T’s Rules for Home Improvement

In April 1999, I walked into a new job. It was a bustling newsroom that had already known my wife for a few weeks. The first desk I passed was one of those places where deskless people sit–a shared space that served as a home for the homeless, a place of respite for the weary, and, on more than a few occasions, a guy who eventually become one of my best friends.

T is a few years older than me and has gotten to most of life’s milestones a few steps before me. Over the past nine years, we’ve been through a lot together. He’s helped me through many a rough patch. He’s told me big truths, big lies, and everything in between. That’s how friendship works. Like any good friend, I’ve listened when I should, fought when I should, and completey discounted things when I felt like it. Out of all the things T has told me over the years, there is one axiom that has been true every time. Say it with me:

Every home improvement project will be three times as difficult, cost three times as much, and take three times as long as you think it will.

As you are likely aleady aware, we on Mt. Otis are making our home look better than ever. All but two rooms in the house are getting a complete makeover. For the amount we are spending to make this house look better–for someone else, I never hesitate to point out–I could have a very good time in Las Vegas this summer. There is a long list of people who keep repeating a hollow-eyed mantra that sounds like, “You will get that money back at sale. You like to spend tons of cash. You will get that money back at sale.” Every day, though, I am wishing I could burn down the house for the insurance (Note: If for some reason my house should, in fact burn, I am officially disavowing any knowledge of how the fire started or what I was doing at the BP at 3am, Friday March 28).

Since this process started a couple of weeks ago, my house has recognized what’s going on. A few nights ago, after the wife went to bed, my house spoke up. “I know what you’re doing,” it said. “You’re making me pretty so you can sell me. The party is over, huh? No more beer in the fridge? No more Goose in the garage. No more wet t-shirt contests in the driveway. I’m probably going to end up with a bunch of people who will use me to home school their three-legged kid. Great. Just fuckin’ great.”

The resignation has led to bitterness. I got out of the shower yesterday and a five-inch section of popcorn ceiling fell on my head. The dishwasher broke. I won’t even go into the problem that has made me scream like a little girl already. Mt. Otis is fighting back, and I don’t blame it.

As such, we’re spending a lot of money now to make the place nice for someone else. We’re spending a decent freakin’ poker bankroll to do what the builders should’ve done in the first place. Like what? Well, an unexpected new ceiling for one. What else? Replacing some slate that was cracked because someone couldn’t find five extra square feet of backer board when they put it in. At this moment, a nice guy named Joe is putting in new tile while on the phone with someone who he asked, “Como se llama…billboard?” At least that’s what I think he said. It doesn’t matter. The dog is unhappy. I’m unhappy. Worse, the house is unhappy. Como se llama…red ass?

Other things I’ve learned since this process began.

  • Home Depot has a whorehouse in the contractors’ section. At least, that’s what I assume. When one of our workers says he has to run up to Home Depot (a four-minute drive), he is gone no less than an hour and usually comes back in a better mood.
  • Contractors live west of any place on which they are working. The time zone difference is the only way to explain how 8:30 always means 9:30.
  • When your kid starts referring to the painter as “Uncle Don,” it’s time to finish the project.
  • At least the house is quiet for the next little bit. No lie–both the painter and the tile guy had to go to Home Depot.

    Must be the day they bring in the new whores.

    Brad Willis

    Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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    4 Responses

    1. AmyC says:

      At our house, we call this the mushroom factor; every project mushrooms in both cost and time. A project gone really bad gets the “nuclear” tag. We rennovated an old house in NY for years. In a state of constant nuclear dissaray, it was only perfect the month before we sold it. We will never make that mistake again. Now we rennovate so that we can enjoy it – not the next suckers down the line.

      My biggest brag: they know me by name at Home Depot.

      My only advice: Don’t hang wallpaper with the misses – it will only be used as evidence in divorce court later.

      Best of Luck:)

    2. MGM says:

      There were lots of things we did to our most recent house. Not to sell it, mind you, just to make it more enjoyable for ourselves. We didn’t plan to move again. Ever.
      So my manly stud of a husband built a new deck on the back of the house, singlehandedly (except for all that nailing with the nail gun that his pregnant wife did.) The project cost twice what we had intended. The end product was nice. We got to enjoy it for 10 months before we decided to move after all.

      We thought we’d recoup the expense of this and many other improvements we’d made over the years in our home. Our Realtor assured us that we wouldn’t. However, he also assured us that it would probably help it sell much faster.
      It sold 16 hours after it was listed, and I couldn’t help wondering if we should have set a higher price (we still sold our house for more than any other house in our subdivision had sold for in the two years previous). So even if you don’t fully recoup the expenses, it may at least sell…which is a good thing in itself with a saturated market and a failing economy.

      Oh, and don’t knock homeschooling. Some of our kids not only have two legs, but are cute, brilliant, and better behaved than practically 100% of their public schooled counterparts. Just sayin’.

    3. Astin says:

      My renos took 3x as long as expected, and were 3x the headache. I think the cost came in where I expected though. Go figure.

      Renovating to resell rarely recoups the cost. Although fixing before a resell is good practice. Paint is the best ROI you can make on a house. What you will do is sell it quicker (as MGM stated), and avoid any headaches from ceilings falling on the new owners. If it keeps you out of small claims court, it’s worth it.

      Don’t worry, once you’re in Toronto, the land of milk and honey, everything will seem worthwhile.

    4. T says:

      “…and completey discounted things when I felt like it.”

      Bitch.
      ~T

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