Fifteen Hour Days and Dharma Lights

I think I finally fully understand the meaning of having “A lot of irons in the fire”. I mean, I understood it before, but there’s nothing like field testing to get a good grasp on a concept. My field testing includes running my graphic design business and two Etsy shops, working on starting two more Etsy shops, and doing all the regular day-to-day stuff like paying bills, keeping the house clean, and feeding the animals. Those damned things eat constantly.

November and December have turned out to be pretty hectic months around here… my days rotate between web and print design jobs, hand-lettering designs on coffee mugs and custom prints for people, packing and shipping Etsy orders, cleaning the forgotten bits of the house before my parents come in for Christmas, and communicating back and forth with customers. If I’m feeling froggy sometimes I even bathe and eat.

There have been more than a handful of 15 hour work days thrown in for good measure, and a few times I just had to stop and take a break before I ended up rocking in the corner. Since the divorce my design income has gone from a helpful supplement to my sole source of bill-paying… which amps up my need to hustle quite a bit. Luckily (and perhaps because of that) business has blown up over these last eight months.

I’m not complaining about the long days, because as my chiropractor said yesterday… when you work for yourself it’s not so much work as it is a labor of love. And I love what I do. I would rather work twice as hard and know that it’s building a business and a brand for myself than to work half as much and not have that sense of fulfillment.

But that being said, it hasn’t left much time for the Dharma remodel! (Or eating or bathing, but that’s a different issue). I’ve gotten a few things done since we last met though. I had planned to do a whole tutorial type deal on each task as it happened, complete with witty commentary, but I think for now I’ll stick to the condensed versions just to bring you up to date.

Since last we met I’ve…

Pulled out the stove, sink, and finally the kitchen cabinet.

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If you’ll recall, I had a rotten piece of subfloor beside the kitchen sink cabinet. It was right under the furnace, which is under the sink, and of course was situated half under the cabinet. It turned out to be a good thing though, because I was able to clean that whole area really good with the cabinet gone, so now I won’t feel icky making spaghetti in my kitchen.

To get the kitchen cabinet out you first have to detach the faucet, sink drains, and stove. Then you remove the countertop (that sounds easier than it is) and finally detach the cabinet from the wall. The stove and sink were apparently installed by the same chimpanzees on cocaine that put the bed and bedroom light fixture in. Actually that whole thing was a blow to my confidence. I worked for three days trying to loosen the gas fitting for the stove and one of the plastic sink drains. I bought new tools, grunted, and suspended myself in cirque de soleil quality positions trying to budge those fittings. Nothing.

I finally had to call in reinforcements in the form of an awesome friend who was willing to give it a go. It did make me feel better that he almost had as much trouble as I did… but he finally got them loose. Then it was just an issue of removing the 5700 screws and rivets holding the countertop on and the cabinet to the wall… I’ve never been so excited to see a cabinet wobbling precariously in the middle of the floor.

I also had to pull the furnace out, because the hole went up underneath it. My plan was to see if it could be cleaned and put back, but there was so much rust I decided not to tackle it. I did find out later though that one small electric heater does a fabulous job in there, so I think I’ll make it through this winter and add a new air conditioner with a heat strip at some point.

Repaired the rotten subfloor

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My original intention was to replace the entire 4′x8′ piece of subfloor. But with the cabinet gone I could give it a better look, and realized that only about 2′x2′ of it was rotten. The rest was solid as a rock. Which turned out to be good, because I never did manage to remove any of the screws holding the rest of the subfloor down.

For the rotten piece, I beat the hole out a bit bigger with a hammer first so I could investigate underneath, then stuck my arm down there to feel for bracing. Two things: Yes, I’m that brave. And two: There’s bracing! Turns out the floor system, or at least that portion of it, consists of joists running the width of the camper on approximately 2′ centers (a bit less than 2′), and then cross bracing. There ended up being a brace about 18″ from the wall, which worked out perfectly. I was finally able to find a saw in the basement that would work long enough to cut out a 20″ by 24″ piece of the floor, with the seams lined up on the two joists and bracing.

