Sometimes I get the feeling that there’s an echo in my life, and that everything happens to me twice. Strictly speaking this isn’t true, but it definitely feels like it when I’m doing home renovations. Up until very recently I rarely got something right the first time, and ended up demolishing or uninstalling or repainting because the first iteration of the project simply didn’t work out.
To make matters worse, this is my second house. One would think that all the hard lessons were learned there, and that things would naturally work out better this time around.
Well, things are better than they were at house #1 — a lot better, in fact — but a few mistakes were still made. It’s taken a lot of time and patience to develop the skill to not just jump in and start doing things without a solid plan in place.
One of the most significant changes between the two houses is that I became older and wiser. Mostly older. When I was in my 20s and early 30s, for instance, I did a lot more ladder work. I’m still proud of that defining moment over at a friend’s house, helping him finish a paint job in early October twilight, at the top of a 20-foot ladder with a brush in one hand and a small flashlight clenched in my teeth. (The other hand was sensibly holding onto the ladder and the handle of the paint can.)
Time is money, and now I invest in my time by spending money to hire skilled trades. I’ve built a small porch roof myself, but I call in the pros to do the main roof way up high. Licensed contractors upgraded the electrical service, installed a new furnace, air conditioner and water heater, poured concrete pads and installed teleposts to stabilize the main beam. A window company came in and managed to replace all the old windows in the time it would have taken me to do just one of them properly. Hired a nice chap to redo the concrete parging around the foundation. Had pros build a new garage. Worth every penny, and then some.
I still do my own drywall, although “fast” is not a word one should use to describe my skills with a bucket of mud and a drywall knife. Flooring usually works out for me, although nowadays my material of choice is click-fit vinyl laminate rather than tiles and some vile-smelling floor adhesive. Interior doors are doable, now that I know how to hang them properly.
I do all the interior painting, and in fact spent some time as a painter’s helper in the distant past. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll get the colour right, though — The dark blue accent wall in the kitchen didn’t suit the rest of the room, the red in the master bedroom looks too purple and will eventually be redone in a warmer red, and I’d rather not think about that bizarre vermilion-and-brown pointillistic mess that used to be on the door of the downstairs bathroom. In the light of hindsight, sometimes one’s creativity can be downright embarrassing.
When I take the time to plan, to choose materials, to research best practices, it does turn out. The shiny black slabs of ceramic around my bathtub are gorgeous, with every single grout line matched up and level. The crown moulding around the ceiling in the master bedroom all fits together properly. The kitchen layout is positively ingenious, using shallow wall cupboards as base cabinets for narrow spaces next to doorways, a ledge above and behind the main counter for coffee and tea canisters, and a “floating” base cabinet with room underneath it for pets’ food dishes.
But that tile on the kitchen floor has got to go.
I think I’ll paint the bedroom wall first, though. That shade of reddish-purple is driving me crazy.