Monday, March 19, 2018

Home Improvement is Drudgery


Remodeling isn't as simple as they show it on TeeVee.

Home improvement shows have taken off since the introduction of This Old House back in the 1970s.  As I noted that earlier posting, these home improvement shows are very dangerous to the human psyche and to your soul.  They sell the idea that somehow your life would be more complete if only you had a more fashionable home.  They also sell the idea that home improvements are both fun and easy to do.  All of these ideas of course, are wrong.

In your typical home improvement or house flipper show, they always have a perky young girl named Stacy who has a ponytail.  It's not the kind of ponytail that comes out of the back of her head at a 90 degree angle but one that pops up at a jaunty angle 45 degrees from horizontal.  Stacy is always shown wearing safety glasses and using a battery powered cordless drill to screw in the final screw on a set of cabinets, usually attaching the last knob.  There, that's done!

Stacy is forever finishing projects - always putting in that last screw or last nail and making it seem that it's very easy to do these things when in fact it takes days and days of hard work.  Just installing cabinets, for example, involves more than screwing them into the wall.  Not shown on the show are the ten test-fittings and adjustments needed before you can screw them in.  Once the first one is up, of course, the rest go easier.   Its like replacement windows.  The first one took us well over an hour.  By the time we got to the last one, we had it down to almost 15 minutes.

The other thing Stacy is shown doing is smashing out walls with a sledgehammer.  Apparently women like to smash things with sledgehammers and men find it very sexy to see attractive young women smashing things with sledgehammers.

And I'm not kidding about this either.  When we remodeled our kitchen in Virginia, a wealthy friend of ours insisted that she come over and help us with the demolition.  She took great glee in smashing away the walls with a sledgehammer, particularly after I drew a picture of her ex-boyfriend on one of the walls.  Some neighbors of mine - all women - also confessed that they enjoy the demolition aspect of home improvement.  It must be some hormonal thing, but women like to smash things with sledgehammers as much as little boys do.

The sad reality is, however, that home remodeling is an awful lot of hard physical labor and drudgery.  The home improvement shows rarely show this aspect of things, other than perhaps to allude to the fact that they had a small army of illegal Mexicans do the sheet rocking for them.  People who do these things for a living get good at them, and can do them far more easily and quickly than you and I can.   They also have specialized tools.   The difference between an amateur and a professional, it is said, is often in the tools.

For example, I am sheet-rocking the ceiling in the garage.   It is difficult work, as I have to use a step-stool to reach the ceiling, and then move it every few minutes as I plaster and sand.   Professionals use stilts and just walk around.  They also can swipe on a load of "mud" and wipe it down so that it needs little, if any sanding or sponging.   In many cases, they are ready to paint as soon as the compound dries.   I can do a decent job of it - it just takes me a lot longer!

Most of this work is not very glamorous, either.  The home improvement shows always show what I call quote "the fun part" - attaching the knobs to the cabinets, or dropping in the new cooktop into the counter, or pushing the refrigerator into position.  Gee, that was easy!  They dust off the handles with the rag and declare the job done, but you never see all the other tasks that come before it.

Organizing things, and cleaning things are two of the primary aspects of Home Improvement projects.  And it seems that in my latest project I spend most of my time looking for things or moving things around in order to get work done.  In order to tear apart the laundry room, I had to move the washer, dryer, and refrigerator.  That meant moving a car out of the garage and shuffling a lot of other things around.

And let's not talk about all the trips to the lumberteria, each time with a list of parts and things we need.   I think we've been well over a dozen times now - and probably will go at least a few more.

When you're occupying a dwelling while you're rehabilitating it, it makes things much more complicated.  A friend of mine just bought a house and gutted it to the rafters, which they can do because they're not living in it.  With no contents in the house is much easier just to strip things out and work on everything all at once.

The other aspect is cleaning.  Although smashing a wall with the sledgehammer might provide a lot of emotional satisfaction, all of that smashed sheetrock has to be picked up and put into a dumpster or garbage can.  This involves a lot of lifting and carrying with sharp nails protruding from things.  It also means a lot of sweeping and dust and drudgery.

And again, they rarely show this on the home improvement shows other than to show Stacey sweeping up that last little pile of dust at the end of the program, or maybe her partner Bill unloading one piece of sheetrock from his truck.

But of course, a real home improvement show showing home improvement in real time would be boring as all get out.  There would be a lot of people standing around drenched in sweat and exhausted, perhaps bickering where to put the next wall stud.  This isn't as exciting as the before and after photos of yet another house-flipper show.

What I find fascinating about these shows, however, is how so many people like to watch them - mostly people who can't even put a nail in straight.   I guess people like to watch other people fix things up, provided, of course, that they only show the "fun parts".

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