Saturday, August 7, 2010

Of Bug Bites and Flooring - Materials and Choices - sort of...

I'm dog sitting for a friend this week at their home.  Two lovable labs who want nothing more than to eat, go for 'walkies'...and shed. I can't say that I blame them on the latter.  It's hot during the summer in Reno. I can think of few things more miserable than having to endure the heat of the high desert with a fur coat on, so I sympathize.

Unfortunately, while I slept,  I was also apparently sharing the house with some other vicious and hungry creepy crawlies who decided my back was the local midnight buffet line.  Needless to say, I awoke to some very angry, red welts and swollen nymph nodes that I can only surmise are hives.  I'm guessing of course.  I don't have eyes in the back of my head to really get a good look - and having not experienced the joy of hives before,  this is a new experience for me. I will say this: I have never had such a severe reaction to a bug bite, which had me a bit concerned. It also got me quickly scanning the Internet for possible culprits and if they were life threatening.  After surmising that I wasn't in need of immediate medical attention, I set upon researching how best to make sure I wasn't on the menu for any subsequent entomological dinner plans.  Along with suggestions of completely stripping the bed linens and setting the wash cycle to 'nuke',  the articles also suggested clearing out any possible nesting places and doing a thorough cleaning to suck the little buggers up.

Now let me explain here. If Cleanliness is Next to Godliness, I wouldn't go as far as to say my friends do the opposite and spend every night dancing with the devil, but they certainly have dinner with him on occasion.  The dog fur and detritus on the floor could use some cleaning up, and attempts at eradicating it not only turned up a healthy dose of moths, but several radioactive sized spiders as well ( ALL were presumed guilty before proven innocent of the late night raid, and I handed out swift judgement and immediate death sentences.) My cleaning blitzkrieg even turned up a small scorpion!  YIKES!!!  I think my discomfort would have been infinitely more painful if he was the culprit, but he was executed anyway. Stay outside where you belong dammit. Anything as virulent looking as yourself enters my domain, you're just asking for slaughter.

Anyway, vacuuming up the place sounds easy enough, but Murphy's Law also reared its ugly head along with the critters, so it's been a start again, stop again scenario.  My friends own two large homes, and between the two of them, they also own several vacuum cleaners. Every single one of them - I kid you not- guaranteed to stop working within 10 minutes.   I think it's actually a selling point for them.

SALESPERSON:  Hello Madam, how may I help you today?

FRIEND: I need a new vacuum cleaner, but I really hate doing it.  Can you show me a vacuum that will crap out within 10 minutes so I have a legitimate excuse not to do it?

SALESPERSON:  Why yes Madam.  This model here, TheTotallyWorthless3000, has all sorts of swoopy features that are all guaranteed to stop working upon even the slightest salacious glance at, or the mere thought of using them.

FRIEND:  That's great. I also have two dogs who shed profusely and I can't bear to part with it. What model do you suggest?

SALESPERSON: This one madam is an excellent choice.  With absolutely no suction whatsoever, it will refuse to pick up a single hair and will merely billow it around until it unites into large, gloriously, tumbleweed-like formations...

...and so it goes.  Vacuum for 10 minutes, let the poor dear catch it's breath for an hour, vacuum for 10 minutes...let it rest again...

The amazing thing is, I don't usually buy expensive vacuum cleaners myself, and yet I still manage to find ones so capable, so studly in their suction capacity, that I've been known to vacuum up copious twigs, the charred remains of burnt offerings from the wood stove, and even large pine cone fragments. I'll bet it would easily suck up a small animal if given the opportunity.  My vacuum is so voracious, it regularly tries to inhale entire area rugs.

But anyway, the point I'm making is that this little episode got me thinking about the choices one has for flooring materials, and how those choices can either make for an easy care life style - or a constant battle with the elements such as the one I've just described.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to most building and finishing materials, and that includes flooring. Any given material will do some things very, very well, and some things not so well.  The key is in choosing materials whose  imperfections are ones you can live with. Like finding a mate, there is no such thing as finding a perfect product, just finding a product that is perfect for you.

  As I've stated earlier, I live in mountain country.  The copious amounts of crud available to be readily traipsed into the house is astounding.  Pine needles, sap, snow, mud, pollen, twigs and 'nature' of every variety abounds here.  The bottom of my hiking boots regularly attests that, yes indeed, bears really DO in fact sh*t in the woods...along with a great many other creatures.  To say that I live in a 'dirt intensive' environment would be an understatement.

Given that, I'll cop right here, I'm not a big fan of wall to wall carpet.  Too much of a crud collector for my tastes. They say an average carpet is dirtier than a city street.  Believe it son. In fact, I'd say most city streets are cleaner.  They usually get a good steam clean and scour at least once a week, which is a lot more than can be said for your carpet. (Yeah, that's the  reason you keep getting those parking tickets because you left your car parked on the street on the appointed days)

But even if you don't live in a rural area, cleaning carpets after pets and kids can be equally as trying, if not more so. (My elderly cat, before she finally went to that big kitty litter box in the sky, had an unerring radar for cleaned carpets. It was her cue to ceremoniously christen it with a particularly large hairball - or barf up her dinner.)  You've got kids and pets?... and you still want wall to wall carpet?  Masochist.

Along with the filth attractant, carpets can also be the cause of other issues, including health ones.  Carpets can off-gas irritants and/or be an open invitation to other malevolent critters, such as fleas and dust well as whatever creature decided to have its way with me the other night.  If you're hyper sensitive to these issues or have allergies, seriously consider other flooring options.

If you really must do wall to wall, this site has some great 'quickee' information on what to look for:

 But let us explore some of your flooring options: