Wednesday, August 21, 2013

10 Reasons Why I Cannot Renovate A Basement Apartment.

Home repairsMy house in the Bronx currently hosts a ruined basement apartment. The basic plumbing and heat are functional, but everything else--and I mean everything--needs to be ripped out and replaced. Antiquated wiring, cracked plaster walls and ceilings, ancient water damage, mold, along with a total lack of insulation...all beg for a complete tear down. Looked in the Penny Saver, called a contractor...figured I'd start with the bathroom. No problem, said he: $7,000.  Can complete the job in two weeks. I don't make seven grand in two weeks, tell you that...

I have tools...how complicated could it be to do it myself? What if I studiously watch a few This Old House videos and dive in, hands first? My propensity to screw things up is enormous, though. A project typically starts well, until a huge tear appears in the space time continuum; everything subsequently goes straight to hell. All labor and materials get sucked into the great black hole that encompasses my basic incompetence, lack of motor coordination, and paucity of common sense.

Harking back on my Mr. Fix It alter ego throughout the years, I painstakingly quantified each and every blunder. The results are staggering:

1. Bent nails, stripped nuts/bolts/screws: 2,391
I blame my dad. He bought all his rusting, misshapen tools at tag sales. Since he was always working, I was left to my own devices when faced with an implacable quandary--like a flat tire on my bicycle. The quarter inch locking nut has always been my nemesis...axle nut on my bike, oil pan guardian on my beloved Toyota Corona...I prefer to strip them with adjustable pliers, then fall back on a fail-safe combo: locking pliers and a lead pipe for leverage--instantly guaranteeing destruction of any hexagonally-sexed object.

2. Pounds of superfluous/spilled cement: 1,875. Sacks of cement left out in rain: 14
A good friend clued me in to the mystical properties of cement. He spoke in hushed terms of  "the throw"--a carefully selected dollop of wet cement tossed from a trowel into a waiting crevice. Performed with proper aplomb, the cement sticks, fills and spreads, without further manipulation. 20 years later, I'm still waiting for a successful 'throw.' My typical diaspora:
throw/miss
throw/near miss
throw/hit! slowly ooze out again
throw/miss
Repeat.

3. Snapped jigsaw/hacksaw blades, ruined/broken drillbits: 136
drill bit mishap
Misfired bazooka, or drill hole? You decide...
I call this the never-learned lesson of the Smoking Drillbit. While attempting to hang the wife's newly acquired painting that you secretly hate, you randomly drill into the wall, and hit something hard. What the hell could that be? No worries...switch to the masonry bit, dial up the drill speed to maximum...the macho 'hammer' setting. Still not penetrating? Lean on that sucker, put some weight behind it, you little girly-man...Whammo! You bust through whatever interference was present, puncturing a hole in the wall the size of a cannonball. Congratulations, Hercules...

4. Crooked cuts and mismeasures, circular saw/jigsaw: 96
A good carpenter measures twice..correctly. And riddle me this--why own a proper workbench, when you can use the top of your washing machine in the basement? A further admission: I own electric saws; they scare the hell out of me. The rpms and roar from a circular saw rival a Ferrari, while jigsaws possess that strangely frantic, to and fro motion--similar to a dog humping your leg. No thanks...

5. Articles of clothing ruined while performing manual labor: 63
Yes, I own work clothes and shoes, specifically for wear on dirty jobs. They lie catatonically in my bottom dresser drawer, patiently awaiting paint splatter and spackle. Unfortunately, I'm never wearing them when I arrive home from work, to discover the screen door/toilet/dishwasher magically broken, sans culprit. Well, gosh darn it, that can't wait another minute. Lemme grab my toolbox... 
Juiced
I'm smokin'...

6. Broken/busted wooden handles and grips on axes, trowels, screwdrivers, etc: 45
Muddled mottos, #17: "Any tool can be used as a hammer, especially when you can't find one."

7. Blown/tripped fuses, near-electrocutions: 33
Yup...today's the day I replace the old outlets with three-prongs. But wait...The kids are playing video games/watching tv/microwaving popcorn, I can't possibly turn off the juice...I'll just be careful. Sure. Nothing like 120 volts coursing through your body to make you feel alive. I've been shocked so many times, light bulbs glow before I touch them. Let's not forget the thrill of crossing live wires, hearing that loud POP! and being temporarily blinded--think flash powder, Abe Lincoln era photo. Now both my lights and the house lights are out. Sorry, kiddies...

8. Kicked over/spilled gallons of paint, thinner, other extremely corrosive liquids: 16
I really make a point of being neat. The trick is to follow a carefully executed series of steps:
--Lay down drop cloth (usually an old fitted sheet)
--Place paint tray on stepladder shelf
--Climb ladder
--Paint with roller until arm's length reached
--Climb down ladder
--Move ladder, catching leg on fitted sheet
--Tip over paint tray, spill semi gloss everywhere.

9. Burnt out battery packs/tool chargers: 8
That new DeWalt/Mikita tool is on sale for only $50, what a deal...when you forget to unplug it six months later, the $42 replacement battery will be on sale --when shop vacs can fly.

10. Injuries suffered while employing tools, requiring emergency room visits: 6
I've chainsawed my hand, bonked myself on the head with steel pipes, hacked into my thumb with a meat cleaver, blowtorched my fingers, fallen off ladders and roofs, sawz-alled my leg...you can read more about my injury-prone life here.

So who do I write this check out to?

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