Being as a full sheet of plywood won’t fit in a Toyota Corolla, I ended up buying one of those handy pre-cut pieces the Home Depot offers weekend warriors. Worked perfect with just enough left over that I can do the bathroom vanity with it if need be. So the actual repair went like this…

- Hack the subfloor out with a combination of a semi-functional battery operated circular saw, a rusty handsaw, and a hacksaw. Don’t judge me, you work with what you have.

- Pull all the nasty insulation out where the rotten subfloor has fallen in with it.

- Carry the new plywood to a friend’s house to have it cut because the semi-functional circular saw was now non-functional. Dry fit. Chisel out for three screws that are running down into the wall channel and keeping it from fitting.

- Put liquid nails all the way around the hole on the floor joists. Mercilessly beat Carefully push the new plywood into the wall channel and drop onto the joists.

- Seal around all the edges with silicone caulking, then cover with duct tape.

- Get excited and scrub the entire kitchen with 409, removing 36 years of some sort of brown funk.

- Caulk where the floor meets the wall with silicone to deter drafts and creepy crawlies.

- Stand back, giggle a bit, and tap your fingers together like a madwoman.

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Remove the bathroom vanity top

This took the help of a different friend. I was able to get the sink drain loose this time, and most of the rivets and screws, but the faucet supply lines weren’t coming without a fight. And apparently tiny elves with superhuman strength had screwed the top to the wall in random places as well. It finally came out though, and promptly broke into about three pieces.

Reinstall the bed I fought so hard to remove in the last post

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Yep.

My original plan was to build in a new permanent full size bed. But after looking at everything I realized it made more sense to keep the original gaucho bed. I can fold it up during the day and have a second couch, and at night it will give me more sleeping room than I would have been able to get with a permanent bed sticking out in the floor. Plus those original tambour doors are pretty awesome.

Pulling the bed out wasn’t a waste of time though… I was able to clean the wall and wheel well behind it really good before we put it back in, and clean the bed frame up too. So that side of the bedroom is as good as new now. It’s amazing how well a little 409 and elbow grease will clean up three decades worth of funky vinyl walls.

Reinstall the kitchen cabinet

With the subfloor replaced I needed to put that kitchen cabinet back, because when your house is 8′ wide having a loose cabinet sitting in the middle of the floor becomes a pain in the butt real quick. The cabinet is reinstalled with no top, and the sink and stove are waiting for me to put the new tile countertop on before they go back in.

Lots of little things

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- Installed the new vent fan in the bathroom thanks to a friend. It was a quick installation and now there’s not a gaping hole in the bathroom ceiling.

- Put a battery in the box and also plugged her up for the first time. Everything works! There’s still a small electrical problem, most likely with the cord outside, but all the lights, plugs, and fans work, and the AC even kicked on.

- Cleaned the cabinets, walls, and floor in the bedroom to get ready for paint and flooring.

- Cleaned all the windows and sanded the rust off of the window hardware.

- Bought a stand-alone refrigerator to fit in the existing hole.

- Bought my curtain fabric, all my paint, and my flooring.

- Bought an AWESOME metal enamel bowl to convert into the bathroom sink.

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There may be more, but I think this post is quite long enough and has us all caught up. I’ll try to come back on a more regular basis and keep you updated, because the remodel is about to get pretty fun. I got so excited to see the lights on in my little gypsy caravan at night, I can’t wait to see how she looks with a fresh coat of paint and a nice looking floor. :)

Screws and Rivets and Cussing, Oh My

I have good news for anyone sleeping in an Airstream bed… or at least a center double bed in a 1978 Argosy. You are safe. Your bed will not collapse, and there is no possible way that funny looking wall light over your head is going to fall on you.

I know this after a combined two-hour effort trying to remove the center gaucho bed and later deciding that the weird light fixture needed to go away right then and there.

The first part of the bed removal went great – pull off the cushions, try to not touch the nasty one that wasn’t reupholstered with the others, play with the slide mechanisms until you figure out that you have to raise the upper slides vertically and wiggle them out of the lower slides. Easy peasy.

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Then I was left with the base, which is basically a lightweight metal frame, a laminate covered front with a thin plywood floor, and three tambour doors. Three or four screws into the wall over the wheel well and it was as wiggly as a loose tooth… and just as attached. After 10 minutes of wiggling (the frame, not me) I found more screws going into the end cap attached to the bathroom wall. Still attached.

After 10 more minutes of wiggling I found the giant metal L brackets holding it to the floor. In my defense, they were mostly hidden by the leftover carpet padding. Then came more cussing, pulling out screws, wiggling, cussing, pulling out screws… you get the picture.

One thing I’ve learned so far is there are really only four things required to tear the innards out of an Airstream… a GOOD screwdriver, a hammer and chisel (or giant rasp in my case) to pop rivets loose, and a healthy vocabulary of profanity. Luckily I’m well equipped with the latter after years on a construction site. If the Jehovah’s Witnesses ever show up while I’m working out there I guarantee they’ll leave and mark the end of the driveway to warn the others.

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So at this point I have the bed completely detached from the wall finally, and I’ve done my victory dance. Unfortunately even though it’s really lightweight it’s just large and awkward enough that I know better than to try to get it out of the camper and into the basement by myself. So just like the refrigerator, it’s detached and waiting on one of two things: Some unsuspecting person to wander through the yard and be lured into helping me with the promise of non-existent cookies, or me to get my druthers up (I think they’re in the trunk of the car) and decide to get them out on my own.

The next day I wandered out to survey my new kingdom and decided that taking the bedroom wall light out couldn’t be so hard, I’d just grab a screwdriver and pull that down while I was standing there.

No.

Airstream did not want that light fixture coming down. They liked it and wanted it to remain a permanent part of history.

After much investigation of the seemingly floating fixture, I finally found two screws in the top and took those out, assuming in my naivety that it would nearly fall off the wall then.

No. It took another 15 minutes to wiggle it off of the GIANT metal bracket it was snugly clinging onto.

After finally wiggling the cover off and snipping the wires with a pair of pruning shears (I got creative) I was down to removing the bracket. Which was riveted to the wall. Seven times.

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That’s right. That less than one pound weighing light fixture was held up with seven rivets. Time for the rasp and the hammer. At this point I was so determined that I forgot to take any pictures… you’ll just have to trust me.

After wedging myself awkwardly between the scooted out bed frame, the hot water heater, and the wheel well, I set about popping the rivets off. There was a lot of grunting and some more cussing, but eventually I managed to free the bracket from its confinement without breaking any of the bulbs or any of my fingers.

Victory is mine.

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Yesterday a lovely friend wandered unknowingly into the yard and ended up leaving with her truck bed full of carpet and window blinds, so now the pile of crap that resided in front of the couch is gone and I can set about figuring out how to fix that subfloor up front without tearing the whole kitchen out.

In other news this week, I ordered a replacement vent fan for the bathroom, some curtain hardware, and new sink drains from Vintage Trailer Supply, which has quickly become my new favorite website. And they sell gift certificates, in case anyone was curious. ;) I’m also on the hunt for a used refrigerator to replace the tiny model that came with this floor plan, I’ve found a few prospects so far but no winners. And I put together my Home Depot list of supplies for the fun parts of this remodel… paint, flooring, faucets, and possibly one really cute rug I couldn’t say no to. I still have quite a bit to do before I get to those parts, but there’s nothing wrong with a little planning. My awesome brother also stopped by to move Dharma from her awkward position at the end of the driveway, so as soon as I fix the cord and get an outlet set up I’ll be ready to plug her in and test the important stuff.

Baby steps.

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The Dharma Tour: Before

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Note the lovely palm tree border… it's gotta go.

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