To paraphrase one Walter Elias Disney – smart man, done some things, you might be familiar with his work – it all started with a crowbar.
Okay, to back up a bit, it actually all started with this crowbar last year when I began ripping up the engineered hardwood in our apartment in anticipation of springtime renovations to our home. We were looking at the total replacement of our bathroom, as well as some small work in the kitchen, a whole mess of painting, and entirely new tile and carpet throughout. It was going to be a lot of messy work, and like a couple of loons, we were also going to try to live in our apartment while it was being renovated.
So naturally the very best time to begin tearing up the floor, splinter by agonizing splinter, was eight months out from the start of the work, just to make the intervening time as uncomfortable, awkward and dangerous as humanly possible. That our lower limbs did not succumb to gangrenous affront is something of a miracle to me, after half a year of wandering around on bare concrete floors with partially exposed, toe-puncturing nailing strips lying in wait.
A month out from the planned start of work I began filling out the approvals paperwork required by our condo board. Roughly a month later I had the paperwork finished, after jumping through hoop, after hoop, after hoop stipulated by the board. Some of the hoops were understandable and reasonable – of course we can’t use gravity-assisted toilets in a stack condo, we’d be pissing on our neighbours’ heads. It has to be a wall-mount unit, duh. Other hoops were less reasonable – thinking here, of course, of the hideously expensive, ungodly HEAVY and completely unwieldy underlay we had to purchase, the installation of which, in retrospect, is what set the entire job back by about three weeks.
In response to a letter of complaint I sent to our property management firm, the property manager disagreed with my pissed-off assessment that the condo board appears to be made up of a bunch of weekend DIY-ers who have no business approving decisions related to major infrastructure. She has absolutely no evidence to back up her assertion, but I certainly do – the board-mandated underlay, for instance. Also the toilet that was board-mandated and approved – I even included printed schematics in my submission! – except when we went to install it, it didn’t fit. I don’t know how I managed to hold it together, but there’s a boardroom in my building that’s lucky it didn’t have a wall-mounted, low flush porcelain crapper thrown through its window.
But to use the underlay as an example, had any one of my neighbours on the board actually taken a good look at the product in question – 10 to 12 millimeter-thick, National Research Council-rated padding to lay under hard flooring types such as ceramic – they would have noted that it was 1) total overkill (are we soundproofing our home or a concert venue?) and 2) a completely inappropriate stipulation given its cost, availability, and general immovability. Two young, fit guys STRUGGLED to heave those gigantic rolls up to our apartment, and it took another young, fit guy two full, very sweaty days – plus setting time! – to actually install the underlay. To say nothing of the many, many framing and trim workarounds we had to employ after the fact to accommodate a floor pad that was now more than half an inch higher.
And while things are beginning to change, the age mix in our building still skews pretty heavily toward folks born in the 1930s and 40s – people in their retirement years on fixed incomes. I can’t imagine they’d be super pleased to bear the various costs – to their wallets, homes and bodies – of this product that they are being forced to use by a board that has not done its due diligence. I’ll amend my earlier critique to now call them a bunch of rubber stamp-happy, weekend DIY-ers who have no business approving decisions related to major infrastructure.
And I suspect I am not alone in this assessment, because once the work actually began in earnest, it became quite clear that we were some of the only people adhering to the rules and regulations set forth by the condo board. Rules and regs regarding the booking of the service elevator, rules and regs regarding the kind of materials we could use in our renos, rules and regs regarding the disposal of construction materials, and rules and regs regarding the behaviour of contractors in and around the building. Again, some of these stipulations are valid – I’ve got no problem keeping a watchful eye on strangers in the building, even if I invited them in; that’s just good safety policy. But most of the stipulations were cumbersome and pedantic, like the board was given a 100-point checklist titled Little Ways To Really Piss Off Your Condo Owners, For Fun and Profit! As such, I think a lot of my fellow residents said, “Oh, sod THIS” and went their own way, without board approval or, more importantly, board oversight. Because you don’t have to jump through their hoops if they don’t know what you’re doing.
Which led to all manner of sneaky subterfuge happening in the building, and I’m not just talking about the couple I found banging down in the women’s sauna one evening. Or the naked ladies boogeying to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack in the women’s change room. Or the guy trying to stuff two thoroughly dead and dried-out Christmas trees down the garbage chute one pre-dawn May morning. It’s amazing what people try to get away with when they think no one’s looking. My neighbours are animals.
But animals who apparently know well enough to keep The Condo Man out of their business, which includes co-ed naked sauna-ing, Dirty Dancing and inappropriate disposal methods, yes, but also includes more serious infractions like carrying out their renovations however and with whatever they see fit, without making submission to the board for approval. Which is a super big piss-off when you’re actually playing by the rules and paying dearly for it. That ridiculously expensive and cumbersome underlay, for instance? The guys who installed our carpet and through whom we sourced the underlay – they’re probably the biggest, oldest flooring concern in the city – confirmed that we are some of the only people they have sold it to in our building, where the construction is never-ending and this material has been mandated into use by the board. And yet we are the ONLY people I saw schlepping this stuff around. If it’s a required material, why do we seem to be the only residents actually using it?
At the end of it all, I’m glad we stayed on the side of right, even if it cost us time, money and precious, precious sanity. Plus I now get to be a righteous ass – WE DID THINGS THE CORRECT WAY, SO GTFO. But there were many, many times when I questioned why we were adhering to the process so strictly, and seeing no immediate benefit in return.
But really, this entire process was an ordeal, and that was all before ground had even been broken, so to speak (don’t joke; a giant hole in our floor was pretty much the only problem we didn’t have!) In the next installment of this three-part series, we get down to work on transforming our home and losing our minds. I hope you’ll come back and join me as I wade a little deeper into this journey – somebody needs to throw me a life preserver when the memories get to be too much. 😉