Living in Jackson

The Answer Was Underfoot

August 14, 2020

We have spent fifty years maintaining and renovating the Commercial Exchange.

You can imagine my frustration when a tenant tugged at a snag in the wall-to-wall carpet in one of our offices, unraveled the weave all the way across the room, and then tried to cover his mistake using a 20-foot strip of gray duct tape.

Our team’s 2020 winter projects are upgrading these carefully preserved offices for new tenants. When I inspected room 107, it was obvious the 90-year-old walnut paneling needed dusting and washing down with Murphy’s Oil Soap. The carpeting needed a serious shampoo, but otherwise it appeared to be in good shape … except for that strip of duct tape.

Al, our all-around maintenance man, pulled the tape to inspect the damage. An ugly smear of sticky gray glue was left on either side of the unraveled yarn. He tried to lift a corner of the carpet to check the underlay, but the floor covering seemed to be glued down. Seeing my frustration, Al suggested we lay a new carpet directly over the former, using the old as a pad. “Or” he said, “we could peel and scrape the old carpet from the floor in chunks.”

I stopped at Christoff’s new carpeting showroom on Mechanic Street to seek professional advice. The clerk did not recommend laying new wall-to-wall carpeting over old. She said the current carpet should be stripped away, the glue chipped off, and the floorboards sanded before any new flooring could be laid.

At our team meeting the next morning I shared Christoff’s story. What had started as a one-man one-week job had become a monster, three-man, week-long project. The guys began in earnest and I retired to my office to return phone calls and peruse floor coverings. Half an hour later Al appeared at my office door. “Laurie. Come at once. This is important.”

I followed him to room 107 bracing for disaster. The guys had pulled away from the rug. No glue. The carpeting was held down with wood strips. The underlay was the original maple floor laid in the 1930’s when Cap Sparks spent $60,000 to renovate the building’s offices, according to the building Abstract. In 2020 dollars, that would be nearly $817,000.

I don’t know if my team was more elated with the beautiful maple floor, or if I was, but it was high fives and laughter all around. The guys went to work pulling tack strips and lightly sanding the wood.

Often the answer to a problem can be a layer or two under your feet. Sometimes I wonder what other secrets might be hiding under these floorboards.