Spring break was no time for rest at the Woelk house

Whenever I get a break from teaching, I have a hard time just sitting around and relaxing. This year’s spring break, a two-day hiatus from the high school hallways, was no exception. While I took some time off from cerebral activities, the rest of my body got a major workout.

I am in the process of finishing my back porch. When my wife, a friend from church and I built it several years ago primarily to house a hot tub, we decided to install a deck-type floor and to leave the walls and ceiling un-insulated and unfinished.

We constructed the porch in such a way that we could eventually convert the space into a kind of family recreation room or a place for our son to play his electric guitar without rattling the windows on the main part of the house.

I’m certainly no Bob Vila, but I have done some rough carpentry a time or two. The fact is I enjoy a bit of manual labor as a diversion from grading papers and such. As long as the boss doesn’t require the work to be too perfect and she doesn’t look too closely, the finished product is usually passable.

I’ve been piddling around with this porch project for several weeks. One weekend I completed the insulation. The next weekend I installed the ceiling. The 25 bucks I spent for the drywall lift was the best buy of the whole project. Once I got the hang of using it, that thingamajig was a real time and back saver.

I planned to dedicate my spring break to laying down a new sub floor and finishing the walls.

I have to say, I have really appreciated those guys down at The Lumberyard. Even though they were very busy, and like every other do-it-yourselfer I often come in just before closing, they answered my questions, made helpful suggestions and made sure I had the right materials. I was never made to feel anything but welcome.

Unfortunately, before I could dedicate my break to the porch project, I still had a bit of work to complete on a previous job. To make matters worse, it involved plumbing, which I enjoy almost as much as a root canal.

I had already installed new flooring and a new toilet over Christmas break. But the pedestal for the sink was defective and had to be sent back to the factory. So that part of the job was postponed.

I could never find enough time on weekends to complete the plumbing. Between family showers and the endless loads of wash that needed to be done, we couldn’t survive without water for the half-day or so I estimated the task would require.

Thursday was the perfect opportunity. So, I waded in.

Everything was going well at first. The old sink came out easily. I had visions of completing the job in a couple of hours. But, as my dad is always fond of saying, “Nothing’s ever easy.”

The troubles began when the drainpipe broke off near the spot where it entered the wall. No worries. I figured I’d just chisel off the old brass nut and pull the drain tube out.

I underestimated the tube’s desire to stay where it was, however. No amount of coaxing on my part could break it loose. So, I ended up spending over an hour trying to mangle the thing enough to remove it.

I also need to express my appreciation to the guys (and gal) down at the Hillsboro Hardware Store. Not only did they fix me up with the parts I needed, they never mentioned the number of trips I had made back and forth that morning. Shoot, one time I didn’t even make it home before I went back. I just circled the block and pulled back into the same parking spot.

I was thinking about having the Koslowsky boys paint my name on the curb in front of the store to reserve my space.

Miraculously, by 4 p.m., the water was back on, and the new sink was fully operational. But the better part of my day was gone. I decided to put off the porch work until Friday.

As it turned out, the second day of my break was much smoother. With the aid of my 10-year-old daughter, my father-in-law’s pickup truck, and The Lumberyard guys, the sub floor was completed in record time.

Anna and I even had a chance to start work on a fifth-grade school project. The smell of freshly cut wood permeated the air. Life was good.

Saturday proved to be some of the most challenging work so far. My goal was to cover the walls while creating the fewest seams possible. By 11:30 a.m., it was becoming obvious that I would be short on materials. So, I made another quick trip The Lumberyard.

Noticing the half-dozen or so customers hanging around, I pointed out to Jon Hefley that maybe he should consider staying open longer on Saturdays. He smiled and assured me it didn’t make any difference; it had already been tried, and everybody still showed up just before closing time.

I wrapped up my project as the sun was setting, and I was feeling pretty good about what I had accomplished. The bulk of the heavy work was complete. All that remains now is to install the trim, then paint and stain the whole works. I’ll let somebody else lay the carpet.

After supper, I decided to spend a little time cleaning up my garage, where I had been cutting paneling all day. I wanted to be able to put my car away. As I would soon find out, this particular St. Patrick’s Day would be quite a lucky one for me.

I have an attic area above my garage, and an old stairway folds down from the opening in the ceiling. I was carrying some lumber scraps up the stairs near the top when the whole works gave way. I went crashing to the floor from a height of about eight feet as the stairway broke in half.

It all happened in the blink of an eye, but I remember yelling all the way down. I sort of surfed the stairway to the floor.

As I lay there on the concrete amid the dust and debris, I took a quick inventory. Miraculously, I was not seriously hurt. I couldn’t imagine such a fall without major damage of some sort.

Within seconds, my wife came running out of the house. My neighbor came around the corner to see if she needed to call an ambulance. I was almost embarrassed to say I wasn’t significantly injured.

I received a bruise under by arm and a scrape on my rear end the size of Cleveland. Let me rephrase that: a scrape the size of Cleveland on my rear end.

Other than feeling shaken up, I escaped basically unharmed. I wish I had a videotape of what happened since there were no witnesses. Maybe I could have sold it to some cable company.

After all, you’ll never see Bob Vila crash down a stairway.

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