I’m not very handy. I’m super competent, yes, in small ways: I can change a tire, hang pictures, put up window treatments, paint, tape trim, move spiders outside, clean lint out of the dryer vent, plunge a toilet, and get plant cuttings to root.
But Do It Yourself projects? Uh, no. I didn’t even know what studs were until I met Andy. (Yes, ha, and yes, true.) DIY scares me, probably because my father’s efforts at anything beyond caulking involved profanity and fears of an untimely death. In Dad’s defense, though, any DIY project such as cementing the bannister back down undoubtedly had to be undertaken because of child-related mayhem.
But my husband? Very handy, thanks to years as an unpaid laborer for his father. As Andy says, “My dad taught me how NOT to do everything.” Besides, why would Jay pay for help when he could save money and do it himself (translation: have Andy do it)? Contractors were only hired after Andy left home. Every time we visit Andy’s parents, though, Jay puts Andy to work.
After we married, Andy and I moved to a house built in the 50s and remodeled in the 70s. The main bathroom had puke-green walls. A cheap vanity and a glorified plywood box holding recessed lights over the sink added to the cave-like quality of the room.
Andy said, “New toilet. New sink. By-bye linoleum floor. And that lighting box has gotta go.”
I groaned. “But who are we gonna hire? How will we know they are trustworthy?”
“What are you talking about? We’ll do it ourselves! It’ll be much cheaper!”
“What are YOU talking about? We’re not qualified!”
“The bathtub is fine. It’s really just demolishing and then putting in a whole new floor, patching drywall, putting in light fixtures and the new toilet and sink. It’ll only take a week – are you listening?”
“No. You lost me at whole new floor.”
Andy dragged me off to Home Depot. We picked out a new toilet, a pedestal sink, and a cabinet. The salesperson asked if we wanted their certified plumbers to handle the installation. I said yes.
Andy said no.
I said, “We have to move the pipes in the floor to pipes in the wall for the sink.”
“I can do it,” Andy insisted. “I already tiled the townhouse bathroom and I’ve installed multiple toilets.”
“And have you moved plumbing pipes from floor to wall?”
“I’m sure I could do it. There are YouTube videos–”
“Ahem. We have ONE full bathroom. Until the work is done, I have to share a tiny half-bath with you. You have a full time job. I want this done ASAP.” I turned back to the salesman. “We will take your plumbers.”
“Even though they cost a fortune,” Andy muttered.
“Cheaper than a divorce,” I muttered back.
Andy cheered up when we picked out a sledgehammer. (I didn’t ask what he visualized swinging at.) He bought a cement board, tiles, and grout — after I’d approved the colors. We got drywall patching stuff, a tile cutter, and a bunch of other thingies. And then we got to work.
Well, Andy got to work. Our bathroom really only has room for one. He spent hours removing the toilet and vanity. Then he sat in the mess and drank a beer. Andy believes in pacing himself.
I do not. Show me a project and all I see is the finish line. There is no food, no drink, no nothing until the work is done.
Also, I was in a terrible mood because a) my college football team was losing a game and b) clearly Andy had underestimated how long the project would take. So I picked up the sledgehammer and beat the crap out of the lightbox.
Very therapeutic. Even though Andy made me stop and put on safety goggles.
Then we tore up the floor. (Well, Andy tore it up. I mostly carried debris to the trash.) All that was left were the wooden boards above the crawl space. And there were spaces between the boards. Huge ones.
“Black widows could fit through those EASILY,” I informed Andy.
“No black widows are going to come in.”
“You’re kidding, right? They love dark, wet places. Our only bathtub is right here. Can’t you put the cement board down?”
“I have to cut it to fit the bathroom floor, and I can’t do that until the plumbers come and redo the plumbing. If I had been allowed to the plumbing myself— where are you going?”
“Gonna shower at the gym. You can tell those black widows you’re already married…for now!”
When I came back, Andy had cut a piece of plywood and put it in as a temporary floor. He never admitted the black widows had come calling, but I know. I know.
The plumbers came and redid the plumbing. Andy fitted the cement board and worked on the dry wall repairs. Andy began spacing tiles. I took over, inserting whimsical fish tiles in with the plain cream ones to spice up the bathroom. Andy grouted. He refused to let me help. I picked out paint. We repainted. Andy cut baseboards. I painted those. Our boxes with the cabinet, the toilet, and the sick arrived. The plumber returned to complete the installation.
I directed him to the boxes. The plumber opened them and came back to me. “There’s no tank.”
“What? No, no, the fish tiles are just there for decorations, we’re not actually putting in a fish tank.”
“Not a fish tank. The tank for the toilet. It’s not here.”
“Oh, the TOILET tank, oh, that makes more – those bastards!”
An hour later, Home Depot promised that the tank would be arriving in two days. I unpacked the other boxes, and discovered that the bottom portion of the cabinet – the part with legs and feet – was also missing. I called Home Depot again. I may have had a bit of a tantrum. They promised the legs would arrive in a week.
The cabinet piece showed up in two days. The toilet tank? A week. And the plumbers couldn’t return until a week after that.
Andy, of course, said, “You know, if I you’d let me do the plumbing we’d have been done by now.”
“Maybe. Or maybe it would have been harder than you thought and you’d only be halfway through and drinking beer.”
“And I would have been able to drink craft beer because we’d have saved money…” Then he stopped talking. Cuz he likes being married.
At least the floor was done and we could shower spider-free.
“Oh, my husband did those.”
“Very professional job.”
The plumber was equally professional, and our new sink and toilet were soon installed and gleaming. The plumber handed me his business card when he left. He said I could call him if we had any trouble, since his work was guaranteed for a year. I could also call him if we had any other plumbing issues.
He did a good job. I never had to call him about the bathroom. But several months later, the pipe broke under the kitchen sink.
As I held the flashlight for Andy, I said, “Hey, I still have the Home Depot plumber’s card.”
“I can do this,” Andy insisted. “I just need to replace this one part.”
I opened my mouth. Shut it again. And said, “Knock yourself out, babe.”
It actually took TWO trips to Home Depot, but Andy fixed the pipe.
With a lot of profanity.