Friday, November 21, 2008

Things I've Learned about Home Improvement

Things I’ve learned in the past 2.5 years about owning and rehabbing a home (and a little about being married too):

  • Baby wipes are not flushable.
  • If you have any sort of tree coverage in your yard, you should have your main sewer line (from your house to the street) BLADED once a year. Not just snaked, but bladed. Snaking just makes a path for waste water to flow down. Blading cuts out tree roots and other blockages.
  • If one drops an earring down the drain and needs to retrieve it, one should be very cautious while disassembling the sink trap because there is icky, stinky gunk in there.
  • A dryer is not as hard to repair as you’d think.
  • You will never, ever get dried grout off of your clothes.
  • Ditto drywall mud.
  • Screw drivers have a “reverse.” Learn this. Love this.
  • A Phillips head screw is easier to put in than a flat head screw, but it is a lot easier to strip the head of the Phillips screw.
  • Always check the oven before preheating to make sure your husband didn’t hide dirty dishes in there before his mother dropped by.
  • If there is a hole in the floor your dog will drop every toy in the house down that hole. You will never see those toys again and your dog will spend his days staring at that spot in the floor, willing it to open back up and cough up his toys.
  • It is much faster to hit leaves with the mower and mulch them up than it is to rake and bag them.
  • Fire pits make friends of neighbors. Except for that one guy who always gets smoke blown into his windows.
  • You know that saw you left in the middle of the dining room? The one you were sure you wouldn’t bang your foot on in the middle of the night when you got up to let the dog out? Move it. Unless you like stitches.
  • Tools are not as complicated as the men in your life make them seem. Really. On, off, keep your fingers away from the sharp edges. You’re good to go.
  • Measure twice. Measure three times. Always double check before you cut anything.
  • Buy extra tile. You will screw up at least half a dozen pieces and drop another 3 or 4 on the floor where they will shatter into thousands of tiny, knife-like ceramic shards.
  • Make sure you don’t mix up the hot and cold water pipes when you’re plumbing in a shower. Also, if you shower in my basement, note that the hot and cold water are backwards.
  • It is possible for a dishwasher to overheat.
  • If your husband is doing the wiring expect to come home to a charred circle on the wall at least once.
  • If you buy multiple gallons or bottles of paint, floor sealer, polyurethane, or grout always, always make sure they match. Compare labels. Compare visually. Then, mix half of one container with half of another to make sure any differences between batches are dealt with.
  • That screw? The last one you need to attach the cabinet to the wall? Don’t look now, but it’s in your foot.
  • Learn how to relight your furnace’s pilot light. It will invariably go out on the coldest night of the year when your husband is out of town and your father will not enjoy you calling him at 2:00 a.m. to request he talk you through the procedure.
  • The worst part about installing an egress window is digging the giant hole along your foundation.
  • Insulate your attic. Thoroughly. It will lower your heating bill dramatically.
  • Install storm doors. Get the kind where the screen rolls up into the door itself so you never have to mess around with changing out the screen and window.
  • That nice, new fridge for the kitchen? Yeah, it’s not fitting through that door. Or that door. Nope, not that one either.
  • With practice, one can disassemble a refrigerator to allow it to fit through ridiculously narrow doorways in about 12 minutes.
  • The detritus from home improvement, whether it’s dust, dirt, chunks of wood, pieces of linoleum, or some sort of liquid being applied to some sort of surface, it’s going to end up in your hair, your eyes, your mouth, and your underwear. Prepare accordingly.
  • Sometimes you and your significant others will fight about home improvement projects. The best way to solve this fight is NOT to look from the crowbar to your husband’s head and back again. Honest. The best way to solve it is to leave him to finish whatever idiotic thing he’s in the middle of while you go crack a beer and sit down somewhere quiet. Wait a few minutes and he’ll come out and say, “I think we have to do it your way.” Do not gloat.
  • There will be at least one urgent care/emergency room visit and stitches are the most likely outcome. Concussions are a close second.
  • If you can’t find the dog, look inside the refrigerator box you dragged outside.
  • Chainsaws do not belong on the top shelf in the shed. They can fall from that height, land on someone’s hand, and result in a lot of blood, some swearing, a little wooziness on the part of the noninjured party, a lot of wooziness on the part of the injured party, and a trip to the hospital.
  • Stock up on 9 volt batteries. I know, only your smoke detectors use them, but every smoke detector in your house is going to die at the same time and they will all start making the low-battery-beep at 3:00 a.m.
  • Lightbulbs also die at the same time. Every single one in the house is going to go out in a one week period.
  • A good friend helps you move. A really good friend shows up on kitchen demolition day with gloves, safety goggles, and a good attitude.
  • Even though you’ve never told them, all of your neighbors know you’re remodeling.
  • You are not the only couple that ever got into a fight at Home Depot. You probably aren’t even the only couple to get into a fight that day.
  • Make sure the knob is installed on the interior of the closet door before you shut yourself in there. You will not be able to get out otherwise.
  • Picking out paint colors is tough. Finding light fixtures you BOTH like that don’t cost $5,000 is tougher.
  • If you finish a guest room, plan on people using it right away.
  • Learn about shingles. You never know when that information will come in handy.
  • That guy at the hardware store? The one who sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. TOTALLY FAKING IT. Do your own research.
  • You do not need a fancy studfinder, but using one is way easier than tapping your knuckles along the wall trying to find a stud.
  • Invest in a laser level. It comes in handy for everything from lining up kitchen cabinets to hanging pictures on the wall.
  • Sometimes the picture is indeed level and it’s your wall that’s crooked.
  • When finishing floors, apply sealant carefully and with strategy. If you are not paying attention, you will paint yourself into a corner.
  • When finishing or refinishing wood items, do it in a very well-lit area. Sand lightly between coats. Apply the finish slowly to avoid creating air bubbles and keep your brush a little dry to avoid drips and runs.
  • Wax, like candles, placed directly on a finished wooden surface will eat the finish.
  • If you have hardwood floors, invest in one of those big mops they use on basketball court floors. Spray the bottom with some pledge, run it over your floors and enjoy the shine. It’s a quick way tidy up and in the long run is far cheaper than buying swiffer cloths.
  • When your husband is up to his ass in a home improvement project and says, “Honey, can you come here for a second,” plan on spending the rest of you day holding, propping up, running to the hardware store, digging for lost tools in the garage, and generally wishing you hadn’t been home when he decided he needed help.
  • Do not lean on towel bars. They are not always securely attached to the wall and they might rip loose and you might fall down and get hurt.


Elizabeth said...

I love this! And I have the feeling it's going to come in very handy over the next several years. But you've kind of made me nervous about my home improvement plans :)

MOLLY said...

Soooo true! You crack me up.

Buster said...

Don't be nervous about home improvement. Once I reached the point of being able to say "things are going to go wrong and the project will still turn out okay," I was much happier. So, just accept the general messiness and inconvenience and the whole Murphy's Law part of home improvement and it will all go so much better for you.