Getting my ducts in a row

Nothing will get a guy with combined acrophobia and claustrophobia going faster than a dusty attic crawl space with only ceiling joists for support and loose insulation. Toss in not being able to find the ladder he’d used to crawl into his special hellhole for people like him, a mask on his face to keep the abundant dust from choking him to death, and you have a ripe recipe for massive panic.

I’m not proud, but this happened today.

A few weeks back, just in time for my eldest’s birthday party, the bathroom fan decided it had endured enough and went kaput in about the most undramatic way possible: it just glided to a stop while being used. Fifteen years of use, give or take, so I guess I can see that. It was disappointing, but likely inevitable.

Anyway, I had decided to bring my not-so-mad skills as a DIYer to the table and replace it, only to find out that we hadn’t opted for a “room side” install when a relative had installed it initially. So, to remove the sheet metal duct to put in a new unit required me to climb up into the aforementioned attic crawlspace. It thrilled not in the least, but I was determined not to keep relying on relatives to fix these kinds of things. So, up into the hole I went.

Luckily for me, it was a rainy and cloudy day, with temps in the 60°F range. Perfect weather for being up in what would normally be a sauna. But, of course, the fan had been installed well from the access hole and I had to crawl on my hands and knees to find the box, with only the joists for support, to the place it had been installed and I had to dig around in a blanket of fluff to find the box to try and unscrew it from the joist. Except… the screws were not impressed with my screw-drivery skills and firmly resented my attempts to unwind them all lefty-loosie. Four screw, all stubbornly resistant to my attempts to undo them, even though I offered cookies as a bribe.

Maybe I should have offered brownies instead.

Well, sheet metal does have the thing where I can tell the duct to fuck off and apply leverage with a crowbar to pop the screw through the metal and leave it in-place. Except, I didn’t have one on my person, so I used a screwdriver — which kind of worked — to get the side closest to me, but it did nothing for the far side that I couldn’t reach so I wiggled my way directly backward and… in the dark (power was shut off at the breaker because, well, the previous DIY electricians were not all that talented or trustworthy) and… I couldn’t find my ladder with my feet. And the dust from uncovering the duct was thick in the air and my mask was starting to get obstructed as a result and…

The two aforementioned phobias took hold in earnest and I started crying out for help in a very panicked and unfatherly manner. My eldest finally heard my pleas for help through her earbuds and played the role of spotter so I could find where the ladder was and make sure I slide down instead of fell down from the ceiling hellhole. I actually did lose my footing on the ladder and slid partway down, but I had a claw-like grip on the joists, which stopped my fall, but left my knees scraped up to hell. I crawled down and went out into the rain and sat there until the adrenaline and the shakes went away. To add to my trials, somewhere along the line, I cut the shit out of my knuckle (secret, I probably should go in for stitches, but I won’t). I was bleeding like a pig.

And the duct was still firmly in place, mocking me.

Well, friends, I won’t lie and tell you that I’d overcome my fears — they were actually worse than ever before. So I used the crowbar bottom-side. And I did as much as I could from below once it popped out.

I finally got everything installed and working. I didn’t even have sparks after I flipped the breaker back on.

That left re-covering the new ductwork with insulation… Shudders and shakes.

Because we live in Minnesota and we get quite a bit of snow that will occasionally cause roofs to cave in or build up ice dams at the gutter, I bought a snow removal tool for just such occasions. I saw it in the garage and said screw it. Like I said, I’m not a proud man. I hauled it to the hole entry and I used it to push insulation back over all the areas I’d disturbed it. Fuck crawling back into that hellhole…

Sometimes, I really hate home ownership.

4 thoughts on “Getting my ducts in a row

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