Monday, July 19, 2010

Home Improvement is for Chumps

Back when my husband and I were first married and lived in the dinky apartment from hell, I used to dream of all the DIY projects I would do once we owned a home of our own. I was Suzy Freakin' Homemaker with a tool belt in my head. Imaginary me was hammering, painting and reupholstering the universe and saving money to boot! I was living in a fool's world. Here's the problem with home improvement: The whole damn world is both figuratively and metaphorically about a half-inch off.

I should have seen the writing on the wall when living in the dinky apartment and I took it upon myself to replace two knobs on a dresser. There were two holes, two screws, two knobs -- what could be a simpler fix? Quickly I discovered that the wood on the dresser was too thick for the screws that came with the knobs. Looked like this was going to take a little more effort then I had anticipated. After a trip to the hardware store, I learned that the screws in the new knobs were metric, and after much ado the clerk produced the only screws he could find that would fit. I purchased them and upon returning home, showed them to my husband, the Bulldog. He took one look at them and said:

"Why did they give you masonry screws?"

"They were the only ones that fit." I replied.

Convinced that I had been had by the hardware store for at least a $1.50, the Bulldog decided he could find the proper screws. He took the masonry screws back to the hardware store and since they were still the only ones that fit, returned them because they were the wrong kind. We spent the better part of that Sunday going from hardware store, to hardware store searching for those elusive screws. After failure at the final hardware store, even the Bulldog realized it was a lost cause. He had to go back to the original hardware store to get the wrong masonry screws. Interestingly enough, when the Bulldog went to attach the knobs he noticed that part of the wood where the knobs attached had been chiseled away in what appears to have been a previous attempt to replace the missing knob by Bulldog's grandfather. We had to put a couple washers to get the knob to be level where the wood had been chipped away. To this day those knobs are held on with those same masonry screws and backed with washers. No one has ever noticed.

After fifteen-bazillion moves, and one life-altering heart-surgery later, I finally figured-out that the path of least resistance was to purchase a newer home with standard EVERYTHING. NO FUNNY BUSINESS. No quirks that other people mistake for character that are so often found in the older homes that I so dearly love. Screw character, I want simple and it works, damnit. I don't want to have to paint, paper, plaster and repair to have my husband come home and announce: "I don't know how to tell you this, but the Army is moving me (as in US) again." I don't know how much of my life has been spent trying to find curtains to fit weird-ass windows, but it has been a considerable portion and I am now focused on cutting my losses. Home improvement? I am officially OVER IT!!! You can KEEP your quaint 100 year-old farmhouses, I want new and improved and easy-peasy, damn it. If I want character I will provide by the sheer force of my winsome personality.

Still, I can get sucked into the simplest of home improvement projects, which are NEVER, EVER SIMPLE! Several months ago I purchased the E-Z Wrap Deco Cornices for my windows. They are guaranteed a simple no-sew project any four year-old can put together. First, I ordered some fabric off Ebay that I really didn't like in the room once I got it. I carted the foam valance forms and fabric out to the back of my car and fully intended to take them over to the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Then I had an idea. As I was cleaning my studio, it occurred to me that black and white fabric that matched the accoutrements (stuff) I already had in that room would be fabulous. I retrieved the foam cornice forms from my car. I ordered five yards of fabric off of Ebay again. This promised to be plently, given the project instructions which, incidentally, I actually read. Then I got the fabric. Damnit if the print wasn't one-directional and I needed the fabric to be 52" wide for a one directional print to fit over the cornice, and the fabric is only 45" wide. Sonofabitch! THIS is how home improvement ALWAYS turns-out. Always, always, always. No matter how hard I try, some snafu raises it's ugly-assed head and turns the simplest home improvement into a freakin' PROJECT. This is why I try to avoid this crap. Once again, I am kicking myself for getting sucked into trying to a DIY project.

It could be worse. We once had a neighbor, the home improvement type, who bought plenty of paint all at once like you are supposed to. After painting the hall and entryway she was delighted that the paint covered everything with one coat. However, after the paint dried she noticed a little streaking and a few missed spots. She cracked open the remaining can of paint that was supposed to be the same color to touch-up the first coat. After all, she purchased all of it at the same time. Soon she was knocking at my door:

"I need your opinion on this project." she said.

We went over to her house and she showed me the hall and entryway.

"I tried to touch it up. I think the new can is a different color. Can you tell?"

Oh, dear. How could I break this to her gently:

"Um, kinda." I replied, everyone knows I have a extremely low level of standards for this sort of thing. If I notice, it's bad.

"Auugghhh!!! I was afraid of that." She had to do the whole thing over. I just hope she had enough paint.

When considering home improvement it pays to remember that nothing is EVER easier than you think it is going to be. No matter how well you plan, measure and prep SOMETHING you didn't see coming will rear its ugly head. Some people look to this as a challenge; and some people look to the "Yellow Pages" under "contractors". Guess which one I am?


  1. LOL, we always judge projects by how many trips to the hardware store AND to the E.R.

  2. Hilarious! And so true - and I KNOW from experience. I could regale you with several (now amusing, but at the time, seemingly devastating) anecdotes, but hey - this is YOUR blog. But yes, you're right that the entire world is 1/2" off.

  3. A-flippin-men...