Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Home Improvement Blues

We’re still in the throes of home improvements in our little house in Ouaga. Things never turn out to be as simple as they seem at first glance. For instance, I went to replace the rusted-out screens on the screen windows and discovered that in fact I needed to replace the entire frames because the wood had rotted so badly over the passing years that in many places there was no longer any place solid enough to which to staple the screening!

In our bedroom, the cement coating on the floor was buckling, cracking, and flaking off in various places. After having the room painted, we decided to have the floor redone too. All we intended was another simple coating of cement, but our landlord happened by at about that time. An older Muslim man, he strode about the room in his long robe, looking at the holes in the floor, and said the he preferred to put tiles on the floor rather than just redoing it in cement. This may be his way of justifying a rent increase next year, but he’s the owner and paying for it, so who were we to say no?

This morning, the workmen arrived, two young men with pickaxes to chip away the remainder of the existing cement coating. The room is about 10’ x 10’ and this took all morning. After sweeping up all the chips, shoveling them into a pail, and throwing them out into holes in the road in front of our place, it was siesta time.

A few hours later, they came back with a couple of bags of cement. Earlier in the day, young men with donkey carts had brought a couple of loads of sand. Using this, they mixed up a batch of cement right there on the rough bedroom floor. Next, they began spreading a thin coat of cement on the floor, leveling it roughly with a small trowel and a 3-foot piece of 2”x 2” wood. After sprinkling on a few handfuls of Portland cement followed by water, they started placing the 12-inch square tiles on the floor. The piece of leveling wood was then used to make sure the tiles were roughly level. More Portland cement was then sprinkled into the cracks between the tiles, followed by water and wiped with a wet sponge. This all seems a little rough-and-ready to me, so it’ll be interesting to see how it all turns out…

In the meantime, we’ve rented an air-conditioned guestroom on the SIL Centre. For $20/night, it’s worth every penny!

No comments: