Friday, August 24, 2012

Home Improvement Projects.

Or rather, why some people should NEVER attempt them.

I am married to a wonderful man who has many talents.  One of his areas of giftedness is home improvement projects.   Drywall, taping, mudding, painting, trim, hanging doors, water heaters, flooring and even gutting and remodeling a full bathroom are all within his scope of ability.  This is one of the reasons why we can afford to buy a house rather than rent one.  We don't really need a building maintenance man or landlord to handle home repairs and we don't have to call licensed professionals with every little thing, thus saving us hours of labor costs.

That being said, our current home seems to be eating up much of his precious few days off.  Every time we go to fix or update some little thing, we find ourselves making multiple trips to the blue or orange home improvement stores to swap out drill bits, hardware, PVC pipe, down spouts, ...whatever.  This tends to make the project time grow exponentially.  We have even started playing a little game before a new project begins.  We try to guesstimate how many trips to the store it will take before the job is completed.  If we get it done in fewer trips than our guess we "win".  What we win, I don't know.  It just feels good to say that we won.

This phenomenon is not limited to my house, or even my generation.  When I was in high school I spent many hours baby sitting for one particular couple that knew my parents.  They had just bought a two family home with plans of renting the top floor unit and living on the bottom floor unit.  That eventually worked out for them, but they hit a problem first.

The problem?   The house had been Buckleyed. 
(I apologize if you are a Buckley....I never met this particular branch of the family, just the aftermath of their projects.)

Every time something had to be done to the house it turned into a major project.
Say you needed to strip the wallpaper off.  That should not require much more than a steamer and some elbow grease, right?    Not if your house has been Buckleyed.  Nope.  This is when you pull off the switch covers and find out that wires aren't connected or grounded, or haven't been updated.  So instead of painting clean walls, you spend your weekend calling electricians and watching your decorating budget get spent on miles of wiring and hourly wages.

For the next weekend you figure you'll just rip up the carpet in the front hallway.  Messy and dusty, but not really expensive, right?  Guess again.  Remember, this house has been Buckleyed.  There was a reason why they put carpet down in the first place.  Apparently they weren't as good at re-finishing hardwood floors as they thought.    And on it went. For the entire time they lived there. 

Fast forward to present day. We love most things about our current house.  It is in a great location, has more square footage than anything we've ever lived in before and  the kitchen has more cabinet and counter space than the galley on the QE II.  It has, however, been Buckleyed.  And not just your basic Buckley plan either.  Oh no. This house has been given the deluxe treatment.

At first inspection the top few rows of exterior bricks on the chimney just looked like they needed to be re-pointed and sealed.  Not a big deal.  Just a weekend, a trip for supplies and some tools borrowed from some friends....... except, some previous owner apparently took a page from the Buckley play book and chose some weird type of brick and mortar that absorbs moisture and allows the bricks to expand and contract....and crumble to dust.....

Three months, two levels of scaffolding and one consult with a master mason later, we are removing the top 20" of brick and re-laying 250 bricks under the mason's supervision.

We knew the downstairs bathroom and shower needed to be re caulked and touched up.  Again no big deal.  A Saturday morning, a few tubes of caulking and time for everything to dry and seal......except....yup...Buckleyesque repairs done here too, allowing water to boldly mold where no water should have gone before.....

Two months, new caulking, new manifold, new shut off valves,  new drywall, new sub-flooring, new moisture barrier and new laminate flooring later and all we have left to do to complete the bathroom, bedroom, downstairs hallway and laundry room  is some tile, grout, bathroom paint, trim and door installation....   sigh.....

We thought maybe the backyard had escaped the "help" of the Buckleys, but alas we were sorely disappointed.   Apparently when a Buckley decides to change the landscaping, they do not believe in removing ANY of the old material...EVER.
Imagine my "delight" when trying to get a patch of yard ready for a small garden to find...
mulch,  laid over
landscaping fabric, laid over
red lava rock, laid over
more landscaping fabric....  in the front, back and side yards.

I was able to get a basil garden planted, but in order to use any other portion of the yard for food production we are really going to need to do/use the following:
Pull down all of the chain-link fence
Grind the 7  tree stumps out
excavate the former coy pond complete with full liner and gravel (now covered with mulch)
Completely scrape, regrade and re-seed the front and back lawns....

I'm thinking that buying tomatoes at $4.99/lb would be cheaper.

I'm also thinking that This Old House could do an entire season on locating where the Buckleys have lived and correcting any projects that have been attempted.
Or maybe we should have a National Register of Buckleyed Homes that qualify for special federal funding for any and all restoration projects.

So, if you ever find yourself standing in line at a home-improvement store behind a family that seems to be on a first name basis with all the staff, you can be sure that one of two things are happening.
Either someone is fixing a Buckley, or a Buckley is fixing to strike again...

'cause they missed the class on that!


  1. our house it totally one of those...and i fear we are only making it worse! lol i have learned to not tear apart that which I do not want to know about. :)

  2. I know the feeling :) My dh suggested replacing an exterior light fixture the other day. Then we both looked at each other and said, "Nope" lol