Frustrated cat.jpg

Jasper the cat can’t figure out how to unlatch the crawl space door.

After the new house was completed nearly two years ago, I left the inside trim work for me to finish. Friends and family warned that a house lived in is easy to leave unfinished. They were right.

I knew they were right because I have seen some of those same people leave trim work, painting and even whole bathrooms unfinished for years. I vowed that I would not take that particular path of procrastination.

Nearly two years in, I still have a pile of molding in the garage to install. Nail holes in the trim installed thus far remain unfilled. And the closet doors still have holes where the knobs are supposed to be. I left those off for now, since I would need to remove them anyway whenever I get around to painting the doors.

That’s a lot of incompletion, and I haven’t even talked about caulk. Let me just say that the average homeowner probably has no idea how much caulk is required for putting a house together.

Before I painted the exterior of our house (only a few finishing touches left there) I thought I was pretty good at applying caulk. I had accumulated no fewer than four caulk guns over the years, after all.

Board and batten siding must be caulked along every seam before paint is applied. That alone is enough caulking to develop professional-grade skill.

Someone who examines the outside of my house, front to back, could easily assume that the person who caulked the front was far less talented than the skilled craftsman who completed the back. “Why on earth,” someone might ask, “would the pro caulker allow an unskilled helper to do the front?”

It’s because both caulkers are me. My house represents an evolution in caulking skill. I learned, for instance, that a good caulker will invest in a good caulk gun. I have not tossed out the other four guns, but I might as well.

I could produce a DIY YouTube video on proper tools and technique for caulking. But if I were motivated to do that, I’d have my interior caulking done by now.

My wife, Sharon, gave me a December deadline for finishing all of the finish work. I was determined that I would meet the deadline during the nearly two weeks off during Christmas. The cat had other ideas for me.

As I mentioned in a column a few weeks back, our cat has been relegated to the garage after extending his claws into the couch while healing from a bite wound. He let me know, however, that he never agreed to the garage arrangement.

Another project I’ve been putting off is constructing a door to close off the crawl space entry, which is inside the garage. I’ve been using a scrap piece of drywall secured with a cinderblock.

Apparently a heated garage with a heated bed atop the garage fridge is no place for a cat. Ours clawed through my temporary covering and claimed the crawl space for himself. I patched and further fortified the drywall, but he clawed through again.

So before I could start finishing the finish work, I had to finally build that crawl space entry door. The job consumed half of my Christmas vacation, but it is satisfying watching the cat stare at the new door.

If he so much as scratches that door, I have a gun and I will use it — to caulk his food dish to the ceiling.

Contact Mark Rutledge at