Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Don't It Yourself

I once said that every guy I ever dated, no matter how briefly, came into my life for a reason.

One guy, who I only ever met online (but with whom I had a short and very fiery online relationship full of drama), said on his dating profile that his talent was "Fixing things, rigging things to make them work."

Was it that throwaway line on okCupid that set me on my current trajectory – instilled in me my  philosophy of DIY-til-you-die? (Or was it the plethora of "life hacks" I keep stumbling upon on the internet?) I can no longer remember, but I can be certain that it had an impact on me. Before that, it had never occurred to me that being able to cobble something together was something to take pride in. But now, it's part of my unshakable M.O.

I have more love for my home improvement projects that end up like a Frankenstein's Mashup of glue, scavenged parts, and a smattering of mismatched screws, than I ever would for a beautiful brand-new, store-bought version of the same thing.

But there comes a time when every do-it-yourselfer must draw the line. And for me, that time came when I needed to install a handrail for my basement stairs.

The basement staircase was one of the many "special" qualities of my house when I moved in—it had no handrail whatsoever. That was not a problem for me, young and nimble and indescribably graceful at all times, but it became an issue when I wanted to begin renting out the basement bedroom. Suddenly the primary user of the basement staircase wouldn't be me with a load of laundry in my agile and capable hands, but a paying guest. Who would no doubt be happy to sue me for any slip or fall. I don't have much of a defense in a lawsuit when my staircase lacks a basic safety feature such as a railing.

But I wasn't worried! As an avid DIY-er, I was ready to take on the challenge. Fortunately, the stairs had come with a just wasn't installed. I found it in the storage cubby under the stairs! All I needed was a few screws, and my staircase would be ready for business!

Cut to 5 months later. The railing has still not been installed. Turns out the hardware that came with the railing was bent and needed replacement, and it took me this long to get motivated and find suitable parts (I got them from Community Forklift for 99¢ each, of course!)

Cut to 4 months after that. The railing has still not been installed. Turns out my basement drywall is just as "special" as the rest of the house, and has no studs upon which to anchor a handrail. But that hasn't stopped me from trying. Now my drywall is pocked with screw holes of varying sizes, and a couple of places where whole chunks are missing, thanks to my inability to master the art of drywall anchors.

I had literally been failing to install my handrail for 9 months, before I finally reached the line of Don't-It-Yourself. I brought in the professional contracting big guns (which was of course a struggle in itself, between the lack of call-backs, the no-shows, and the refusals to provide an estimate). But once they arrived, my handrail was up and stable in less than 30 minutes. And in the two hours that they were there, they also replaced my non-functioning gas oven with a new one (one which I'd picked up for free from a Craigslister, of course!), and installed a new bathroom fan in my basement.

Those tasks would have taken me, on my own, days, weeks, or even months, which would have undoubtedly been filled with many frustrated tears, and possibly a blown-up house!

So no, I'm not ashamed that this time I decided to let the pros handle it. In fact, I just might be changing my tune. Next time I'm faced with a home improvement, no matter how DIY-able it might seem, I may just treat myself to a professional job.