Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Hubris of a Do-It-Yourselfer

My wife and I have done a lot of work on our condo (and are still doing it). What we lack in actual skills and no-how, we more than make up for in naïve, hubristic over-confidence and bull-headed oxen-like determination. These can take you a long way.

For instance, over the summer, when everyone else was enjoying weekends at the beach and nights out on roof decks holding brightly colored drinks in stemmed glasses, we spent every waking moment for 4 weeks putting in a marble floor. We learned about things called “floor leveler” and “margin trowels” and “cementitious thinset mortar”, and successfully used a “wet saw” without losing any necessary digits. Even after most people would have given up and called in the pros, we pressed on, thinking we’d be done in only a day or two more. A day or two more quickly added up.

Since then, we’ve learned why people buy new kitchen cabinets instead of simply painting the old ones (because one average-sized kitchen cabinet, with one door, has approximately the same surface area as a Coopers Mini and takes just about as long to paint), that buying materials at Home Depot takes as long as doing the actual work, and that everything takes 3 times as long as you think it should. Except for putting in baseboard (thank God for Paslode nail guns!), which took only 1/3 of the time I had allotted for some reason. I suspect I did something wrong and that I’ll walk in some time to find my baseboard has “failed”, as they say in the trades, with catastrophic results.

We also learned that people’s reactions are not up to our standard when we show off our place. No one swoons when they see our newly-installed and freshly painted built-in bookcases (all of which, of course, we did ourselves); no one breaks down in tears of unbelieving joy because of the vast expanse of wall tile we put in the bathroom. Don’t they understand that we had no idea what we were doing, and still have no idea how we did it, and that it still came out looking great? That’s a 3 piece baseboard we mitered together, people! Don’t you understand the significance of that?

So we keep laboring on, doing things we have no business doing: installing sinks and toilets and crown mold, wiring under-counter and indirect lighting, replacing “J-traps”. And we have to be content with the work’s own rewards, which so far have been callused hands, tiny but extremely painful cuts on my fingers, exhaustion, and a rather nice paint fume-induced light headedness. But, being the eternal optimists that we are, we’re sure that the rewards will get better as time goes on.

No comments: