Remodeling by stages has its disadvantages. The dust and debris of tearing out the old can cover the new with a layer that one’s wife may not find particularly amusing or refreshing. In fact, it can test the relationship. So, I fastened up a sheet of heavy plastic to close in the area where I was tearing out the old sink, cabinets and wall.
I worked through the layers of paper and plaster, catching as much as I could before it fell to the floor. Even with the plastic stapled along one wall and the ceiling, there’s always some dust that somehow seeps around, under, over or through on its way to Grandmother’s house. Or her brand new gas stove.
There were no real surprises across the upper part of the wall. The plaster came off in predictable chunks and the lath strips came off without much ado. As expected, there was no insulation in the wall. At least, not until I’d stripped down to the level of the sink. At that point, I found the spaces between the studs filled with what looked like the stuff I’d seen mixed in with potting soil during the previous century. “Perlite,” I think it was called.
Imagine light, spongy granules a bit larger than B-B’s, black and gray and silver. Thousands upon thousands of granules, spilling out of the wall with each strip of lath removed. A bucketful of them wouldn’t weight a pound. Whether or not Perlite was ever marketed as insulation or not, I don’t yet know. Maybe the previous carpenter had an uncle who operated a florist shop and gave him a couple of bags of “free insulation.” Maybe some frustrated housewife got fed up with stuff freezing under the sink and decided to pour in a bunch of the stuff and see what happened.
There was one more bit of evidence to be uncovered at the bottom of a single space that leads me to believe someone was both desperate and creative. The last ten inches of insulation in that space, down below the three feet of Perlite, was something I’ve never seen used for insulation in a wall. Styrofoam peanuts. Yep, those little white puffs that plagued many a post office, packing room and parents of toddlers. Hundreds of ‘em.
I wonder how often God looks down at us and wonders, “What will they think of next?”