Rachel Wise: Renovating no longer a pipe dream

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Rachel Wise is a lifestyle-block owner and community newspaper editor. Jacoby Poulain is taking a break and will return next week.
Rachel Wise is a lifestyle-block owner and community newspaper editor. Jacoby Poulain is taking a break and will return next week.

I'm over renovations. It didn't take long. I think it was by the third, maybe fourth rung of the ladder as I headed towards the ceiling that I thought: "I'm not really into this."

And that was before I pushed open the manhole, shone my head-light in the roof cavity and saw what I'd signed up for.

The theory was, we'd bought a house with a bit of work to be done and, as reasonably intelligent consenting adults, it should be simple to "do it ourselves". None of this paying a tradesperson malarky, we're good Kiwi folk with a reliable supply of No 8 wire and we own a hammer and a cordless drill. Fixing and renovating here we come.

The first hurdle, and the reason I was heading through the manhole, is that hubby is banned from ceiling spaces. The last time he was in a ceiling, he demonstrated a remarkable lack of co-ordination and it took longer to repair the damage he caused, than it did to do the initial job.

Cue me, fourth rung up on a wobbly ladder and popping my head through the manhole, my mission to find the source of an annoying leak and fix it.

My first impression was that it was very blurry up there. Then I realised I had to adjust my head-light to align with my bifocals ... which actually made it worse as many, many cobwebs loomed into focus. Large dusty, dirty cobwebs which hopefully didn't harbour large dusty, dirty spiders. But probably did. Worrying as that was, the fibreglass insulation below was an even worse prospect. I needed to shift it so I could see what was underneath. Some of what was underneath would bear my weight - and some wouldn't. It was a little bit important that I could see which was what.

I've met fibreglass insulation before. I still itch when I think about it. Even swaddled in gloves and long sleeves and a scarf and a mask, I still ended up itchy. I think it just encouraged the stuff.

Still, needs must. I rolled the itchy stuff out of my way and channelled my inner Gollum, crawling across ceiling beams, dragging my hacksaw and hammer behind me. My target was a rusted drainpipe leading from an old header tank. In theory I was going to take out the rusty bit and replace it with a shiny new plastic pipe. I'm not sure what role the hammer was meant to play but it seemed necessary, looking at the size of those cobwebs.

I had never met a header tank before but this large, concrete version bristled with copper pipes which I had to thread myself through to access the rusty drainpipe. Under one pipe, over the other, one knee on a beam and a foot on another beam, dragging a hammer and a hacksaw, heaving sheets of prickly insulation out of my way ... a bit like Twister only not fun.

Rusty pipe in my hands, all I needed to do was the return journey, through/under/over the copper pipes, beams, prickly stuff, backwards, towing two metres of drainpipe, a hacksaw and a hammer. Easy.

A trip to the hardware store netted a replacement in nice clean plastic. Four bits of nice clean plastic, plus some adhesive, all dragged up the ladder and through the manhole and over the beams and under/over/through the maze of copper pipe and back to my spot balancing with one knee on a beam and a foot on another beam. Only to find the label on the adhesive said "use in a well ventilated area". Too bad, really.

With a bit of luck the fumes would kill the spiders.

In the spirit of "if it's worth doing it's worth doing well", I used the entire pot of adhesive. Actually it was a spirit of "I am gluing this so solid that I never, ever have to come up here ever again. Ever."

The glue pot's still up there somewhere. I left it in my eagerness to thread myself (backwards) through the copper pipes and cobwebs and mouse poo and itchy insulation and dust and awfulness and discard my head-light, gloves, scarf and mask and get home to a hot shower.

I was shampooing for the third time when the phone rang. Hubby handed it into the bathroom to me. It was my daughter.

"I'm up at the new house," she said. "Did you know there's still a leak in the ceiling?"

- Hawkes Bay Today

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