For nearly two decades, contractors were a daily part of my professional life. I fondly remember one project where thirty contractors followed my instruction with a surgeon’s precision and rhythm of the baton. The outcome resulted in high accolades for all. I began to think I had a golden practice. In 2000, I returned to my small hometown, and rather than designing my dream home, I chose to be “green” and purchased a fixer-upper. Undaunted by the red shag carpet embedded with grime, and thirty-year-old kitchen, I forged ahead. After all, I am a professional multi-tasker and was only two-hundred miles from where I found endless competent artisans.
The day I closed on the property, ten contractors were lined up ready to rip and tear and make my move-in possible two weeks later.
That same month I also began a full-time job. No problem, I thought. Meet workers early AM…give detailed punch list…check progress eight hours later. This will be a piece of cake.
Lesson #1: One must grasp childlike optimism like flotsam for a drowning victim. Get a grip!
Reality check: Shall I create a home or have a cush job with benefits? Optimism strike two! I quit the job and moved to manage the “serene” countryside abode.
What a difference two hundred miles makes. As weeks turned into months and months years, I witnessed the following:
A pair of “contractors” installed exterior doors with nary a shim. An others hands were shaking so badly, he could not turn a screwdriver. One “professional” backed his macho truck off my driveway into newly landscaped beds and spun the tires like a teen! Roofers did not speak a word of English, and installed two different dye lots. Insulation “experts” returned three times to get the job done right. Cabinet designers failed to place a proper filler strip next to the wall, and the pantry door would not fully open. When a trim “carpenter” wanted to blow nails the size of Kansas into the crown molding, I protested, and he stormed off the job.
To this day, deck boards pop up like ivories on a spent piano because an unprincipled pair took shortcuts with hardware. Enough! Remedy? I grew a beard and strapped on a 45…just kidding, yet more than once I had the noose flung into the tree. The real kicker…these “capable” men came from local shops that rely on repeat business. To this day, I NEVER leave a contractor unattended.
Lesson #499: I am now an expert at changing horses in the middle of a stream.
I did locate an excellent electrician, HVAC specialists, a backhoe operator, stonemasons, painters, and as a special homeowner bonus, a radon mediator. My neighbor’s adolescent kids were eager to see what this madwoman was up to, and spent many an hour, working shoulder to shoulder with me in the gardens. This time was especially rewarding, as I had an opportunity to teach fertile minds life skills.
Nearly seven years later, I have a home to be proud of…a home that works efficiently and demands less energy to operate—a home that passes muster. Not the home of my dreams, mind you, just one that shelters kitty and me in style and comfort and will leave a smaller carbon footprint on the planet. New -fangled, efficient appliances replace the energy-guzzling ones and snazzy casement windows with solar film dazzle the leaky aluminum double-hungs of the 1970’s. The new hybrid hot water heater resembles a former dance partner while the size of the lawn is reduced by half, requiring a mere fifteen-minute mow. The reverse osmosis water system provides a pristine water source, eliminating the need to purchase or transport water. Gardens are managed organically, many in raised beds, therefore consuming little water. Low flow, baby. I am walking the walk. Do you?
Now to dream of that perfect climate, the ultimate home, and easy living where maintenance is never required…a gal can dream, right?
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