I think Americans are obsessed with home improvement. Make no mistake, I’m glad. If not for their obsession with homes, I might spend my days designing prisons and airports (and frankly, I’d rather be castrated with a pair of dull tin snips).
I’m not sure when this obsession began, but it was sometime in the past 15 or 20 years. When I was a kid, homes in even the nicest neighborhoods had vinyl flooring, laminate countertops, and carpet everywhere. It was rare to see crown molding in newer construction. And you redecorated when the old stuff wore out. (or when mom left the tub running and flooded the place.)
But not so now. Even a starter home is thought to be rather low brow if its not outfitted with granite, hardwoods, and enough molding to make it look like a wedding cake. People will tear out perfectly good floors, kitchens, and baths to make room for “something better”, “something more high-end”, “something more up-to-date.”
And I’m as guilty as anyone. My house isn’t even three years old, and yet it looks almost nothing like it did when that “Sold” sign went up. First up was to paint a few rooms. Then came some molding–crown throughout the downstairs, raised paneling over the fireplace. Of course most of the lights had to be replaced with “something better”. Then more paint.
Then last winter, a trial run at tiling. The smallest upstairs bathroom was ripped of its perfectly good, perfectly attractive vinyl flooring, and in its place, after three weekends of work, is a lovely ceramic which looks almost exactly like the vinyl it replaced. The project, though time consuming, was easy.
And so three weeks ago, it was time to take on the master bath. Why? Because I looked forward to weeks of stumbling down the hall in the middle of the night in search of an operable bathroom? Because I like tip-toeing over debris to get to my clothes? Because the shock of my feet hitting an ice cold floor will make the mornings easier? Who knows!
But ceramic wouldn’t do. In search of “something more high-end” I got a great deal on some travertine. It’s gorgeous stuff. So one weekend was spent tearing out the perfectly good vinyl flooring, ripping out perfectly good baseboards (they just aren’t tall enough! Life will be so much better with an eight inch baseboard!), and cutting backerboard. Easy stuff!
But then the dilemma. How to transition the now taller bathroom floor into the carpeted areas that adjoin each end. Off I went to the home improvement store. An hour and a half later (reasons for such a timeline could fill their own post, but I’ll spare you the details) I had lovely marble thresholds and some sort of tack strip to reaffix the carpet.
Weekend two brought the project to a halt. Left on my own, I had decided I would at least get the transitions in place. It proved daunting…the existing metal thresholds will not give up the carpet they are holding in place. Cutting would be necessary. Cringing at the thought of ruining the carpet I don’t wish to replace, and couldn’t afford to replace if I did, I decided to “think on it” a day or so.
In the meantime, I told myself, I can lay out the tiles and get an idea of where to start laying them. This led to the discovery of two uneven spots in the floor. Dammit! I know full well that high spots mean future cracks. Discouraged again, I looked at my “bathroom remodeling” to do list and decided that I only had the strength and ability to tackle one more–call to rent a tile saw. The helpful gal at Home Depot informed me that it was $70 dollars a day and that it was too big to fit in a car. Well, I knew I’d need the saw all weekend, and I only had the little car at my disposal.
In a fit of shear genius, I did the math. The tile saw was going to cost at least $140 to rent. Then two days would be spent installing the tile, with a high risk of cracks and nasty looking carpet transitions. I decided to find a professional. So much for do it yourself.