Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Adventures in Registers!

Part two of my mini-bedroom remodel. If you want to read part one, go here!

All my life. ALL of my life, there has been a register in my bedroom that has taken up nearly one entire wall.

It was the color of the putty plumbers use to seal sink drains into place. It was over six feet long. It could not be opened all the way to allow cold air or hot air into the room, or closed all the way to block said air out. Worse, it could not be removed.

Why was that a problem? Well, the standard size for duct-work (meaning, for the tube that brought air from the furnace/air conditioner to my room) is...not six feet. No. In fact, the biggest register cover the hardware store sold for my sort of register was 22 inches long. That is not even two feet long. That is one foot and ten inches long. That is called maths.

Years ago, I took a flashlight and knelt beside my register, shone the light down through the metal slits, and squinted. Indeed, there was a vent. But the vent was only on one side of the register. On the other side, there was a bare wooden board.*

I showed Mum, but she told me there was nothing for it. The register wouldn't come apart and she'd tried and tried to remove it, but couldn't. It was stuck, probably forever.

This was understandable, because the people who built our house were two things 1. psychotic and 2. great believers in overdoing their building efforts. So, someone who did not want the register to shift at all had taken a nail gun, cement, and the powers of darkness and used those forces to permanently affix the register to the wall. And floor. And this sphere of existence. Mum and I both thought that removing the register would probably also mean removing a section of wall.

But I decided this year I would get new carpet. The old carpet is very old, it cannot be cleaned properly anymore. It has practically felted with wear. I knew this was my one chance to rip out the register without having a giant hole in the carpet sitting there until I recarpeted AGAIN in another twenty years, so I got out a pry bar and a hammer, a handful of screwdrivers, a carpet knife, and I set to work.

I must have been having some kind of out-of-body experience when I decided to do this, because it was already 8:30 PM when I began, I failed to take any kind of "before" pictures, and I thought I could just smash the register with a hammer to make it fall apart. This wasn't quite how it worked out.

After a few minutes of listening to me slamming the hammer into the register, Dad arrived to see I'd made very little progress. Together, we physically ripped the front--and its rusted-shut screws--off the register using the pry bar and hammer. Then, we tore up more carpet and were able to reach the OTHER set of screws, which came out easily. We used the pry-bar to free the nails in the floor and the wall. We tore the now-mangled thing free. Immediately, we discovered why 1. my room has a tendency to smell dusty no matter how much I clean and 2. what the biggest reason is for NOT putting in a register three times the size of your vent...

The dust, people. It was like its own carpet, so thick and disgusting that I refused to take a photo of it. It was speckled with dead bugs, because it wasn't gross enough already. I wanted to die. That has been inches from my head every time I slept for most of my life. I started cleaning. I vacuumed, I scrubbed, there may have been bleach.

Darcy says, "What strange madness is this?"
This was when she realized it wasn't actually fun. 

Just to give you some perspective, here are some pictures. First the vent, with a pencil for scale because we were all out of bananas when I began this demolition project:

Ignore the filth of the carpet. It's gross because the register was RUSTY, too.

And now the whole gap in the carpet left behind when Dad and I ripped the register out. What's that down there? Oh, it's the same pencil in the same spot, which I left there to give you an idea of JUST HOW GIANT THE REGISTER WAS. It was taller than me. And I am plenty tall.

So big, I had to stand on a chair to take a picture of the whole thing.

The next day, I had to patch the many holes in the wall left from the nails and screws the former owners had used to install the old register. This was accomplished with plaster, because yes, plaster walls.

Register right after I installed it. Weird marks on wall above it are made of plaster dust.

Then I spent my Saturday lying on the ground with a scraper, chipping off the line of old paint above the register. It had left a ridge above where the register went. I did not want the ridge. So chiseling happened. Then sanding. Then paint where the register had been. I already had a new (correctly-sized) one. I cut trim boards to the lengths I needed to fill the gap between the new register and the trim.

Why the weird register? It was the only one in stock in the right size and color.

Later in the week, I stained the boards and used several coats of polyurethane to make it sort of match the trim already in place. Then I used my super-strength to nail in the new boards to fill the gaps on either side of the new register which, you guessed it, I had attached to the wall. I took care to use only the recommended number of screws when installing the register so that in 50 years or so, some other person won't have to injure herself or her loved ones trying to rip it out of the wall. Four screws and it's out. It's just that easy. The new trim is slightly shorter than the old, so when I installed it, I had to make sure to line it up along the top. making sure to keep it level and trusting that when the new carpet was installed, the gap along the bottom of the trim boards would be invisible.

Sneak peek of new carpet, along with barely-visible register and fancy trim I put in all by myself, like a boss.
See? Invisible gap along the bottom. I'm pretty happy about that trim.

And now the new register is behind my nightstand, looking all normal, able to be opened and closed on a whim, and whenever I want, I can take the front piece off and CLEAN INSIDE IT. No more insect graveyard, no more blanket of dust inside, just one perfect register designed with the allergy sufferer in mind. I call that a win.

*By "bare" I mean, of course, coated with centuries of dust, dead bugs, and did I mention dust? But I couldn't see that at the time. I was blissfully ignorant of the horror to come.

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