A loose door plus gerbils leave dad unhinged

SATURDAY'S HERO

April 08, 1995|By ROB KASPER

Every time I struggle with the kid's bedroom door, I tell myself that some day soon I should fix that thing.

Now the only way I can close the door is if I first flip up the corner of the rug on the bedroom floor. If the rug is moved, the door glides above the section of bare wood floor and closes easily. But if the rug remains in the door's path, then the door's bottom grabs the rug and refuses to move.

Keeping this door closed is important. It is a major barrier between me and the gerbils. It is my Gerbilgate.

The two gerbils belong to our 10-year-old son. The gerbils reside in his bedroom, in a glass house, which looks like an aquarium without the water but with a lid. At times, however, I have ventured into the room and seen the kid, his buddy and his gerbils frolicking on the floor. Usually the gerbils have been scooting around in a makeshift pen that the kids have fashioned out of volumes of an old encyclopedia.

This scares me. I imagine how easy it would be for a curious gerbil to work his way through Volume M of the encyclopedia, shoot out the open bedroom door and head for parts and pipes unknown.

I remember an escaped parakeet that hid in the heating duct of our cousins' house in Des Moines. The bird resided there undetected for some time. When the heating season started the bird began to make some noise. The bird's clamor was mild, however, compared to the howl my uncle let out when he discovered how much the family had paid a repairman to take the duct apart and free the bird.

Just yesterday a colleague told me about a guinea pig she was watching for a vacationing friend. Shortly after its owner left town, the guinea pig disappeared. It showed up days later, trapped underneath a kitchen cabinet. The only way to free the guinea pig was to take apart the cabinet.

My kid assures me that this will never happen. He tells me he keeps a close eye on his gerbils when he lets them out for !B exercise. And he tells me that once, when he and his buddy forgot that they had left the gerbils exercising among the encyclopedias, the gerbils had not tried to make a run for it. Instead the gerbils had taken refuge under a couple of encyclopedias that the kids had set up as a type of shady reading room in the middle of the pen.

Despite such assurances I would feel much better if the door to the gerbil room would close, easily. That way, if the gerbils went on the lam, I could confine the search to one room.

I have tried to fix the bedroom door. The problem is that it is an old Baltimore door. And old Baltimore doors have hinges in strange places. At least that is what a guy in my neighborhood hardware store told me. He told me he had the same sagging problem with his door that I had with mine.

The problem seems to center on the "leaves," the parts of the door hinges that are attached to the door frame. In most houses, the doors are built so the leaves of the door hinges screw into the doorjambs, the sides of the frame. The ideas is that screws holding hinges in place have lots of strong wood, or in some cases tough metal, to bite into.

But on the gerbil door, most of the hinge screws end up landing in between the doorjamb and a trim board.

I am sure that in their younger days, about 100 years ago, the trim board and doorjamb grabbed those hinge screws and wouldn't let go. Now, however, they are mushy. And no matter what size hinge screws are presented to them, they can't hold them steady.

I found this out the hard way. A few weeks ago I took the old hinges off the door. I plugged up the old screw holes in the doorjamb with pieces of wood. I put on new hinges. I screwed the new hinges into the freshly plugged holes. As soon as the hinges felt the weight of the door, they squirmed. The door sagged. It closed, but only when I flipped up the corner of the rug.

That is where things stand. I probably should get off my duff, remove the hinges again and fill the screw holes with a high quality wood filler. Maybe then when I screw the hinges in, the screws will hold.

When I go in that room to look at the door and size up the job, I hear the gerbils pressing up against the edges of their glass cage, anxious to explore new horizons.

In other words, what happens next in Gerbilgate seems to be a question of who moves faster.

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