First, knock a hole all the way through.

20 Jan

I’m in the middle of getting a wood-burning stove put in. There’s a small argument about whether wood will be cheaper than gas to heat the house, but that’s not the reason.

When the survey was done, the installer asked if I would mind removing the sheet of what’s probably asbestos from the chimney.

Sure, I said, I’ve got gloves, mask, goggles, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime exposure.

Two hours work with the cold chisel, lump hammer and vacuum cleaner got 90% of it out, leaving only a metal plate across the top of the opening with the remaining sheeting stuck above it. I got the metal plate a little bit loosened, but then decided I didn’t want to take out any more in case the result was the chimney coming down. (Well, it would be embarrassing). I changed my clothes and washed my hair, before pondering what to do about the remaining bit.

Friday morning the fitters turned up. Since it was blizzarding, I didn’t really expect them to, but once they were here and we’d done the obligatory standing in the garden staring at the snow, I offered them a cuppa, which gave me the chance to show them and ask about it. Don’t worry too much, they said, we’re used to this kind of thing. But if you did keep on chipping away, you’d be able to get the metal plate out.

This afternoon I set to again with mask, goggles, gloves, vacuum cleaner – and a plant mister to keep the dust down.

After ten minutes, it was clear that I wasn’t ever going to get the metal plate out. So I started removing the cement above the sheeting, in the hope I would get somewhere. Half an hour later, after small amounts of material removed all along, I knocked a hole through to the back, which changed the game completely. Now I could chisel along, knocking out material without problems, and ten minutes later I hauled out the sheeting and was done.

So, the lesson I think I learned:  If I had started by knocking a hole all the way through the whole job would have been far faster and quicker.

Can I apply this elsewhere? Well, it seems strangely similar to a “spike solution” in software development – if you’re tackling a large problem, get a tiny bit of everything done so you can get it running. Put a window up on the screen and make a button on it turn the giant laser off and on – that sort of thing. With a spike solution, you show that you can do the basic part of everything, and then you can throw it away and do the job properly, or (if you’re cheating) widen it into something more capable. There’s probably something about the “minimum viable product” that should be said here, but I’ll leave that for another time.

What am I going to do next time? (Apart from use the mister from the beginning.) Well, when I’m looking at something that seems like a really big task, I’ll try and get just enough done that I’ve touched on everything, and then see how long it takes to do the rest. Might be a whole load easier.

 

 

 

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