5 Inevitable Home Improvement Hiccups

I spent the weekend doing a quick and dirty bathroom renovation: new caulk around the tub, new vanity, cleaned-up grout, and a little fresh paint. I’m not a pro, but I know my way around a Home Depot, and I’ve come across five things that will happen while you’re pretending to be Bob Vila, no matter how much you prepare:

1. They did what??? As a homeowner, you’re going to find that not all homeowners treat the homeownership process the same, in terms of maintenance, or knowing anything at all about stuff beneath the drywall. If you haven’t built your house yourself, you’re probably going to inherit some surprises.

For example, when we bought our condo, I noticed an unlit overhead light in our bathroom. “Is that hooked up to a switch anywhere?” I asked. “Um, we’re not sure,” was the reply. I assumed that the light had been disconnected at some point while installing a light over the vanity mirror, and just hadn’t been removed. We left the rogue light where it was for several years, until I decided during our recent renovation to pull it out and patch over the hole. Fortunately, I use a current detector pen, and imagine my surprise when it lit up as it brought it closer to the socket.

The new light bulb makes our bathroom look much brighter.

2. I take two trips in the morning, I take two trips in the afternoon… Before you head to your local hardware store or building center, you should stand back and mentally walk through the job. Prepare a careful checklist of supplies you’ll need to complete each individual task. Then you can throw that list away, because you are going to have to make a second trip, no matter what.

Even if you somehow managed to fit an entire Lowe’s into your Jetta (more on that later), you will inevitably find that you’re missing some key part that you didn’t consider, didn’t know about, or didn’t need until you broke the last key part during the “prep” phase of your project. On the flip side, you’re almost as certain to not need something you purchased, so this is one time you definitely want to save your receipt. Bottom line, if you can manage to only make two trips to the store, consider it a great success.

3. Contractors have pickup trucks for a reason. Size is so misleading. What seems like a manageable cardboard box in the store may become a nightmare of dimensions as you struggle to push your new vanity into the trunk, then into the back seat, then into the front seat, finally making it fit if you keep the window open and rest it on the gearshift lever and up against the steering wheel.

Of course, I’m not sure that this isn’t a conspiracy on the part of the suppliers to actually make the boxes expand when you leave the store. I wouldn’t be shocked if what seemed to be a set of blinds and a new porch light somehow failed to fit in the bed of an F-250.

4. It will be faster if I just use this power tool. I like to make fresh salsa. I’ve tried various methods for chopping the tomatoes and onions a little more quickly. But food processors and blenders simply turn the tomatoes into sauce, and using canned tomatoes lends the salsa a store-bought jarred salsa taste. There’s no substitute for the chunky texture you get when you undertake the somewhat laborious process of chopping by hand.

So it goes with home improvement. After scraping away with a grout saw at the stained top layer of bathroom grout, I decided to use the Dremel to speed up the process. The first bit simply burned the grout, the second bit simply wore down the bit, and the third bit went right through the grout and into the subfloor.

I like the grout saw just fine now.

5. I promise the water will be back on by tomorrow…or the next day. I am a terrible optimist. I thought we would get our entire condo painted within a few weeks of us living there. Of course, we were still sanding and priming months later.

The water went off on Saturday morning, although I did manage to get things set up so that just the sink was unusable, and the toilet and shower were still fine. It’s now Monday. I’m sure we’ll be able to brush our teeth in the bathroom again tonight.

Maybe.


Did you ever pull off some drywall to find somebody had plastered over a window–glass, curtains and all? Comment below!

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2 Responses to 5 Inevitable Home Improvement Hiccups

  1. Matt says:

    You only like drywall because you get to be close to the studs.

  2. TheOldMan says:

    I usually make four or five trips to the hardware store to pick up things I found out I needed as the project goes on. Once the project is done, I find out I had the parts in the basement.

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