I've started working on my house again, and I can't quite explain why. Several months back, I fixed — or hired somebody to fix — the minor flood damage in my basement. Then I had my No. 1 handyman, Julius Paschall, patch up the Jowers' front walk, build a whopping big section of new fence, haul off the fallen limbs from the recent storms, repair the handrails on my front porch, and generally remove everything around my house that wasn't grass.
Just a few days ago, I decided the exterior of the Jowers house needed some patching and painting, along with some new and delightful curb appeal. Now, I ask myself — and I ask y'all — after my putting in years of actual labor and writing many a page in which I explained that there are just a few ways to pound a nail, why would I go to the fix-it store and buy five cans of paint stripper, two paint scrapers, a heat gun and a random-orbit sander that's meaner and stronger than a chupacabra in heat?
Well, I'm going to tell you. I have done much more than my share of home improvement work. I have graduated from the various schools of ladder climbing, and crawlspace crawling. I have walked away from the infantile "continuing education" that beleaguered Tennessee home inspectors must suffer, and I have seen four-and-a-half-billion-year-old rocks slathered with clear sealant — as if some earthly sealant could prolong the life of rocks forged in the crucible of the Big Bang. (Note: Best I can tell, "sealed" rocks are found only in Williamson County. And that's all I've got to say about that.)
Friends and neighbors, and folks who might have an itch to start fixing up a 98-year-old house similar to mine, understand this: If you're going to work on your own house, be aware that the house will find all kinds of ways to hit you, hurt you, make you sore and what's more, make you spend money at the big-box store.
Here's something to keep in mind: Get all of your heavy fix-up work done before you're 30. Body parts start to hurt around the time of your 30th birthday. Sooner or later, some parts of your house will fall on you. Most likely, you will fall off some part of your house. Your bones will start to ache and creak, and they'll never stop.
Home improvement is a dangerous business. For instance, back in the year 2000, a woman in Linthicum, Md., who didn't want to disclose her name, decided to save a few bucks and install her own floor covering. So she stripped down to her bra and panties and started spreading adhesive. She fell into the adhesive and got her phone stuck to her hand. Her daughters called firefighters, who had to pull her out of the muck she made. This hellish event reminds me of the day when I plunged a pickaxe into a sewer line, and I ended up wearing sewer spray.
Now, back to home improvement: Stop doing the hard work before you turn 50. You may not be hopelessly creaky and achy at the mid-century mark, but you might find it difficult to find keys, wallets, purses, cell phones, your car and such like. Although it's not a sure thing, it is likely that when you're 50 or older, doctors will start removing some of your parts, even if it's only something like an ingrown toenail. You might end up looking for that toenail, and accidentally pick up an empty — and smelly — turtle shell from the 1990s.
Here's some good news:
In 2012, paint stripper isn't strong enough to burn through your skin. You can just wash the stripper off your flesh.
Paint stripper no longer eats through your safety glasses.
Heat guns, which are used to burn paint off wood and such, aren't as mighty as they were in, say, 1985. I haven't heard about a heat gun setting a house on fire in decades.
The restoration world is loaded up with fancy epoxies that can turn a rotten windowsill into a rock-hard windowsill.
In the year 2013, most if not all lawn mowers will run on batteries and require no gasoline, no long electrical cords, no spark plugs, and no mufflers.
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