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February 7th, 2012:

Smelling (Or Not Smelling) Victory


As I posted on Facebook last night:

My family room now has a floor
And some fancy new tile by the door;
Though it took sixty days
We both knew patience pays–
Now it’s all that we’d hoped for and more!

Yesterday was Floor Coverings Day here. The poem doesn’t quite capture it. All of the lower level areas that were once carpeted were re-carpeted, and that includes two good-sized bedrooms, the hall, the big stairs, and our 20′ X 20′ family room. The total carpeted area is just under 900 square feet. Much of our original carpeting was pulled up or otherwise destroyed when we had the lower-level slab mudjacked back in December. The rest was torn up and carried out yesterday morning, along with a great deal of carpet padding, some tack strips that had gotten in the way of construction, and assorted trash that sure seemed like it came out of nowhere.

It took a little over seven hours, but the new padding was laid and then the carpet put down atop it. The stairs represented a great deal of fussy work, as was getting things cut just so for the closet insets and odd corners. We think it’s gorgeous. It’s much better carpet than what the contractor put down when we built the house in 2003. It matches the wood trim a lot better, and with some top-of-the-line padding underneath it, you feel like you’re walking on a firm mattress.

So we smell victory on the remodeling front. Things aren’t completely done. The roll vinyl for what we call the Harry Potter Closet (a huge-ish volume under the main stairs) was back ordered, and we may not get it laid until next week. But once that’s in, the construction is basically done. After that, I hire movers to put the furniture back where it was, and then start emptying 1,000-odd books out of boxes onto the shelves.

Why did it take so long? We smelled vectory when we didn’t smell it, basically. As anyone who’s worked with carpet should know, not smelling carpet and (especially) carpet padding is nontrivial. Our lower level stank of carpet pad plasticizers for a couple of years, and plasticizers are one of Carol’s migraine triggers. We looked at countless carpet samples, and the first thing we did when we laid hands on any sample was sniff it. If it stank of solvents or anything else, interview over.

This was a problem with carpeting. Our eventual choice was pure nylon and doesn’t smell enough to be an issue. The problem was a great deal worse with carpet padding. A lot of padding is made of chopped-up scrap padding salvaged from subdivision-scale construction, and to make it all stick together, well, they use solvents. Even what might appear to be new padding is plastic foam, and plastic is just polymers in solvent. They stink.

This was our major issue, and we said so. A number of carpet vendors did not take us at all seriously. I had to be a major hard-ass, which is against nature for me and requires practice. I got lots of practice: “This pad smells.” All padding smells. “This pad smells too much.” Padding that doesn’t smell is more expensive. “Brings us samples of what you have that smells less.” We have to order the samples. “Then order them.” It’ll take two weeks. “Good-bye.”

We shopped for almost a month. The pad we chose is some sort of unobtanium pseudo memory foam that looks like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s purple, sheesh, and has a gray-lavendar impermeable film on both sides. It’s also a far better insulator than most carpet pad, and given that it’s basically sitting on a slab of concrete resting on the Colorado soil, that did matter. At the carpet store, we held it up to our noses, and when we realized that we couldn’t tell whether it was the pad that we smelled or just the general reek floating around in the store, we knew that we’d found it. We took a sample with us, and when we got it home we realized it didn’t smell at all. I don’t know how they did that.

Don’t care. Sold! It was interesting that the stink-free is warranteed for longer than the carpet itself. That was fine; dogs are hard on carpeting. Hell, ordinary life is hard on carpeting. If in another ten years the carpet starts looking sorry, we’ll have it pulled up and get new carpeting. That pad, now, well. It stays.

So. Slab is where it’s supposed to be. Paint’s done. Tile’s done. Plumbing repairs done. Carpet’s done. Victory is one small roll of back-ordered vinyl flooring away. I can almost smell it.