Monday, February 21, 2011

The Infamous Tar Paper Drama

This is the hilariously dramatic story of my battle with the tar paper, upon request.  Dun dun dun!!  So our little drama begins to unfold on Valentine's Day.  Valentine's Day morning, the husband tells me he is going to be sent to Florida for work the following morning, and he won't be home till Friday.  OK, no problem.  We go home that evening, have a delightful Valentine's dinner, open gifts, get lovey dovey etc...then he announces he is in fact leaving at 3am.  <record scratch>  Abandoning the dinner wreckage, he goes upstairs to wrangle his laundry for the week ahead.  He comes back downstairs with a look of dread on his face.  "I hate to do this..." he announces, "but some of the tar paper has come off of the back of the house.  You can either deal with it yourself, or call my dad in the morning."  Uh oh.  Danger Will Robinson!  (What the hale am I getting myself into?)

Let's back up.  In the fall, we tore some siding on the back of the house so we could put in the new windows.  While tearing off some of the siding, we got a little crazy and tore all of the siding off the back of the house.  We couldn't afford to replace the siding at the time, so we're using the old hillbilly trick of covering the bare wood with tar paper to get us through the winter.  This is not necessarily a bad plan, except that when the weather gets wild, the tar paper occasionally tears and falls off of the house, resulting in an extension-ladder husband-with-a-staple-gun firedrill.  Except in this case, clearly it was going to have to be a wife-with-a-staple-gun firedrill.  Ruh roh, Scooby.

Tuesday morning dawned ominously rainy.  I seriously pondered calling the new father-in-law but no one wants to be the new wife who is so incapable and bratty that she expects other people to come fix the house when the hubs is out of town!  OK, I can do this...I donned my girl Carhartts (yes, they do make them and yes, they are cute), ratty fleece and gloves and went outside to assess.  One large strip of tar paper was missing, unfortunately positioned about 10 ft. above ground level.  When you're 5 feet tall, 10 feet is a looong way.  The span ran from just over the back deck, behind a tree, and over the basement door stairwell.  First things first, a ladder.

Ah the ladder conundrum.  See, there was already a ladder propped up against this wall.  Right behind the tree, where I would need to get up anyway to staple this new strip of tarpaper.  Unfortunately, this ladder was an enormous one and would put me significantly too high to affix the paper.  Must remove large ladder to make way for smaller ladder.  No problem!  I walked up to that large ladder, grabbed hold of a rung and pulled like hell.  Ladder wouldn't budge.  Mmmmkay.  I wedged my butt up against the tree, braced my legs, and pulled higher on the ladder.  Success!  I managed to tilt the ladder away from the house.  At this moment, two things occurred simultaneously.  The ladder got stuck in the tree, and I realized the ladder was approximately twice as heavy as what I could safely lift.  Unable to lift the big daddy ladder, my only safe option was to tilt the ladder and let it fall in a location where it wouldn't do any damage.  With the glass-french-doored garden shed behind me, the back deck to one side, that left approximately 10% of available area for the ladder to fall.  Awesome.  I climbed up on the deck so as to have better leverage trying to push and pull the ladder out of the tree.  As the ladder swayed close to our brand-new, seven brajillion dollar windows, I broke out in a cold sweat.  Ten body positions later and some minor swearing at the tree and I managed to drop the ladder exactly where I had intended. Off to a good start!

I then discover that putting the short ladder on the back porch actually makes me too tall to hang the strip of paper where I need to.  Short of growing precisely four feet, what's a girl to do?  How about improvise something to stand upon!  Brilliant idea.  What do we have?  A keg and a cinderblock?  Okay!
Oh god.  (Sorry there are no pictures of the actual event and only these scene-of-the-crime ones, but its awfully hard to fear for your life and photograph yourself at the same time.)  I managed to tear a piece of tarpaper roughly the right size, scale this little contraption, and get the first end stapled in.  Success!  Elation!  Oh wait, I still have 3/4 of the sheet left to go.

Next phase, behind the tree.  I manage to wrangle the little extension ladder (which I can lift all by myself thankyouverymuch) into place behind the tree.  Excellent.  I climb up three rungs and realize something doesn't feel right.  Oh right, I put the ladder up to the house backwards.  Whoops!  Back down the ladder, putthethingdownflipitandreverseit (just like Missy Elliott) and ascend again.  Realize that the ends of my ladder are exactly where the tarpaper needs to go.  No problem!  I'll just put my butt in this handy tree, tilt the ladder away from the wall, skootch the paper behind the ladder tips and put the ladder back down.  This technique actually worked!  OMG.  OK, it mostly worked.  In the photo below you can see the semi-unsightly puckering created by my unconventional approach, but the damn paper was up there!  Take that, haters.

  The final and last portion was the sketchiest.  It is a little hard to explain the orientation here which caused all the trouble in the first place but basically, the ladder had to be positioned in the basement door stairwell, all the way up against the back wall.  The kitchen vent was precisely one ladder width away from the back wall of the stairwell.  AKA there was only one place the ladder could be, which of course was precisely the wrong place.  The ladder tips were again positioned in the exact place I needed to put the tarpaper.  No handy tree to tip back into this time.  Couldn't position the ladder lower because with my short arms I wouldn't be able to reach the top of the paper.  Couldn't position the ladder higher because well, to be honest, have you ever tried raising an extension ladder?  It requires some upper body strength that I don't have.  So, what's a girl to do?  I got up there with the paper and pondered this situation.  I wound up tearing it to fit around the ladder and stapling it in place.  Hmmm, sub par, Wifey.  

Never fear, there's nothing like a good chance for a do-over!  I finished this by 8:30 Tuesday morning.  At about 8am on Thursday morning, I was on my way to catch my bus but I had an extra ten minutes.  I was all dolled up for work in my tightest jeans and wool peacoat, but I figured I'd just go peek on my tarpapering job to make sure it was holding up.  Huge mistake.  The tarpaper had torn loose from all but the very far staples.  UGH.  OK, I've got five minutes, I'm just gonna get up there and make it stay up!  Grab staple gun!  Ascend ladder in heels!  Bad plan!  Halfway up the ladder my peacoat got stuck in the tree.  A minute of thrashing around reminded me that my tight-ass jeans were not conducive to any sort of gymnastics.  Or really, any sort of movement at all, short of looking cute.  Two more minutes were spent trying to get the paper up underneath the top layer, while extending my arms over my head all the way and attempting to staple.  Without gloves on.  At the same moment that my hands went numb, I ran out of staples and realized I had missed my bus.  OK, time to back up the bread truck.  I wiggled down the ladder in my tight jeans, stuffed my numb hands inside my pockets and ran inside.  Five minutes later I re-emerged in trusty Carhartts and fleece, found my gloves, taught myself how to reload the staple gun and tried again.
This time, I decided the tearing-around-the-ladder plan completely eliminated the waterproofness of the tarpaper.  After considering the situation for a couple minutes, I came up with a very creative plan.  I stapled the tarpaper OVER the ladder, and carefully retracted the ladder once done.  Looks kinda like an art installation, but is 100 percent waterproof!  Triumph.  Check it:

See there, right under the vent?  It isn't supposed to look like a sea anemone, that's all my "creativity".  

So there you have it, team.  My saga of me vs. the weatherproofing.  However, its amazing how proud you can be of one strip of black paper.  See that new stripy strip in the middle?  All me baby!  The husband got home, checked it out, and proclaimed that it was so good he was leaving it up, even the sea anemone.  I couldn't have been prouder.  Let me know if you all have any questions about tar papering because I am clearly a seasoned pro.