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The self-reliance of rural residents

November 27, 2010

I live in town.

I am not a back-to-the-land type.

Sure, I grew my own tomatoes this summer, I make my weekend morning waffles from scratch, and I could probably kill a chicken for dinner if I had to, but I prefer the conveniences of city dwelling.

What I didn’t realize was that by settling in Scottsbluff —by accepting the close-knit community, interesting history and amazing scenery— I would be giving up access to services I didn’t know I would need.

This is the story of how I was forced to rely on my own ingenuity and figure out how to use Bondo.

When husband and I bought our 1932 house, one of the first things we wanted to do was add a second bathroom. (Hate that competition for the sole throne upon return from a long road trip!)

We wanted to do up the bathroom in 1930s style, with hexagonal porcelain floor tile, a pedestal sink, and a clawfoot bathtub.

We couldn’t find a local source for a period-look clawfoot tub, so we ordered one.

We paid extra for “white glove delivery,” so the shippers would carry the 300-plus-pound tub down into the basement for us and take away the packing debris.

The tub company instructed us multiple times in bold print to check the tub for damage before we signed off on the delivery. If there was damage, we were to refuse the delivery, and they would send us a new tub.

After waiting months for the backordered tub to arrive from China, the delivery date finally came. We checked over the tub carefully, saw no damage, and signed for it. The tub was hauled down into the basement, and the packing material taken away.

Later that evening, we spotted something that made us say “uh oh.”

Cracks underneath roll rim of the cast iron tub!

Underneath the roll rim of the tub, out of sight, there were cracks in the tub, all the way around!

As we learned over subsequent phone calls and emails to the company, it wasn’t the metal that was cracked. What cracked was a sort of epoxy applied to smooth out the metal. The epoxy cracked, the folks at the factory painted right over the cracks, and the thin layer of paint failed, thereby exposing the cast iron of the tub to the elements.

The company gave us two choices: they would send us a new tub, or pay to repair the existing tub.

The new tub sounded like a good option, except for a few minor details. We would have to recrate the tub ourselves (and the original crating material was gone) and haul it up out of the basement to the curb. Apparently, the white glove delivery doesn’t work in reverse.

Since the cracks were on the underside of the roll rim, weren’t really visible, and wouldn’t be subject to a lot of abuse, we decided to go with the repair option.

The company suggested calling local auto body shops to do the repair. We tried calling several places. No one wanted to mess with a tub. They said they didn’t have the experience, and also, they were waaaay too busy fixing up hail damaged cars from the summer’s pummeling. (Apparently, there is STILL a backlog at the auto repair shops, some five months after the main storms!)

Since that wasn’t going to work, the tub company then suggested an outfit they have used for such repairs in the past: Miracle Method. We called what was perhaps the closest location for this company, in Laramie, Wyoming. They gave an estimate of $500-600 for the repair, with travel costs. Tub company said, ah, no — too expensive.

We got a lead on a closer company: Hardtops of Nebraska. They had a more reasonable estimate. The tub company OKed it. Hardtops was supposed to come out and fix the tub during a certain week in August.

They never showed.

I called and left a polite message.

They didn’t call back.

I called the following week and left another polite message –  maybe they had been on vacation? Maybe the power went out and their answering machine failed?

They didn’t call back.

After several weeks and at least one more phone message, which included every possible phone number at which I could be reached, and a request to call me if they could not do the job so I could find another company . . . still nothing.

I can only assume that Hardtops of Nebraska is out of business, or they suffered a family tragedy, or they are just jerks who don’t return phone calls.

Long story short, six moths after placing the tub order, I was tired of this whole business.

I would fix the durned tub myself! I would be self reliant like any rural-ish residents worth their salt!

I got myself a can of Bondo, did some research online, and went to work.

Step 1: using a popsicle stick and gloved fingers, schmear Bondo gloop into the cracks quickly, before the epoxy starts to set.

FYI, Bondo has a horrid chemical stink and is best used outdoors. I was not about to move a 300-pound tub up a flight of stairs, so I just opened the basement windows, used fans, and suffered the stink for a time. Thankfully, the smell went away pretty fast.

Step 2: spend several hours sanding with progressively finer grits, wearing a dust mask and running a noisy shop vac.

The tub surface wasn’t very even, so pockets of Bondo remained on the surface of the tub, and portions of the existing finish got sanded away.

Step 3: using a small bottle of paint with a brush integrated in the cap (just like a nail polish bottle) that the tub company sent us, apply several thin coats of chemical-stinky paint.

Et voilá! Nearly good as new!

I say “nearly” because the paint doesn’t have the same shine as the original finish. But at this point, I don’t care! The area will not ordinarily be visible and the metal is protected from moisture.

“So,” you say, “isn’t it great to have the satisfaction of a job well done?”

And my reply is, “I would be a lot more satisfied if I hadn’t had to sacrifice an entire precious weekend to accomplish this project.”

And the tub is still awaiting installation, upside down in the middle of the basement floor like a dead beetle.

But, hey.

At least now I know how to use Bondo.

Copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw

8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2010 1:41 pm

    A positive way to think about everything!

  2. Suemommy permalink
    November 28, 2010 7:57 am

    Just goes to show what a determined woman can accomplish! Congratulations!

  3. Rick Myers permalink
    November 28, 2010 10:27 am

    Way to go. I was hoping while reading your missive that you might qualify for a chapter in my book, “Home Improvement Projects Look Better When the Bleeding Stops.”
    However, you fail to qualify because you did it yourself without serious injury or fire.
    You also will not need my last chapter, “HID,” as you did not have to “hire it done.”
    Good work!

    • Katie Bradshaw permalink
      November 28, 2010 5:37 pm

      Rick, you make me laugh!
      Side note: there is blood on our living room wall behind the bookcase from when I assembled said bookcase.
      I didn’t injure myself during the tub episode, but I did manage to make a minor mess when I stepped with stockinged foot onto the Bondo I had just schmeared.

  4. September 27, 2012 5:39 pm

    Katie, you are really becoming a rural person. I’m so proud! I want to read Rick’s book, don’t you?


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