Zen Home Improvement: How To Build a Cat Stopper Wall In Order To Get the Water Jugs Out Of Your Bedroom

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Who has five gallon water jugs in his bedroom, anyway? What’s a cat stopper wall? Zen home improvement means what, now? “How to” is not the question; the question is…why?

Frankly, those all look like good questions, worthy of a little backstory.

It all started in early May of 2010. Except for an outer coat of stucco and paint, the shell of the basic Border Fort (our hand built home) was complete. Green Eyes (the black cat) and I were living in the west bedroom. Pam plus two more cats and one leopard gecko were still hanging out in our elderly camp trailer. She’d had one of the five gallon water dispensers in her place for some time. Rather than run over to the camper every time I needed a sip of water, we splurged and bought a second unit.

When the entire family came together in that one bedroom a few days later–it was getting too deadly hot inside the camper–there was no place else to put anything. The rest of the rooms had dirt floors and lacked interior walls.

So of course both water jugs, dispenser crocks and all, ended up in what became my bedroom. Pam had her choice. I suspect she took the one with fewer paint splatters on the floor and a second coat of paint on the ceiling.

The need for (and invention of) a cat stopper wall came along a bit later. Gato cat joined us as a very young kitten in late 2010. By the spring of 2011, he’d grown into a rambunctious, incredibly athletic teenager, able to leap tall tables in a single bound.

Being a highly intelligent little critter, he watched us press the spigot handles on the water crocks. This kitten was transfixed by the action of the water, both the streams pouring down and the bubble geysers that leaped up in the centers of the water jugs.

He taught himself to pour water from the spigots.

His technique was flawless. He’d leap up on the table where the water crocks stood, reach over with a paw, press down, and…bingo! Splash! What fun! Doing it just like Mom and Dad do it, what a smart cat am I!

The water dispensers had to be moved to higher ground, i.e., from an oak table to the top of a chest of drawers. Then a cat stopper wall was constructed from materials at hand: Two great piles of hard cover books, one partially filled (but old and mostly useless) five gallon jug, and–for those tight spots right under the crocks–five pound boxes of nails.

That did the trick. The Great Wall of Catta was a success.

The cat stopper wall, utilizing piles of hard cover books, one five gallon jug partially filled with water, and (under the crocks) five pound boxes of nails.  The Great Wall of Catta was a success.

The cat stopper wall, utilizing piles of hard cover books, one five gallon jug partially filled with water, and (under the crocks) five pound boxes of nails. The Great Wall of Catta was a success.

Now we get to the Zen part.

As of Friday afternoon, December 13, 2013, it had become obvious that the water jugs needed to finally leave the bedroom. A friend of Pam’s will be needing a place to stay as of next Tuesday night (December 17). At 9:45 p.m., she’ll be arriving on the bus, Greyhound not-so-express from a homeless shelter in St. Louis, Missouri.

The lady is 40 years old at the moment, but my wife has known her since the bus traveler was a wee child. She lost her Mom early and fell apart big time…but Pam is her second mother, so to speak.

These two women are tight.

Down and out as she was, stranded in Missouri, she called Pam for help. No problem; when you really think about it, that’s what we do, my redhead and I.

But in this case, with this woman, there’s more. She’ll be staying with us, helping Pam (who fell and cracked her tailbone this morning), and Pam helping her. Both females have huge, oversized Golden Hearts–though the new arrival has the edge when it comes to body weight, currently a whopping 300 pounds at 5′ 7″ in height.

All three of us, I suspect, have some work to do.

And I get to kick off the first project, which is to modify the Border Fort’s interior so that Pam’s “daughter” can have a sleeping space of her own. She had one in the homeless shelter. We can’t go around doing worse than that, now can we?

The most logical way to provide that private space? Simple, cowboy; throw up a wall and cut your own bedroom in half. You’ve been spoiled for too long, having your own bathroom all to yourself; you can manage sharing that with one other person. Redistribution of space.

But…where to put the water jugs?

