4. Jolly times and fun facts

Lurking behind the linoleum wall covering in my old bathroomI’ve pulled the toilet and reseated it on a new wax ring twice in the last year, and it needs doing again. A handyman built a wooden platform for the “throne” so to speak, but the boards are now warped and popping up. Did I mention the floor is sloping down at a steep angle? Hard to level a toilet on that. Hard to stand up straight sometimes too. I got tired of rocking when seated, so I inserted little plastic shims under the base. I figured they’d also help stop the water leaking out around the sides. But like I said, the floorboards are warped, so this was not a perfect solution. A friend came over and tightened the two bolts holding the toilet down, but he’s not sure they aren’t going to work loose again. (They will.) A non-working bathroom is one of the situations that makes me really want to cry. Once, a handyman who sadly is no longer with us came, worked on it, couldn’t fix it right away, and left me with no bathroom. I was not a happy camper.

Moving on to the walls – someone in the fifties or forties thought it would be a good idea to cover them with sheets of linoleum. An inch-wide strip of black faux-tile linoleum was added as a decorative touch, an attempt at wainscoting I guess. All that linoleum is now coming unstuck, just hanging there, revealing a pervasive layer of haphazardly spattered black unremovable mastic. I’m going to tear off the linoleum, then try to primer and paint over the gob-smacked walls, and just ignore the bumpy texture. The stuff won’t pry loose, and it’s supposed to be hazardous if disturbed anyway.

That’s another fun fact about this house. It’s got toxic stuff in and on the walls. Lead paint, of course. That’s not remarkable for a house this old. But that black mastic, oh my. And then there’s the insulation. One summer in the sixties, I remember my grandparents being excited about just having had this installed. A contractor cut knotholes around the exterior, and blew Zonolite (vermiculite) into the house. This horrible substance was touted as a great way to insulate the houses in this area. It was from a now-closed mine in Libby, Montana. A superfund site. There was a class-action settlement many years later. I got authorization to claim $4000, and I still could do that, but hiring a certified crew for any remediation work would cost a lot more by a longshot. As the homeowner, I could do the work myself. Seriously, that is not going to happen. As long as I don’t disturb any toxic substances, I can make do. So that’s what I am doing. Making do.

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