with industrial strength restaurant floor sanitizer just in case.

I stuffed as much of the old carpet in our trash bin as possible, but even though our apartment is tiny, our trash bin is tinier and could not hold all our old carpet. I loaded the rest of the carpet into my little hatch-back Toyota. Once night fell, I disposed of the evidence. I drove around the neighborhood looking for unlocked dumpsters behind big apartment complexes, bars, and Jiffy Lube. I would pull up, leave the car running, and unload just one or two strips of carpet into the dumpster, then drive away. This way, I didn't fill any one single dumpster with our detritus, and if, for some reason, our landlady was checking dumpsters, she wouldn't notice the carpet and recognize it as HER indoor/outdoor carpet. "Hey! I recognize that stain! That is from the crummy apartment with lots of potential I am renting to the scientist and his currently unemployed wife!"

The big error in this plan was leaving the carpet in the car all day while I finished working on the floor. The car cooked in the sun for hours and then was thick with dirty old cat-box/mold smells. I don't recommend it.

Installed the foam sub-floor vapor barrier layer thingy. I didn't know which side to face up, and found instructions on the internet saying silver side up, as well as silver side down. Excellent! I am right either way!

Installed the laminate floor, did a kick-ass job, and then put on new molding and quarter round. That's right, I totally installed a new floor and new molding. I know my way around a power saw.

Also found on the internet - several ceiling fans for $12 a piece. I replaced the kitchen light with a little ceiling fan. Check out the film. That is the ceiling fan, totally working, lights on and everything. The house has not yet burned down, as my task of wiring in the fan was not faulty. It rocked.

So, in case you were wondering, I am, in fact, a total bad-ass of home improvement.


  1. When Kevin installed his first ceiling fan in our house he made me come down and look at it. We watched the ceiling fan work for a solid minute. Just spinning away, proving what a capable, badass he is.

    I will say to you what I said to him: you are completely awesome!

  2. I like Kevin for so many reasons, and now I have one more reason to be terribly fond of him. We both install ceiling fans and admire our work. Ah, yes. (insert contented sigh of accomplishment here.)