That’s the Zen part. Not a single free piece of workable wall space existed. No part of the kitchen would work.

Had to contemplate that one. Home improvement time, but only the Zen approach, complete with a few minutes of spiritual contemplation, can find this solution.

It worked. Some canned goods that had expired more than a year ago were consigned to oblivion, freeing up a few feet of wall space in my office. Fortunately, that particular spot is also very close to the kitchen, just a few feet away from the range.

How to make the shift? More Zen…and the newest upgrade of the cat stopper wall was born. There’s too much clutter in the office at the moment to make the old style of cat stopper wall effective. Instead, a little floor to ceiling stub wall, just 17 1/2″ in length (but floor to ceiling height) would do the trick.

That stub wall would sort of “extend” the functioning kitchen to include the water crock space. Instead of building a shelf for the water dispensers, the same chest of drawers would simply be moved out of the bedroom as well.

This house isn’t that big; I can travel a few extra yards for a fresh shirt in the mornings if need be–and moving the chest out of the bedroom frees up that much more space four our new boarder.

Sweet.

I didn’t get to start on the project until well after dark (long story), but here’s how it went.

This portion of subflooring had not yet been covered back over since last July's flooding.  After clearing and sweeping the area, getting the rubber back down was the first order of business.

This portion of subflooring had not yet been covered back over since last July’s flooding. After clearing and sweeping the area, getting the rubber back down was the first order of business.

The framing for the cat stopper wall is in place.

The framing for the cat stopper wall is in place.

There are a couple of simple tricks to installing even a small stub wall like this one in an existing home.

First, the sill plate (bottom board) was put down separately. To hold it in place, 6d nails were hammered through the board, through the rubber floor tile, and just slightly into the OSB strand board subflooring. This is not a super firm attachment by itself, but when the rest of the framing is added, it does keep the sill plate from slipping sideways.

Next, the header board was nailed to the two studs. The three board arrangement was carried in from outside and slip-tapped into place. I’d lucked out and gotten an excellent fit. If the entire four board stub wall framing had been assembled first, it would have been impossible to straighten it up; the floor and the ceiling would have had an argument about that.

Since I use only OSB strand board for ceiling as well as walls, the north side stud was nailed directly to the north office wall and the header board was nailed to the ceiling. The other stud was simply toenailed to the sill plate; it only needed to hold enough to allow the attachment of the wall boards (OSB strand board).

The carpenter’s square and two foot level were used generously, of course.

One side of the stub wall is now installed.

One side of the stub wall is now installed.

Stub wall complete.

Stub wall complete.

Now it’s time to clear off the chest of drawers so that it can be moved easily.

I wonder if Gato cat still has an interest in those water jugs?

Um…yep. Sure looks like it. The new Great Wall of Catta is a necessity, not a whimsy.

Yep, Gato cat still shows plenty of interest in ye olde water crock....

Yep, Gato cat still shows plenty of interest in ye olde water crock….

It's pretty clear this cat is convinced he has a proprietary interest in the proceedings.

It’s pretty clear this cat is convinced he has a proprietary interest in the proceedings.

Setting up.

Setting up.

Oh, we are definitely going to need a cat stopper wall at this new location, all right.

Oh, we are definitely going to need a cat stopper wall at this new location, all right.

Don't forget to add the foam rubber corner cushion.  The wife you save may be your own.

Don’t forget to add the foam rubber corner cushion. The wife you save may be your own.

The new cat stopper wall is complete.

The new cat stopper wall is complete.

Hooray!  We really have gotten the water jugs out of the bedroom, thanks to one more Zen home improvement effort.

Hooray! We really have gotten the water jugs out of the bedroom, thanks to one more Zen home improvement effort.

That’s it for tonight. There’s a good deal more to move out of the bedroom, including several hundred pounds worth of self stick floor tiles I haven’t gotten around to sticking yet–but the worst is over.

For all this time, the solution to the bedroom water jug problem had eluded me–yet all it took to make things happen was a sudden, inescapable deadline.