Home work is making me crazy. I don’t mean schoolwork, although you might say I’m getting schooled in a new way. My home work is being done on my residence. My teachers are the contractors, painters, carpenters, plumbers and electricians I’ve met in the past few months.
My overhaul started in late spring with a cavalcade of plumbing-related catastrophes. From having to move out, through the mitigation stage to repair and remodeling, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about drying out a home, flooring and painting; even a little bit about drywall.
A major heating-ventilation-air conditioning leak in the middle of the experience launched a whole new series of practical lessons. I’ve learned about the underpinnings of my home, to the ups and downs of working with contractors. Most of it has been absorbed the hard way. At this point, I feel as though I could write a book called “Everything I Know I Learned From Home Work.”
Here are a few things I wish I knew earlier:
Painting: I’ve ascertained proper preparation is at least half the job. I’ve also realized latex paint, no matter how good it is, won’t stick to oil-based paint if you don’t prep the surface first – which most likely means sanding or putting on an adhesive primer coat or both. Read the directions on the can. Watch YouTube videos. Listen to the attendant at the paint counter, and then check it out online. If you hire painters, don’t be afraid to ask how they intend to do the job before they start. Different painters have slightly different approaches. And, if somebody tells you they can paint your trim, cabinets and doors with latex without doing one of those things, don’t believe it.
Sanding: From floors to doors to trim, sanding can produce a massive dust storm. If wood has been painted or glued, the dust may contain harmful toxins. Cover your belongings, cover your face and, if possible, just stay away. If you’re doing the sanding yourself, wear a mask (you probably have one these days) and goggles to protect your eyes. Consider investing in a dustless sander and remember to empty it regularly.
Hardware: Replacing old, paint-clogged or rusted hardware may not be as easy as you thought. Think twice before you scrap it. I’ve learned it can take days of research and hundreds of dollars just to trade out your kitchen cabinet hinges. Even replacing wall plates on outlets can take more time and money than you might imagine.
Hiring: As with painting, prep work is crucial. Do your homework. Decide what you want. Establish a budget and time frame. Make a list of work you want done, with as much detail as possible. Get more than one bid – ideally, get three for each job. If the prices differ a lot, make sure you know what’s included in each bid. Check out recommendations. Spread payments into parts, so if things go south you can cut your losses. Mistakes happen, and reliable folks will do their best to correct them. But remember the old saying: If you’re in a hole, stop digging.
Acknowledge problems but focus on solutions. I was surprised to learn having work done on your dwelling is considered a major stressor, especially in a pandemic. Cut yourself some slack. Look for the silver linings. For me, it’s been gratitude for the amazing support of friends and neighbors who stepped up in a thousand ways. Some even shared hard-earned lessons from work on their homes to help put my experience in perspective.
Readers, if you can identify, I’d love to hear about it. Email me your stories, and your own lessons. I still have a lot to learn.