Tuesday, March 15, 2005

There's Always Something

I recently installed some laminate "hardwood" flooring (really just styrofoam under-layment, partical board molded substrate, and a lacqueresque sealed photopaper surface - but it looks good and wears well) in the old office downstairs, in an effort to make the house more attractive for sale. It was a little cheaper than carpet, and since I'd already done it once before I trusted myself with the installation (not having tried carpet work experience). No question that something needed to be done, since the cats had gotten to the previous carpet, so laminate may as well do. Have done. Whatever.

Getting the flooring down went well enough. Even the quarter-round composite moulding went down fine, though on occasion requiring a little more pursuasion (in the form of aggressive nailgunning) than others. The real problems didn't start until it came time to install the Transition Strips. These are somewhat like threshold seams found between most any 2 different flooring surfaces, except they're a 2 part installation instead of simply banging carpet tacks through them. In order to keep the surface free from impact defects and hide the attachment mechanism it is first required to lay down and affix a "U" shaped plastic track into which the transition moulding itself then rests.

For 2 of the four strips this was not a problem - I simply tacked the track down to the laminate flooring itself, as it was being transitioned to the higher surface of the carpet. Cut everything to size, miter a couple of edges to match an angle, and voila: beautiful work.

The other 2 though, were stepping down to concrete and linoleum respectively. Either way, this means attaching them to exposed cement. Now the previous tack strips used to hold the carpet down near the wall edges had overcome this same challenge with masonry nails, so this is where I decided to start (after a brief stop at the local Home Depot).

Apparently my cement was not laid with nails in mind, a problem compunded by masonry nails which were too wide (but were the only option at the store). First nail went in 3/8" and quit, bending and flaking off the top 1/4" of concrete as it was removed. One more try confirmed this behavior, so the approach was abandoned - they must have used shallower, more task-specific nails for the carpetting tack-strips is all I can figure. That, and the nails I purchased are more likely for brick & mortar work.

Next up: drilling. The tracks come with a set of handy sleeves to sink into a hole into which a screw may then be inserted, expanding it and keeping the assembly tighly wedged in place. Luckily I had a 1/8" masonry bit on hand. Roughly 15 minutes into the first attempt I had a good hole in place with very little bevelling near the outside edge. The sleeve tapped easily in place with a hammer and I was good to move on to the next spot (the track requiring 3 more attachment points).

No luck. 10 minutes of almost no progress and suddenly the bit begins to glow, as captured here:

Note that this was not actually blue, which would indicate an amazingly high temperature. Rather, the digital camera on my palm pilot is infra-red sensitive. Indeed, the bit was starting to glow blue according to the camera before it started glowing red and then orange to the naked eye. During this picture it was glowing a brilliant orange-white.

I abort the attempt, and take a look at the bit: the final phases of the previous drilling must have encountered far more extreme temperature (which I could not see, it being out of sight at the bottom of the hole). The two protruding flanges on either side of the bit had begun to slag, and laid themselves up into the fluting. The end had also begun to round off so as to now completely lack the required punch.

Drilling was then abandoned in favor of industrial strength glue, which worked fine on its first attempt with no complications.

That's the iceberg - here's the tip.

I couldn't see this coming. Not in manifest form, anyway; at best I could know that, "this kind of thing usually happens," and be satisfied with that carte blanche to the cosmos to have its way with the project. Which, to be fair to me, was actually part of my initial consideration. Had I been expecting zero resistance or immediate perfection I would have been sorely disappointed.

Now expanding this to slightly more philosophical application, this same expectation of delay due to emergent complication fits everywhere in life. It makes a severely frustrating but handy excuse for an inability to perform an end goal: it's why I find myself struggling against the tide to try and leave work before 7 at night, which is no small consternation to my wife and I.

There is some wisdom in the Zen-Buddhist perspective of attempting to find interest in that which must be done next, rather than an expected or pre-specified order of events. This can relieve a great deal of internal stress as there is no longer an obstructed desire which otherwise leads to internal conflict capable of building to emotional distress and/or outbursts.

But unless everyone adopts this attitude, it's only useful until dinner time. Some effort must be laid against affecting change in environment and schedule to coordinate activity with others - if I want to be out of the office on time, I am required to disrupt the incoming stream instead of dutifully and reasonably riding it to a far distant conclusion. This does introduce conflict and stress - but is far better than the alternative of abandoning time and attention to the things which to me, Really Matter.

Finding balance between these 2 forces is the current great struggle.

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