Day 2, a.m. Whistling, I mixed up my grout, grabbed my trusty putty knife (an heirloom passed down from my long-deceased grandfather-in-law) and began pressing the sticky goo into a saw cut. Being an old grease monkey, I knew I had to really press hard to force the grout all the way to the bottom of the saw cut — kind of like packing wheel bearings. Of course as much squished out the sides as stayed, so I meticulously cleaned and washed after myself. After a couple hours I had maybe 10 linear feet done. Wow, only 740 linear feet to go! No problem, I figured, just need to get the hang of it, then, boy, would I fly.
Day 2, p.m. Groaning, I scraped the last crusts of semi-hardened grout from the sides of my Tupperware grout bowl and pressed it in. A muscle in my upper shoulder screamed out in agony with each press of the putty knife. Then it screamed again with each swipe of my cleaning sponge. Fifty linear feet down, 700 to go.
Day 3. Sensing the enormity of my task, I enlisted the help of my wife to clean grout film. After a couple batches, both our knees were bruised and sore. My shoulder muscle now was an inflamed knot. At 4:00, I took a break to coach my 10-year-old son’s little league team. Throwing batting practice, my throbbing shoulder involuntarily spasmed and I beaned two kids. They both cried.
Day 4-Day 6. I woke up on Day 4 and couldn’t move my Grouting Arm. It was abused beyond repair and had died in the night. This meant I would have to finish the job with my other arm — the one with no coordination or fine motor skills. Although my progress was excruciatingly slow, my dead arm flickered back to life, apparently because now its misery had company. When I finally finished, both arms were lifeless chubs of salami hanging at my sides, and my knees were blue-green baseballs that had been slugged too many times. My wife had stopped speaking to me during Day 5.
Looking back, had I been smart, I would have hired someone to do the grouting, and done an extra engineering job or two to pay for it. I would have been ahead in terms of both time and money. It is now three weeks later, and finally, I can lift my Grouting Arm enough to shave.
Yes, stick with what you’re good at — sound advice indeed.
Tim K. Garrison P.E. of ConstructionCalc.com has authored books and short courses and lectures on topics relevant to builders. Got a technical or management issue? E-mail email@example.com. Tim reads every one.
This column cannot be reprinted without permission from the author.
The views expressed in this article represent the personal views, statements and opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, statements, opinions or policies of the National Association of Home Builders. NAHB does not necessarily endorse any of the views expressed by the author and NAHB is not responsible for any direct or indirect consequences arising out of the views expressed in this article.