M. Giant's
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Wednesday, June 12, 2002  

Seen from above, our house is shaped like an “L” with a very short cross-stoke. The peak of the roof runs along the L’s longer axis. As a result of this, the entire northwest quadrant of the roof is serviced by about a foot and a half of rain gutter. As you might imagine, a good, healthy downpour has a tendency to rinse about a metric ton of dirt, leaves, seeds, and residual shingle schmutz towards nine square inches of downspout area. As you might suspect, this has the salutary effect of clogging the downspout tighter than a wine cork. As you might have already concluded, I forget about this every single time. Until somebody steps in a puddle in the kitchen.

The thing is that when the downspout is clogged, that foot-and-a-half of gutter fills up pretty quick. There’s nowhere for the rainwater to go except over the edge of what has become a small giraffe-trough. That would be fine, but the curve of the gutter seems specially designed to maximize surface tension. So instead of falling straight down, the water gets imparted with a jaunty inward swing, making it possible—nay, inevitable—for great drenching bucketfuls to curtain merrily against our house exactly at windowsill level.

Now, our house is reasonably weatherproof, but it’s not SeaLab, okay? When a lake at eave-level drains into a newly forming lake at window-level, some of that water is going to end up inside the house. What normally happens is that the water seeps through the sash and down into the wall below the window, which it eventually abandons in favor of the floor (yes, my new floor) and creeps over to the spot where your feet will be when you’re getting a towel out of the drawer in the center island. Which actually is kind of a convenient little twist, but still. Rain is supposed to be outside, not in here soaking the bottoms of my socks.

I need new gutters, you say. I have new gutters, I say. These suckers just went up not five years ago. Part of the problem is that the very next winter, weather conditions conspired to create massive ice dams on the roof. For those who doubt the kind of damage ice can do, I refer you to exhibit A, what I like to call the Great Lakes. Unsurprisingly, when several slabs of ice with the size, weight, and consistency of sidewalk sections spend a couple of months trying to slide off a steep roof and continually fetching up against the rain gutters, the micron-accurate calibration of those gutters is bound to suffer a bit. I fixed them, sort of, but they haven’t been the same since. The one over the kitchen window, being the most important one, the one that’s expected to handle the greatest volume of rain per inch, is the worst.

Two years ago, Trash and I got home from a long afternoon, evening, and late night out. Our constitutional had coincided with a hammering rainstorm. Trash, sitting at the kitchen table, abruptly found herself immersed to mid-calf. We investigated the source and found that the foot-and-a-half of gutter had apparently emptied itself into the casement window a hundred times over. The plaster below the sash had been completely saturated and now possessed all the structural integrity of an Icee. Trust me, that’s not something you want to see when you’re a homeowner.

It’s now long since plastered over and the entire kitchen is freshly painted and almost entirely redecorated and remodeled. So you can imagine my reaction the other night upon discovery of a new puddle in the kitchen, and the ominous damp streaks on the wall below the window. In fact, you’re just going to have to imagine it, since my parents read this.

Time to haul out the ladder for the annual ritual of Band-Aiding the gutter back to the house. Of course I got up there and immediately saw that the gutter had become a stagnant pool. Clogged downspout, as you already know if you read the first paragraph. I scooped out a couple of handfuls of slippery muck and flushed the rest out with the garden hose. Then I decided that if I just do this a couple of times a summer, I don’t have to mess with hammers and nails and crowbars trying to get it straight again. There’s no effort I won’t exert trying to avoid effort.

After that was done, I got the third hinge installed on the bathroom door. I know I’m getting better at this kind of project, because in the old days I would have forgotten to force the door into shape before marking the spot and then bolted the hinge firmly to the door in such a way as to preserve its swing-preventing warp forever. Then I’d be hosed because the screwholes I’d made would preclude the possibility of drilling new ones because they’d be too close and I’d just end up with three ragged gashes in the wood and we’d be back to “Just pick the door up and sort of lean it against the doorframe.” That didn’t happen, though. Totally made up for the fact that I couldn’t find a chisel to countersink the hinge plates and I had to use a screwdriver instead.

So, to wrap up: I used a garden hose to fix a piece of equipment designed to protect our home from the encroachment of the elements, while a wide plank designed to conceal the performance of a natural bodily function now has as many hinges as the door of a bank vault. Perhaps some kind of profound societal statement can be extrapolated from this. But that’s someone else’s job. Having fixed two, count ‘em, two things around the house, I felt justified in spending the rest of the evening shooting at Imperial Stormtroopers.

posted by M. Giant 4:38 PM 0 comments


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