Well, I guess I have to get around to fixing the kitchen in our $24,000 house, n’est-ce pas?
I’ve already fixed it, of course, but I haven’t belabored the internet with the details yet. So, gird your loins, here it comes. As is usual, photographs of the work will be in short supply. I’m not making a show for home and garden television here. If I were, you’d have excruciatingly detailed video and photographic evidence of me hanging GATHER signs on the wall, while workers unencumbered by trivialities like citizenship do all the scut work wherever the cameras aren’t pointed. Sorry, but you’re stuck with just me and my family banging on the house like a rental car.
Also, if you’d like a timeline for this project, you’re out of luck. I can’t remember when I did what, and even if I could, it would require one of those charts I recall from grammar school spangled with words like Mesozoic and Igneous and Walking Upright and stuff like that. Let’s just say it took a long time to fix the kitchen, and leave it at that, because if my wife gets to ruminating on how long it actually took, she might start calling lawyers and asking for estimates. I can’t afford a plumber, how am I going to afford a lawyer? After some reflection, I realize that lawyers make less than plumbers, but the point stands. I can’t afford anyone.
So let’s you and I take a walk down memory lane, and review just what we bought, kitchen-wise, when we lost our minds and moved here.
Well, there’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get jiggy with it. Yes, the backsplash in the kitchen is cedar shingles. If I sat up all night taking captagon and coffee and tried to think of a less suitable substance for a kitchen backsplash, I bet I’d fail to top that. Even the backsplash behind the stove was cedar shingles.
If you’re unfamiliar with cedar shingles, let me explain that a cedar shingle is a thin slab of gasoline, masquerading as wood. I start fires in a woodstove with busted up shingles. They’re easier to light than newspaper. Of course, it’s also impossible to clean a cedar shingle, so those slabs of gasoline were also saturated with grease from cooking over the years. If you mixed napalm and painted it on, you could up the ante, but otherwise you’d have to fold or call.
If you think I’m a bad photographer, you’re right, but that’s not the problem on display with the angle of these pictures. I’m not holding the camera crooked. The floor sloped about four to six inches towards the back of the house. It was like taking pictures on a windjammer cruise in there, at least until we jacked up the back of the house and slipped a foundation under it.
If you look at the toekicks under the cabinet runs, you can see the shims the former denizens kept slipping under the boxes to make up the difference as the house pitched and yawed. The slopey floor caused all sorts of scheduling headaches for renovations. Kitchens are expensive, no matter how cheap you are, but they’re important. We had to postpone major renovations on the kitchen until we lifted up the back of the house, because a lot of the work would have hopped off the walls if we’d gotten ahead of ourselves. We had to set up shop as best we could in this mess, and live with it for a good, long time.
Hey, how about that plumbing! By the pricking of my thumbs (on a stray staple in that chintzy cabinet frame), something leaky this way comes. A telltale sign is the smiling bottom panel on the cabinet, and the mouse highway it opened up. If you’re some sort of plumber reading this, you’re looking at that arrangement and your eye is twitching. It has two items I’d never encountered outside of Maine. Instead of a “P” trap, Mainers like to use drum traps, that weird two-part cylinder you see in the middle of the concatenation of plastic pipe on the way to the drain pipe. The drain pipe features that other Maine plumbing novelty, the AAV (air admittance valve). It’s that black party hat on top of the pipe. Instead of a vent pipe leading up to larger vent pipes and eventually poking out through the roof, air is admitted into the drain with a flapper valve inside the AAV. It’s not supposed to let (stinky, sometimes lethal) air out of the pipe, just fresh air in.
Neither of those things were ever allowed anywhere else I’ve built things. Plumbing inspectors would have a fit if you mentioned an AAV in Massachusetts, for example, even though it’s about the only sane way to vent a sink in an island. No soap no how, jack. But western Maine doesn’t have plumbing inspectors and it’s survival of the fittest and Hobbesian nasty, brutish, and short plumbing shortcuts all day long out here.
The AAV valve was broken, by the way. The rotten egg smell was unmistakable. I knew I needed to fix it right away, but I wasn’t prepared to completely replace all the plumbing in the kitchen on day one. I figured finding an AAV was going to be like trying to find a back alley abortionist or buy ivermectin or something. I went to the local lumber yard, and bought some stuff, and made small talk, and when I was fairly certain that the clerk wouldn’t narc on me, I leaned over the counter, beckoned him closer, and whispered that I wanted an AAV. Did he know a guy? Is there a parking lot we could meet in, late at night, and make a deal?
The clerk scratched his head, like he’d do a thousand times after he talked to me, until he was near bald, and simply pointed to a giant bin full of them on the wall. They were right next to the even bigger trough of drum traps.
[To be continued. If you’d like to support Sippican Cottage, keep reading, leave a comment, and tell a friend about our little palace of pixels here on the intertunnel. If you’re feeling wealthy, hit the tip jar, and if you’re feeling literate and wealthy, buy a book. Thanks!]