Column: Life Can Be a Downer When I do Fixer-Uppers – The Pilot

Dry Wall Contractor

I love watching HGTV shows but hate home repairs. When Catherine and I were looking for a house a year ago, part of what drew me to a new build was the belief that the list of repairs and improvements would be minimal. I can put you in touch with the painting contractor, landscape contractor, plumber and electrician and they can let you know how well that worked out — for them.

Earlier this month we finally got around to a job that seemed easy enough for us to tackle: swapping out the light fixture in the foyer. The original fixture was not to our liking, so we found something more suitable at the hardware store.

“Installs in minutes,” the box said. Left unsaid was how many minutes. Counting the two trips to the hardware store for longer anchor screws, I think we clocked out at 280 minutes. And it only took that short amount of time because it took our little household team of three to do it.

I have been at this little home repair venture since I bought my first home 25 years ago. It was a 1950s brick ranch, three bedrooms, one bath, hardwood floors. Good bones but in need of some updates.

Since I was still a young reporter making a young reporter’s wage at the time, I had no means to hire those who knew a thing or two about home improvement. So I just sort of dove in.

This was before YouTube, where you can now basically learn how to do everything from how to tie a balloon to correcting a brain aneurysm via surgery. Back in my days, the big box hardware stores just held weekend classes where you could learn tools and techniques and then buy all their cool toys and turn yourself loose on your house.

My first project was a bathroom renovation. I wanted to replace the 1950s sea-foam green ceramic wall tile with beadboard, change out the toilet, install a pedestal sink and change out the shower surround. I bought a demolition bar — still my favorite tool of all time — and a hammer. That wall tile never stood a chance.

Anyone who knows anything about home improvement will tell you that demolition is the easy part. I’m pretty accomplished at wrecking stuff and hauling it out the door. I’ve pulled carpet, ripped out cabinets, yanked out old water heaters — no problem. Given the chance, I could likely dismantle most any automotive engine.

Rebuilding, of course, is another thing.

My little bathroom reno quickly suffered the effects of my not knowing what I didn’t know. For instance, at the time I didn’t realize that, over time, floors don’t remain level and walls don’t stay square. You have to account for that. When you don’t? Well, let’s just say things don’t fit back so …….


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