Friday, June 13, 2008

"Home, Sweat Home"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

In the 10 years since my wife and I bought our house, which the bank actually owns but kindly allows us to pay for, I have come to realize that home is where the heartburn is.

In fact, I am having chest pains just thinking about all the work I have done around the house over the past decade.

Because Sue and I spent the first 20 years of our marriage in either an apartment or a condominium, I was pathetically ill-equipped to be a homeowner. I had such limited knowledge of tools that I thought a screwdriver was vodka and orange juice. I don’t even want to tell you what I thought a hoe was.

"But now," Sue said the other evening at dinner, as we marked a decade in our dream house, which occasionally gives me nightmares, "you’re getting better, although you still have a lot to learn. Like how to use a power washer."

She was referring, unfortunately, to my latest failed project, which began that morning when I went to a home improvement center to rent a machine that a sales associate named Fred started on the first try.

When I got the thing home, of course, it wouldn’t start, which was all right with me because I would have had to climb a ladder to wash the upper part of the house. We have a Colonial that is high enough to give a mountain goat nosebleeds and I am afraid of being any higher off the ground than the top of my head.

So I brought the power washer back. Fred easily started it again.

If I am good at anything, Sue said, it’s mowing the lawn. "You do that well," she acknowledged. "It’s one job you have perfected. At least you don’t get frustrated and swear and throw things like you used to."

That’s because it’s hard to throw a lawn mower. But I do like to cut the grass because it gives me an excuse not to go inside to paint.

Every painting project has been a brush with disaster. Since we moved in, I have painted 20 times, which amounts to two projects per year. The worst was when I painted the living room for the second time. I had to pull down three huge ceiling beams that Sue said, after I had painted the room the first time, she didn’t like.

One beam almost came crashing down on my head, which would have shattered it (the beam, not my head). All three left holes that I had to plug up before I painted. Fortunately, Sue is only 5-foot-1, so she thinks the ceiling looks good.

Last year, after I painted our bedroom for the second time, I announced my retirement from painting. "You’re not retired," Sue said the other evening. "You’re just on hiatus."

Great. She probably wants me to paint the downstairs bathroom again. I have already painted it three times.

Speaking of bathrooms, we once had to hire a contractor to gut and refurbish all of them, including the two full baths upstairs. When they were finished, of course, I had to paint them.

Two years ago, when our older daughter was engaged to be married, Sue suggested we have the bridal shower at our house because, she reasoned, "We’ll save money." Then she announced that the kitchen had to be redone. We hired another contractor. We didn’t save money.

To make matters worse, our underground oil tank ruptured a week before the shower. The side yard had to be dug up and an old, rusty, above-ground tank was temporarily placed on the lawn in full sight of the guests. The tank was festooned with balloons and a sign that read: "Congratulations!"

The kitchen was finished the day before the shower. We had it wallpapered, so at least I didn’t have to paint again.

In the last 10 years, I have learned that a house is not a home unless there is something to do. And there always is. In fact, my next project is cleaning out the garage, which is filled with boxes that haven’t been opened since we moved in.

Frankly, I’d rather power wash the house.

Copyright 2008 by Jerry Zezima


Lucie said...

Another family secret. You have lots of painting experience. I just happen to need a painter and do not have the 9k he wants to paint my entire condo. Consider yourself hired.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to MoneyPitOwnership.

My Dad said of owning a're either rich enough to hire someone or you better be smart enough to learn to do it yourself.

I won't make you heave in envy over what *I* can do. I've owned my home for over 20 years.

(hang a ceiling fan, seat a toilet, sweat a copper hot water pipe, hang a slab door after hand beveling and mortising, tile, plumbing, electrical and oh yes....paint).

I will give you one word of advice. Okay. More than one. First...make sure you have the correct tools for the job. Otherwise it will take longer and look crappy. Second....It always takes twice as long and you'll be missing at least one tool. But....if you do it yourself, you'll usually do a better job than someone you hire because it's *your* house and you care more about it. You can't pay anyone enough to care more than you do.

And painting is nothing.

Hang some drywall, mud & tape, then paint and tile and we'll talk.