I always thought it was silly when my father obsessively hovered around our windows, holding his hand out to check for drafts. I didn't know why he spent so much time with the furnace. I never understood my mother's concerns about squeaky floors or unnatural noises.
But here I am doing all these things in My New Digs. I guess it's because I feel a sense of ownership, even though I don't own anything but the new stuff I've bought to fill up the corners. I feel a need to maximize every room, find the problems and weed them out, and oh yeah, figure out why I can hear every word my neighbours say.
The heat in these units has always been wonky, I find out today. Ever since I've moved in the living room and master bedroom have been cozy, but the other rooms received very little heat through the vents. The kitchen in particular was freezing.
So they sent a handyman to fix the enormous gap in the door which created an enormous, heat-sucking wind-tunnel. But after several hours of repair work ("Who the F*CK fixed this place?!?" screamed the crotchety guy, who seemed to be psychically tortured by the ghosts of Slapdash Repairmen Past) the kitchen wasn't any warmer.
Meanwhile I ran into my other neighbour, who revealed that THEIR unit was so tropical that they needed to keep the windows open. Hmmm, I thought to myself. Something's up.
So I turned -- momentarily -- into my father. I took a flashlight and explored the basement, trying to untangle the maze of ducts. It didn't make sense to me that ONE furnace would so unevenly distribute air to our apartments. After discovering that half of the ducts were actually drawing cold air INTO the furnace, I noticed that whenever the ducts split into branches, one of the branches had a little screw sticking out of it.
Fortunately, the walking hash-pipe who used to live here seems to have cut holes in some of the vents, presumably to heat the basement a bit. By shining a light in one of the holes I could see: holy cow, those screws are attached to little gates! Turn them one way and they BLOCK the vent, turn them the other way and they OPEN it!
Guess what? Most of my vent-gates were closed. I opened them up, heat returned to my apartment after six years of being stuck in the vents, and suddenly the two units are the correct temperature. I'm no genius, so why didn't anybody figure this out before? I guess they weren't possessed by the spirit of MY DAD.
My new project is to figure out where the soundproofing has failed. Tonight has been a perfect night, because the gals next door invited a huge group of loud, happy, and progressively inebriated friends over. Since their noise was constant and unmodulated, it was a golden opportunity.
So where's the sound coming from? Through one of the living room heating vents, through the "air intake" vent in the master bedroom, and through the gaps where the baseboards used to be in the upstairs hall.
All of that could be handled, but there's one more place the sound is coming from: through the concrete wall that divides the units. Seriously, this all-important wall just transmits sound without any interference whatsoever. There's no point in plugging gaps and vents if the WALL is actually conducting soundwaves. Press your ear against the wall and you can hear the latest bits of gossip from J.C. and all her friends.
When Peevil was over on Tuesday night we discussed this possibility. "You've got to hang up huge pictures of matadors and stuff," she said, I guess because soundwaves are afraid of bullfighters. But I did try pushing a towel against the wall and pressing my ear to it; voila, no sound.
So I guess I need to carpet the biggest wall in the whole apartment. With matadors!