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August 4, 2010
August marathon 2: “What hell looks like”

Gail and Cameron try to figure out how to drywall a hole in the ceiling

For the second part of the August marathon week at mountain home construction site, Gail decided to make further progress on drywalling the downstairs ceiling.

Meanwhile, Russell reserved Cameron’s help for a low-priority project that was getting overdue. When the window shutters had been installed a year ago, the upper and lower “stop points” had never been correctly set. Now that the shutters were electrically powered, it was important to set these points before someone accidentally wound the shutters too far up or too far down.

Unfortunately, this involved manually removing every one of the seven shutter covers. Then, Cameron (inside) would wind the shutters up and down, while Russell (outside) would set the stop points. We spaced the project out over a couple of days to reduce the tedium, and ultimately finished all seven.

Russell and Cameron set the window shutters

Gail, meanwhile, continued to get increasingly frustrated by the downstairs ceiling. Due to both the octagonal shape of the house and the wedged sections of the ceiling, each piece of drywall has to be individually measured and cut like puzzle pieces. Due to slight variations between the wedges, no two pieces are exactly the same. With fresh memories of Gail’s near-nervous breakdown in July, Russell made himself fully available to work with her on Tuesday morning as a team of two (Cameron was still sleeping in).

Gail works on the ceiling (yes, she is straddling two ladders, one of which is half on the floor and half on a pile of OSB

Russell measured and cut each drywall piece (the part that Gail hated the most), then he and Gail together fitted and secured them. We were additionally assisted by both the drywall lift and the portable scaffold.

We made enjoyable and efficient progress… until Tuesday afternoon. The next section included a hole in ceiling section No. 6, facing southwest. This hole would need a trapezoid-shaped piece.

By now Cameron was up and available, so we gave him the task of measuring and cutting the piece. He dutifully did so, then he and Gail went to fit it. It was too large and didn’t fit. They trimmed it down. Now it was too small.

Gail and Cameron try to fit a piece of drywall that is just slightly too big

Gail and Russell conversed privately and decided that we should leave the job in Cameron’s hands as opposed to taking it away from him. Cameron measured and cut a second piece, this time with Gail’s help. He and Gail went to fit it. It was too large and didn’t fit. They trimmed it down. Now it was too small.

Gail asked Russell to help. Russell and Cameron meticulously measured and re-measured every side and angle of the hole. When they tried to sketch the shape on a piece of drywall, they discovered that it was physically impossible to construct a piece with those measurements and angles.

While Russell sketches out measurements, Cameron glares at the still-unfilled hole in the ceiling

This single hole ended up taking the rest of Tuesday afternoon, all the way until dinner. Cameron finally got frustrated and quit, declaring “This must be what hell looks like.” Russell and Gail measured and re-measured the hole several more times, consistently coming to the same conclusion that it was impossible to draw a shape that had all of those specifications.

Mapping the “hell hole”: note the various outlines in black, blue, red ink and pencil

The good news is that we ended up skipping the “hole from hell” and moving on to other sections, where we made further progress. The bad news is that the “hole from hell” is still there, staring down at us.

The way it’s supposed to work: filling ceiling No. 5 with drywall “puzzle pieces”

On Wednesday morning, Russell and Cameron packed to leave. Russell has to return to the Bay Area for a work meeting. He will drive back up on Thursday, leaving Cameron by himself at home. In the meantime, Gail will stay up on the mountain by herself, continuing to tape and mud the downstairs ceiling.

During a calmer time, Cameron and Gail enjoy lunch outside on the swing


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