The Public Eye

printed 02/08/2019

A home remodeling project is like playing black jack: you ante up before the cards are dealt and then bet against the house until you’re busted.

After having gone through that process recently, I also can say it’s akin to peeling a big onion. You have no idea what lies under each layer, but are aware that the more you peel, the more likely it is you’ll end up crying.

That’s just the way it is when you’re stripping a room, a space, a ceiling or floor. It’s almost a certainty that somewhere behind your otherwise seemingly benevolent walls, there lurks bad wood, leaky plumbing, aged wiring and, possibly, an evil entity just waiting to stuff you full of old insulation and store you for consumption at a later date.

I’m not exaggerating. We’ve all seen horror movie scenes with the shapes of hands and faces moving around just behind a wall’s surface, right? The truth is they are the carpenters, plumbers and electricians who delivered bad news to homeowners, but were spackled over to keep on budget.

And that’s another thing. If you think your hearing is fairly sharp to begin with, you have no idea how acute it will become once the workers start tearing out drywall.

You could be hiding in the crawlspace under the house and hear an “uh-oh” coming from the attic.

On one occasion, I could have been harvesting kelp off the coast of Oregon and I still would have heard the carpenter say, “Whoa! Look at that! That sure changes things.”

The thing is, if you think a room in need of a full makeover can’t look any worse, you have underestimated the dark forces of remodeling. Your contractor rips and saws his way into the wall and suddenly exclaims, “Get back! The highway to hell apparently starts right behind your bathroom vanity.”

This is why the proposal from your contractor is called an “estimate.” Although they make room in the budget for unexpected problems, they do not anticipate discovering a secret passage to Mount Doom in your linen closet.

That’s when the carpenter emerges from a cloud of drywall dust so thick that, when it finally settles, you’ll need to swap your goldfish for a mudskipper, and says, “I think I just saw Frodo down there.”

It really wasn’t that bad, although I doubt it was the intention of the original builder to install what appeared to be a skylight between the downstairs bathroom and the second floor, so the family could admire a great view of the plumbing above, however decoratively arranged it might have been.

Even though these projects turn out well in the end, some people suffer from what’s known as post-remodel-syndrome, which manifests itself as general surliness.

Case in point: I read this column to my wife, as I always do, and asked, “Is this amusing?”

Her reply: “Not yet.”

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