Herald and Journal, July 13, 1998

What's that ripping sound?


Over the 4th of July weekend I heard of a relative, not to mention any names, who was having trouble with a plumbing job he had done in his home.

This was one of those do-it-yourself things. He ended up with water leaking from the bathroom on the main floor, through the ceiling tile below, and into the basement bathroom. It wasn't a flood, but enough to make a mess and damage a repairman's ego.

In the last 29 years of living in our house, I have suffered through several such projects. Plumbing was always one of my least favorite enterprises. I was not the plumber, but the plumber's assistant. I got to hold all the things the plumber, my husband Tom, needed within his reach. I spent a lot of time looking up at pipes that Tom was soldering, hoping that the solder would hold.

Sometimes, we would be down in the basement until all hours of the night, trying to complete some plumbing job. My neck would get stiff from watching Tom solder the pipes for the 10th time, all the while praying that this time the solder would hold.

You might say it was a religious experience of sorts. Many silent prayers went up to heaven. I was often sprinkled with water, though it wasn't holy water.

Later on in our remodeling days, we heard of an invention that probably saved our marriage. Someone came up with a plastic pipe that you did not have to solder or glue together. Our upstairs bathroom was done in no time. You just bought all the fittings and slapped it together. Amazingly, it did not leak.

Our all time greatest home remodeling disaster was not plumbing related, though. Our house was built around the turn of the century. When we moved in, it had a lot of small rooms. We knocked out walls to make the rooms larger. All of these rooms have 8 1/2 foot ceilings.

We decided that the room we were using as the dining room could be improved by adding ceiling tile. We picked out our nice white ceiling tile and the dark gray adhesive to put it up. We started putting in the new ceiling one night before our kids had gone to bed.

At that time I believe we had four little helpers who were milling about beneath us as we tried to apply the adhesive to the tile and stick it to the ceiling we were covering. Tom was in charge of applying the tile. My job was to hand the tiles up to him, and provide any help he needed, like chasing kids out of the way.

The job seemed to go on forever. The kids went to bed, and the job still progressed slowly. Because the adhesive was a dark color, it would show easily if it smudged onto the previous tile as it was being put into place.

One of my jobs was to hand a rag to Tom to clean off any stray adhesive. As I recall we got done about one o'clock in the morning. It felt so good to lay down and rest. I was hoping the kids would sleep late, if I was lucky.

As I lay there thinking glorious thoughts of sleeping children, I began to hear a strange sound coming from the downstairs. I did not recognize the sound so I did not realize the disaster taking place below us.

The sound continued. It was a ripping noise. It sounded like someone was standing downstairs ripping something very loudly.

"What is that noise?" I asked Tom, as I nudged him awake. He listened for a moment and then we both got out of bed to see what was happening.

As we came down the stairs we could look into the dining room. Immediately we knew what the ripping noise was. As we watched in amazement, another one of the ceiling tiles pulled loose from the ceiling and plummeted to the floor. It landed, glue side down, on one of the tiles that had already fallen free of the ceiling. There were pieces of tile laying in a jumble all over the floor. There was dark gray adhesive on everything.

We got to work picking up the tiles and cleaning off the adhesive the best we could. The only thing we could do was to work as quickly as possible to clean up the tiles and replace them before the glue dried. Some of them could not be salvaged. I have no idea what time we were finally through, but we were both exhausted and thoroughly disgusted.

Using the tile we salvaged and some we had left from the original job, we manage to fix the ceiling. That ceiling tile is no longer in the house. We have remodeled the rooms a couple of times since then, but we never did use ceiling tile in that room again.

We put ceiling tile in the bedrooms upstairs, with much better results. With gray adhesive on white tile, you may ask?

No, this time we stapled the tiles to the ceiling!

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