Renovating your home is fun … as long as you have an unlimited budget and don’t have to live there during the process. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have either of those two things and the last two weeks have been pretty rough … not in a “working-in-a-traveling-carnival” sort of way, but I would imagine that both equally unpleasant and would cause you to re-evaluate your life decisions several times a day.
Also, I bet carnivals can sometimes be fun whereas renovations rarely are.
It’s been two weeks since I told everyone that I am working on my house, and during those two weeks, a lot has happened but only half of it is any good. I can’t help but wonder if this is a little cosmic karma coming back on my since I spent so many years of my professional life working with people on their own renovations that it only seems fitting that I have to go through some unpleasantness associated with the process myself. I should point out a few things – probably obvious to many of you but just in case, things would be easier just by putting them out there.
I am not as wealthy as my clients and what I know is a lot different than the services for which I am capable of paying.
Felt dirty writing that last sentence out since it’s done, let’s get to why that might actually matter.
For years, I have maintained that if I can be involved during the construction process, and I mean regular access to the job site, I tend to catch things that aren’t being done correctly and are then able to deal with those issues in a simple, and typically non-aggressive, manner. Since I am living in my house while this current work in taking place, I get non-stop unfettered access to everything at all times … and someone is going to get killed (my vote is for the person who doesn’t do physical labor all day – the odds are not in my favor). I am doing my absolute darndest to keep my expectations in line with the amount of money I am paying but despite my best efforts, I am not always successful. The way I explained it to my daughter was like this: If I was paying Michelangelo to paint my house, I would expect it to be perfect, but I’m not – I’m essentially paying Michelangelo’s neighbor 5 streets over to paint my house and apparently this the first house he has ever painted. On top of that, it’s quite possible that Michelangelo’s neighbor 5 streets over has decided that he hates painting.
That might be a little harsh but I get the feeling that I need to tell these guys “just so you know, you need to actually clean the walls of dust prior to painting them …”. In fact, I literally told them that this afternoon and the leader assured me that they were as he gestured towards a broom, the very same one used to sweep up the job site, that is being used to brush down the walls prior to painting.
This would fall into the “on-going problems” category.
One of the issues – which is a problem of my own creation – is that we actually have a deadline in place for the completion of this work, a deadline made more difficult on my contractor because we are living in the house through this construction process. My house is around 3,500 square feet and we are doing work in all but +/- 120 square feet. You can’t escape the dust, the noise, and for people like me who presumably know better, the lack of cogent workflow. Again … Michelangelo’s neighbor.
As I carefully move around the space, to avoid finding myself in a dark dead-end corridor in the wrong area of the house, I tell myself to be productive, collaborative, and educational. I endeavor to remind myself that I don’t normally have the luxury of watching how every step is made and would I even know if the walls were brushed off before painting if I didn’t already know the answer?
The other challenge that we have put upon ourselves during this time of love and cholera, is that we are taking in an international student for the upcoming school year. This Covid-19 working from home business has hit the school systems pretty hard as well and the school my daughter attends has elected to not open up their boarding facilities, which means that those students – unless they are able to find other arrangements – can’t come back to school this year. Since my family is able to help, we are, and now we are bringing in this unsuspecting student into this house of disasters.
Hi Student – Welcome to your new home for the upcoming school year … you might want to sleep wearing a dust mask … and sleep is a term used loosely around this house lately … and say “hello” to Michelangelo’s neighbor 5 streets over.
I thought I would give you an idea of my madness. If you look at the picture above, it’s pretty obvious to see that this is a work in progress and there are a lot of things that fall clearly between “started” and “completed”. Does it drive my absolutely bonkers that they painted the crown molding at the end of last week even though they haven’t finished floating out the walls or installed the base molding? [eye twitching]
Yes. It does. A lot.
But I’ve highlighted a spot on the crown molding that is just slightly-off-and-not-perfectly centered above the TV (which for the record, the TV is now safely tucked away in my closet). I want you to look closely at that space and imagine yourself sitting on the couch, watching your favorite television program, and imagine your eye drifting slightly up as eyes will do from time to time, only to see ….
A crack. A nasty filthy crack. And did you notice that I didn’t say it was perfectly centered above the TV – at least if it had been perfectly centered there would have been some artistry to this bastard – no … I said “slightly-off-and-not-perfectly” centered.
And this crown mold was just painted, as in, they painted this. It’s clearly not ready for paint but f*!k it, we’re going to paint it anyway because we’re Michelangelo’s neighbor 5 streets over and we’ve decided that we hate painting houses. But wait … it continues.
I made it known to my contractor that everything needed to be removed prior to painting. In the genre of “everything”, light switches are generally included … but yet here we are. This blue mess is essentially painters tape wrapped around the cover plate with some plastic mixed in for measure – presumably, so we could still use it. Of all the things painting related that drive me crazy, it’s when wall-mounted items aren’t removed prior to painting.
During my weekend, I did the power move of going around my house and removing all this nonsense. While I know it’s not my job, my passive approach has not been working. If I want all the wall-mounted items removed prior to painting, I am simply going to remove them myself.
Bob – 1
Michelangelo’s neighbor 5 streets over – 0
I took some time to help you visualize that close is not close enough when it comes to painting. In my trademarked post-production Photoshop added red, I highlighted the portion of the wall that was not painted when the light switch cover plate had tape on it. If you can’t really see it, here’s a picture with the cover plate actually removed:
Close enough just isn’t close enough. Part of me wants to cut these guys some slack because I am about as certain as I can be that they did not remove these particular cover plates because they didn’t know how to remove the Noon Home switches … but I am sitting at my desk in the middle of this particular job site so asking would have been a simple matter of walking about 15 strides over to where I am sitting.
Maybe I put off a nasty vibe that makes it difficult to approach me? While I don’t yell, I do carry myself in a way on a job site that has a “let me show you how to do your job” swagger to it and I’ve been told that I have a mean face.
I’m not going to lie, mean face comment stung a bit … but I thought my mom was joking at the time.
The good news is that there is still light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, we can’t prepare food at home unless I grill it outside, we don’t have the ability to wash clothes unless we journey to a laundromat (really not a big deal but certainly not as convenient as doing it when you want), but my wife and I have a roll-up-our-sleeves and make things easier sort of attitude and we’ve been packing things up and moving them out of the way. It makes living here during a pandemic more challenging but at least we’ll have some stories to tell afterward.
This picture of my kitchen is already out of date … we spent the weekend packing everything up and getting things ready to pull out all the countertops. We are going to be getting in new countertops and backsplashes, and the cabinets will receive new hinges, pulls, and drawer-glides after receiving a new coat of paint (grimacing at the thought). Knowing that I will make them remove all the cabinet door fronts and drawers because those need to be completely sanded down prior to receiving a new coat of paint, we decided to start getting things ready with the idea that if we didn’t do it, maybe it wouldn’t be done right the first time. This included pulling out the 43-year-old contact paper from every shelf and drawer in this entire kitchen, apparently held in place with Devil juice.
To complicate matters, there were a few coats of paint on top of this contact paper which actually made it slightly brittle. I could have applied some heat to make this process go a bit more smoothly but I’m not convinced it would have helped considering how much paint was on top of the contact paper. This is one of those times when heat might have made it easier to pull up, but it would have doubled my time and in my book, half effort + 2x time spent is not better than 2x effort + half the time spent.
Either way, it was a drag.
This is what 43-year-old contact paper looks like – and this was considered a victory because it came out in one long “took-me-15-minutes” pull. Here’s the thing about contact paper … the Devil made it. Don’t use it unless you are convinced that this is the only way to make the inside of your cabinet shelves and drawers look something other than “nasty”. If you have new cabinets, there is zero reasons why you would ever this stuff. I am aware that if you have painted cabinets there are stories out there about having things stick to them. This generally happens when the surface wasn’t properly prepared or the wrong sort of paint was used. My go-to solution on those rare occasions when I specify painted shelves is to go with a waterborne acrylic enamel paint, or you put two-coats of water-based polyurethane top-coat on them.
Just no peel-n-stick contact paper – the tenth level of Dante’s inferno is reserved for those sorts of people.
If it sounds like I’m just complaining, you’d be correct. I’m not sure than I am in a position to complain because other than frustration and having to do several things over when I am on a schedule, at least my contractor will make it right, and not everybody has that luxury. We tend to communicate daily and I have a feeling that we are about to get a different painter on the job – which is a good thing – because Michelangelo’s neighbor 5 streets over doesn’t really want to be here.
Did I mention that this isn’t even three weeks in?
If you’ve got a good thought for me, send it my way – pretty sure I am going to need it.