Every twenty years, whether I need it or not, I have to go into a frenzy of home improvement. Once you get started it’s hard to stop. More accurately, it’s hard to know where to begin and where to end. The last time we replaced a rotten back door. A hundred fifty thousand dollars later we had a new back door. And a new kitchen/great room, roof, furnace, and fire sprinkler system that was retrofitted throughout the old part of the house. We also built an upstairs master suite.
This time the same back door was rotten again. I’m starting to see the appeal of plastic. The top of the Dutch door was fine, but the lower part was full of dry rot. Then we replaced a rotten window and did use vinyl. That one came out so well that we replaced another old, aluminum window. A fence along the side of the house, a new gate and a window that turned into a door were also necessary.
When one project is finished the eye goes to the next project. At least my eye does. Eric just puts his fingers his ears and says “La, la, la”, hoping to divert my attention. Impossible. I get very focused when I’m doing projects. The door from the kitchen to the garage was out. The new, pretty fiberglass fire-resistant model took its place.
The closet under the stairs really needed to be turned into a tiny powder room. Obviously. It also needed wallpaper and a mini chandelier. Mandatory. And while we were at it, the downstairs bathroom finally had a fan installed.
Throughout the process we got up close and personal with a number of trades. It takes skill to work on your house. Skill and an abundance of patience. Scheduling, organizing and most of all, waiting. I had to resort to begging in several circumstances. There is a LOT of work out there now. It kind of makes me miss the recession.
I found a combo plumber/electrician, Glen, who was extremely competent, but also frustrating. He would squeeze me in when he could, but I ended up telling him he was worse than an obstetrician on call. He agreed. He said he’d go to bed and have no work and wake up and have seven emergency calls. There were many days when installing the mini chandelier in the princess potty room just did not rate.
|Glen and his tools.|
We were so desperate for progress we even did some work ourselves. Eric and I put together and installed a cabinet. We put up a couple shelves and did some trim. When the handyman got in a car accident and couldn’t work we really had to get serious with the tools. I even bought a little circular saw, but Eric hasn’t let me use it. I’m allowed to measure and mark. He does the cutting.
When Allie and her roommates moved into an apartment off-campus at UConn, they had to put things together using hammers and screwdrivers. This activity was called, “Screw, screw, bang, bang.” There have been many recent evenings when we did screw, screw, bang, bang until after nine at night. It’s not as exciting as it sounds.
Our favorite worker was the window and door installer, Yuri. A portly Ukrainian Jew, the man knows his trade. He’s brilliant at hanging doors and even repurposed a couple old doors for me with aplomb. He worked on Sundays and it would take an entire day to install a door. Several times he did screw, screw, bang, bang at our house until well past dark.
We even invited Yuri to eat with us because he’s such a nice guy and Eric and he would talk about history, but he always refused. He wouldn’t even accept a beer. Yuri did manage to make Eric terribly jealous the last time he was over. Eric tore apart the junk drawer looking for the manual to the irrigation timer, to no avail. I pointed out that the directions were in the binder with all the other manuals. I may have sounded a wee bit impatient. Not two minutes later Yuri came in asking where I’d put a piece of half round trim. I was about to start digging through the mess that is now the garage, but Yuri spotted instantly. “”You’re a genius!” I exclaimed.
Of course Eric heard this and accused me of liking guys who can make things and find things more than I like him. I do like a guy who is good with his hands and I can relate to a fellow with a lot of tools. It’s true. I admire people who make things. Like my father did, like my brother does.
I love hardware stores and I miss them in our town. We used to have four and now we have one. If Goodman’s doesn’t have it I have to drive several towns away for supplies. Home Depot is fine, but it’s not the same as an old-fashioned hardware store or lumberyard. I adored going to the hardware store with my father when I was little. I’m still crazy for the smell of sawdust, toxic as it may be.
As much as I enjoy spending my days with virtual strangers who are making holes in the house and incredibly dusty messes, I’m ready to not have pick-up trucks parked out front. If it’s not done now, it’s not gonna get done. Also, tradesmen seem to trash the work of other trades. Twice our new irrigation pipes have been broken by a carpenter or handymen. It’s so frustrating to have things break before you’re even finished paying for them.
The sounds of screw, screw, bang, bang will be no more. There will only be the plink of me opening the paint can. I’m painting doors and trim and then I’ll attack the risers. I paint in my spare time, while I listen to music or edifying TED talks. At the rate I’m going I should be finished by Christmas. Painting trim is kind of relaxing for me. It’s a peaceful time to think. Best of all, if I need some blue tape or a new paintbrush, I can just walk over to the paint store. Imagine that.