Here's Rat Poop in Your Eye.

I had high hopes for the floor and the ceiling. We live in a 1939 Cape Cod style house with a nasty 1950's addition and some unfortunate decorating decisions. Our family room is oddly divided into two sections, one being the addition, which, as best as I can figure, was fashioned as a home office complete with its own built-in space heater so old it screams "carbon-monoxide poisoning", and a random exterior door leading to the laundry room. Both rooms are covered in berber carpeting which is stained and compacted it resembles fuzzy concrete. The ceiling tiles over the addition are bulging and stained, making it look as though our ceiling has some horrible skin condition.

When we bought the house, we were informed that the floor of the addition was most likely plywood, however under the carpeting of the original family room we would find a hardwood floor. With the help of my friend, ED, I set about removing what was barely passing for carpet, expecting to reveal the beauty that lay beneath. (If you are laughing out loud right now, YOU SHOULD BE.)

Upon pulling back the first section of carpet, we saw that my fairy tale was really more cautionary in nature. The previous owner's realtor didn't exactly lie about there being hardwoods under the carpeting, he just failed to mention the layer of ugly yellowed linoleum with it's tar-like adhesive that was sandwiched in there. 

Once we recovered from our initial disappointment, we decided to keep going. Not only was the carpet padding so old and compacted in spots that it had been pulverized into dust; but it was attached to the floor in a 1x1 foot pattern of now rusty staples just waiting to inflict our family with Lock Jaw.  The project I envisioned as consisting of a few cuts with the utility knife, freeing the carpet to be rolled up and removed had quickly  turned into ED sweating to cut and pull back small sections of carpet, while I worked to remove 50-year-old staples with a flimsy office staple remover and some pliers. Then we'd have to vacuum orange carpet pad dust before moving on to the next section. It was slow going, and with only more ugly floor staring back at us, our will to continue soon waned.

"You know..." I said, "when you get new carpeting the installers remove the old carpet and haul it away for you."

That was it. We finished the swath we were working on, reasoning the scrappiness of the floor would  serve as an incentive to order new carpeting more quickly.

I don't know exactly what I was expecting to find hiding above the ceiling tiles. I guess I hoped for a white-washed shabby chic arrangement of exposed beams. (Again, you should be laughing.)  At the very least, I thought it couldn't be any worse that what was already there. Have I learned nothing in my life? IT CAN ALWAYS BE WORSE. Both boys and ED were standing at the foot of the ladder looking up intently while I poised my utility knife to cut into the ceiling. Mike, I believe, was only interested in how he could connive to climb the ladder himself, and I don't think King was entirely convinced yet that we wouldn't be able to see through to the upstairs level once we removed the tiles. I made a few cuts and pried enough loose to get a good grip on the tile. Thankfully I told everyone to close there eyes, because when I yanked the tile down we were hailed by rodent feces and tile dust. I hadn't thought of it before, but now that its particles were swirling around us, I was suddenly highly suspicious of the asbestos content of those tiles. The amount of rat (I assume) poop per square inch was amazing. The stuff was even splattered up onto the beams. How does that happen? I don't want to know. Even though I hoped that we just happened to uncover their favorite toilet corner and that the rest of the ceiling wasn't holding an equal amount of vileness above our heads, I still concluded that this, like the carpet removal, was best left to the professionals.

When Curtis got home that afternoon, he walked in the door and immediately asked what we had found.

"You know that saying: 'don't judge a book by its cover'?" I said.


"Well, in our case the book is much worse."