By Heather Mullinix
Sometimes I think home improvement stores need a screening tool of some sort, perhaps some kind of licensing or reference check. For example, before one can walk in and buy that handy dandy table saw, they need three people to vouch that they aren’t likely to cut off a bodily appendage.
Of course, this would eliminate me for a host of do-it-yourself home improvement projects. I’m pretty certain my coworkers would never recommend me to own a saw, a blowtorch or a nail gun. I think they’re also a little leery of my owning a gas grill and a vinyl siding house, but really, that was years ago! Lesson learned, folks. Lesson learned.
The fact is, I’m great at following instructions for a project, and don’t care a bit to do the unglamorous tasks, like pulling 15,000 staples out of the subfloor before putting down new laminate. I’m not so good at some of the other parts of home improvement, like knowing how to use a saw or that the folks who sell lumber have come up with an ingenious way to confuse the buyer. (Did you know a 2x4 is not actually two inches by four inches? They are actually 1 and 1/2 inch by 3 and 1/2 inches. You can see where this might cause a problem when determining the dimensions of a project.)
And picking out paint colors is such a challenge. I either go too light or too dark, too cool or too warm. It’s never just right. Recently, I decided it was time to make my mark on my new home. I’d lived there more than three years and it was still the same neutral beige the builders painted it. Over time, that beige had endured scuffs and a few areas had the remains of spider guts (I smash them where I see them. Otherwise they might get away). I had been unable to match the existing color and it didn’t really “pop.” It’s a big room, and I didn’t want to paint it only to hate the color, so I consulted with those who know better about such things. A lovely golden hue was chosen that went well with my décor. There was enough left in the bucket to paint over earlier color mistakes in the master bedroom and bath. Green isn’t my color, apparently. At least not that particular green. I liked it for about a day. I’d been wanting to change it for some time now.
I’ve also learned to be wary of those home improvement TV shows. They may be able to put down a new floor in a weekend, with their army of experienced workers, but little ol’ me and knowledgeable friends needed significantly more time allotted for the task.
Despite my not so successful home improvement attempts, I still like to look through magazines or wander up and down aisles making plans in my head. Wouldn’t that light fixture look good in the dining area? And, of course, the light needs to be moved over because it’s not centered where it should be. And then, with that done, converting that recessed lighting to trendy new pendant lights would be great! And don’t forget the outside. A retaining wall and patio would be lovely!
Of course, with each new project and undertaking, I learn a little more and I get a little more experience. That means I’m not calling in a panic for help with a project and becoming just a little more self-sufficient with each project.
I’ve saved some money on these projects, too. For example, paint isn’t a high dollar project, and it can really pack a punch in terms of changing the look and feel of your home, but paying someone to paint your home gets pricey. Of course, I’ve also discovered several projects where I’ll be calling the pros the next time around. The aching back, the not-so-clear-cut instructions and the overall time involved make it totally worth the expense.
I’ve also learned that TV home improvement shows are liars, or at best, misrepresent-ors. That’s not a word, I know, but it fits them. However long you think a project will take, double, triple or quadruple it. Also, add to your budget because you’re not going to get everything you need in one trip, no matter how well you plan.
But the best part of a do-it-yourself project, in my opinion, is sitting back after it’s done and looking at what you’ve accomplished with your own hands. It’s quite a feeling. It reminds me of seeing that newspaper roll off the press after pouring blood, sweat and tears into get it done, and then having something tangible to show for my efforts. It also helps build skills in team work and following instructions, and fosters a sense of camaraderie when tackling a project with friends or family.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesday. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.