Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Renovation

Over a month ago the exterminators drilled holes every foot around the walls of my studio and injected a poison that they assured me would  destroy the nest of the termites and there would be no more of them.  They said that If I wanted to I could replace the two partially eaten away door frames.  So I started by ripping off the moulding around the door frames, and guess what I found, loads of live termites, small white insects with tiny legs.  I called the exterminator back and told him they are still in the wood of the door frames.  So he advised to rip out the affected door frames and get rid of them and he would come again and spray a stronger chemical around the area where they had been, no extra charge. 
I had arranged for someone to come in and replace the door frames, for a price of course (estimate NIS 4,000=$1150), but he never showed up or answered my calls.  So I thought I would have to do it myself, not a very big job, but nevertheless daunting.  I thought to remove the door frames I would cut them into pieces and take the pieces out one at a time.  This way I would avoid the screws or bolts that were holding the frame to the wall. But, I could not find a readily available small electric saw, so I thought I would have to use a hand saw.  Being the son of a carpenter I was not afraid of this approach, but I was not very happy either. 
As I was getting ready to do this, gathering my tools, with the door open, one of the guys who works in the office opposite (there is only one other office in the basement) happened to go by and asked me what I was doing.  I told him that I had to remove the door frames because they were infested with termites.  He asked me how I was going to do this and I told him.  He was not impressed and said that he could help me do the work, I asked him how much he would charge and he said, we're neighbors, I'll just help you and you can decide what to pay me.  So I agreed.
The next day he tunred up with a sledge hammer and simply started to smash the door frames out.  I would call this the "direct approach" as opposed to my "intellectual approach."  I stopped him and explained that it might be easier to find the screws and remove them.  By the way, I should point out that this guy doesn't speak English, so we communicated thru my poor Hebrew and sign language.  I learnt that the door frame in Hebrew is called the "mashkof" (although literally the horizontal beam or lintel) and the vertical door post is called (guess what) the "mezuzah."  Anyway we removed a few screws, but it was difficult and taking time, so he went back to the direct approach and smashed the two sets of doorposts out.  It wasn't that difficult, but it did tend to take some of the wall with it.  He said, never mind, we'll fix that later, and I must say that he did.
We found a mass of live termites in the hole under one of the door posts and I sprayed them and they disappeared, I hope for good.  Once the door posts had been removed, the exterminator came and sprayed all around.  I decided to replace one of the door frames and have the other opening plastered over without a frame since I had never used that door.  I figured if there was no door posts and no wood then the termites could not return.  But, this was not easier because it required him to plaster around the whole opening. 
I had no idea about this friendly guy, he was dark skinned and I assumed he was a Sephardi Jew.  His name was Murray, and when I asked him where he came from he told me Fureidis, which is an Arab town up the coast near Zichron Yaakov.  He had apparently been working in that office for 19 years, and his name is actually Maree Maree (I do not make this up).  Fureidis is not one of those ancient Arab towns that we are always hearing about, but was founded as a work camp for Arabs who helped build Zichron Yaakov when it was founded in the 1880s.  It couldn't have been so bad there because Fureidis means "paradise" in Arabic (the English word comes from pardess in Hebrew that means "orchard"),   I told him I was a Professor and I told him to tell his friends that his assistant was a Jewish Professor.  Although in principle I could have done all this work myself, I'm glad I didn't try. 
Anyway, we agreed on a price and I paid him for removing the door frames.  Then we went to the industrial zone (azor tassia) and bought a new pre-prepared door-frame (mashkof) and the plaster and paint for the other opening.  He fitted the door frame easily, but then ran into a problem, the walls of the basement are made of concrete and the drill bit wouldn't go through that.  He then plastered the other opening with professional skill.  So the next day he brought a power drill and drilled the holes and inserted the large screws to hold the door posts in place.  Then he re-hung the door and with a little bit of scraping and fitting, the major work had been done.  Then we cut the moulding and put it around the door frame.  He finished filling in all the holes and smoothing the wall with sand-paper.  Finally it was all painted and voila the job was done.  I paid him a total of NIS 1200 ($345), a lot for him but a big saving for me. No more termites, and no more floods (they also fixed the drains). A perfect ending.   


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