2005 Ode to the opposing thumb!

The big project for Summer 2005
Ode to the Opposing thumb!

I was watching something on TV once, and I can’t even remember the context or the people involved now. A panel of people was interviewing a world-renowned scientist and he was fielding their questions with patience and care. Finally one person who obviously had been dieing to ask this question for years, finally got a chance to ask it. It was something along the lines of ?What caused humans to become the dominant species on the planet, was it the expanded brain case, the ability to imagine, or our ability to verbalize? What was the one thing that made humans superior to other animals?? I can picture him to this day holding his extended hand up in front of his body in direct eye line between them and he slowly folded his thumb into the palm of his hand ‘The opposing thumb’ he said. You could see the bubble burst just before the panelist went ballistic.

For past month we have been working on our house here in Oromocto. While we were visiting with mother earlier in the summer we took the measurements for our house to the Kent store in Sussex for an estimate on the cost of materials for installing house wrap, an inch of Styrofoam insulation, and vinyl siding.

We have been talking about doing it for years but the cost and time were always prohibitive. This year we had the time and a fair amount of renovation (some people call it rent) money built up in the kitty. The estimate came back as 1800 square feet of siding plus J molding, bottom strip, inside and outside corners, etc, and it was within our budget so we put it on our To Do list for the summer.

The renter moved out and we moved in, to the yard not the house. We drove the rig down into the yard and hooked up power, and I headed into town to rent scaffolding. ‘How long’ he asked. ‘A week maybe two’ I figured (OK I know that was optimistic.)

We took a day to get the decks, stairs, lights, outlets, water spigots, and downspouts off the house. While doing this we discovered that there was two sections of roof that had shingles that HAD TO be replaced and one section that was marginal. So add three sections of roof to the job. (about 450 sq ft of roof total) The siding took the rest of the week to come off. The material had started to arrive but we were short most of the siding and the house wrap. ‘They ran out I’ll bring you the rest Monday’. Monday never did come, so when we finally got to the point where we had to have something we just went in with the truck and got it.

It took about a week to get the three sections of roof done. One piece was in the back between the main house and the garage. We put the scaffolding up to the bottom of the roof, tied a rope to our small extension ladder, tossed it over the roof, tied it to the bumper of the truck and did the roof that way. The truck stayed locked and the keys were in my pocket the whole time I was on the roof. We would have to do two walls of vinyl siding the same way. It was a lovely week to be on the roof, sunny, hot, and humidex in the high 30s and low 40s Celsius.

The estimate said two rolls of house wrap so we got two rolls of house wrap. If I had of thought about it for a minute I would have gotten another. Each roll is 900 sq feet we have an estimate saying it needs 1800 sq ft and we have to have some overlap so two rolls really wouldn’t do it, but we were going to have a lot of that last roll spare.

We have tried several ways of renting the house, advertising in papers and with real estate agents. Then we discovered that if you stick a ‘For Rent’ sign on the mailbox that within hours the house is rented. The last time we did stuck up the sign within a few hours it was rented. This time it wasn’t much more this time. They were set to move in the first of August. They knew we were working on the house and that was fine with them.

We were setting up the staging and putting on the house wrap, using sheathing tape to seal it and the putting on 4×8 sheets of one inch foam trying to get as much done as we could before we had to move the staging. Since we needed to have both sides of a corner done before the vinyl siding could go on we really couldn’t put the vinyl on in the first round. We were only delivered one of the two bundles of Styrofoam (30 sheets) we needed. I went and picked up another bundle and the house wrap at the same time.

We really started to know we were in trouble when we ran out of the second roll of house wrap and still had whole walls that were untouched. We did have lots of overlap but not THAT much overlap. I sat down one night with the same drawings as I had given the hardware store and had an estimate of just over 2200 square feet of vinyl siding. I went out and got another roll of house wrap and shook my head wondering which wall he forgot to add in.

When we got to the next to final wall of the house and realized we were out of Styrofoam and nearly out of house wrap we were scratching our heads and wondering if the house was growing with all the rain we were getting. We weren’t sure if we needed the extra roll or not but heading into the long weekend I wasn’t going to chance it so we bought a fourth roll of house wrap and another 20 sheets of foam (80 4×8 sheets for those counting). We also picked up another 1000 square feet of siding and were promised that more would be in tomorrow. I went in the next day and picked up 3 more boxes (200 sq ft per box). I figured that we needed one full box, a little bit of the second and had one box to bring back, but heading into the long weekend I was wanted extra just in case. With any luck we would be done by the end of the long weekend.

We were working along and we actually did get the last wall house wrapped without using the last roll of house wrap. We stapled and taped every window cut out, every door cut out, the excess overlap pieces and taped it all together until the end wall looked like it had more red sheathing tape on it than house wrap. The foam was on and the house was sealed. Bonnie felt much better now that the house was sealed as the rains were forecast again.

We put the vinyl siding on the south and west (back) sides of the house first, as those required the staging. With three levels of staging we could just reach the top of the bedroom level of the house, once we got those sides done then we could return the rented scaffolding as the front (east side) of the house is all stepladder height and the north wall we could do with our large extension ladder.

We were working 12-14 hour days and finally had the south and west walls were done. The tenants were moving in. We let them move stuff in early. It was a rainy and wet and we were rushing between showers to get something done. We wanted to move our rig back to the lot across the street as they were actually sleeping in the house that day (August 1st). I was cutting a piece of J mold with a box cutter to fit around the electrical meter when the nice brand new blade sliced thru the J mold with a snap and right thru my right thumb. Nice triangular blade cut about 5/8 of an inch on the pad side about a half an inch cut on the nail side (the outbound edge was about an 1/4 inch from the nail on the same side as the index finger). That smarts.

We did get the bleeding stopped after a while. Fingers bleed a lot. I went over to see Debbie our neighbour who is a nurse. She looked at it and suggested that an emergency room trip was in order. So I wasted a couple hours sitting around until a doc got around to stitching up my thumb. If I had to stick a box cutter through my thumb or get it frozen, it would be box cutter every time. Even getting the stitches thru the area that wasn’t frozen wasn’t as bad as the freezing. He said to not jerk my hand away while he was freezing it that it would be ‘sensitive’. Four stitches later I was back to the RV and Bonnie had it ready to go. Paul, Debbie, Bonnie and I went out to recover with a stuffed crust pizza. Gotta clog that cut with something.

I am extremely right handed and even using it to lift or stretch caused more than a little ‘sensitivity’. One swing of a hammer was all that was needed to start retraining my left hand and Bonnie in the ways of vinyl siding. She, as always, had been working at my side, lugging scaffolding, roofing, vinyl siding, now she got to be chief carpenter. The only thing she was hesitant about was the saw. She really doesn’t like the saw so I adapted to sawing left handed. Being down to three opposing thumbs slowed us down considerably but we still progressed at a reasonable clip.

Bonnie’s hammering technique improved greatly. By the end of the first day she was whacking with the best of them. She ended up doing a lot of stuff that I normally do, but without two functional opposing thumbs some things are extremely difficult. She even started responding to calls for ‘Opposing Thumb Person’.

Things that are near impossible or at least very difficult without two opposing thumbs are: (or at least one opposing thumb that has very good proximity radar)

getting a tool belt on,
buttons of almost any form, add a big gut and you don’t want to think about it,
dragging scaffolding up 15 feet into the air on a rope,
opening a tub of margarine,
cutting up an onion, (Bonnie did not like seeing me holding sharp objects)
holding onto a 4×8 sheet of Styrofoam in gusting winds,
getting a tool belt OFF.

We quickly gave up on any hope of getting the siding on by the end of the long weekend. By this time the scaffolding was on a 4 week rental, ‘Once your past three weeks you automatically get the four week rate’ That was nice. By Friday it was time to return the scaffolding and since it had rained again the house grew a little more and that extra box of siding that we had so we could return it was not going to be enough to finish. The weather forecast was good so we only picked up one more 200 sq ft box in the hope we could get it done before the house swelled any more.

We did get all of the siding on before it rained so we did actually have some of the last box of siding left. (The 1800 sq ft estimate was only off by 500-600 sq ft.)

We used approximately 74 4×8 sheets of Styrofoam with very little waste. Eleven cans of Mono expanding foam to seal any cracks around the sheets, and 30 tubes of caulking to seal the vinyl siding, windows, doors, electrical outlets, lights, and attic vents. (OK I know it’s not a boat but still!), 14 bundles of roofing, almost 50 pounds of 2 inch nails, 3 rolls of house wrap, 4 and a bit rolls of sheathing tape, and over 5000 staples.

After we were done putting the siding on we had to reinstall the decks and staircases, and as always, there were boards that needed to be replaced, painting and staining to be done and trim work.

We finally finished the last of the painting, caulking, trimming, and are almost finished the picking up around the yard.

My stitches are out now and the thumb is ‘healed very nicely’. It still looks ugly, but is hammer friendly and I can do most things requiring opposing thumbs.

And the dominance of humans is definitely due to the opposing thumb.


The job is all done

The job is all done

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