Saturday, February 26, 2011

Home Improvement (s) by Sharon O'Donnell

Since we’ve lived in the same house for over 20 years, we’ve had to update and repair things as we go along. It's time for us to do something else: repaint the kitchen cabinets and downstairs bathroom. There's always something, it seems.

The big thing was a family room addition that we did ten years ago right about the time our youngest, Jason, was born. That era of my life I refer to as “Pregnant and Plywood” since I was indeed pregnant with our third son, and a sheet of plywood was the only thing separating our kitchen from the outside for over a month. Fun.

Two years ago, we finally decided it was time to update the foyer since that’s the part of the house that basically everyone sees. In addition to painting our two-story foyer, we desperately needed to replace the wooden banister. For years, there was a child safety gate attached to it, which dug into the banister, making it worn and chipped. Since we were getting a new banister, we decided to go ahead and get hardwood stairs also. I wanted to get a carpet runner for the stairs, but Kevin thought we should see the hardwoods first before deciding. After a few days of work, the project was complete, and the staircase looked great. I still felt I might want a stair runner, but it wasn’t something we had to have right away. I did drop a few hints to Kevin about which colors might look nice, but he liked the hardwood steps better than carpeted ones.

Then it happened. I was working on the computer when I heard a loud noise and turned to see Fenway rolling hard off the bottom step and landing on the floor. He’d fallen down the stairs! I rushed to him and held him, making sure he was all right. Nothing was broken, although he was shaking.What were we thinking? Fenway has long hair, including on his paws; why didn’t we consider the possibility that hardwood steps might pose a danger for him. I felt terrible.

I called Kevin and told him what happened. And yes, he was on the phone with the carpet guys within minutes ordering a stair runner. If they posed a threat to Fenway, then the stairs would have carpet immediately. Of course, it took a few days for our carpet order to arrive and be installed. In the meantime, Fenway would sit at the bottom of the steps and stare up at them, as if they presented an impossible obstacle. Man versus Mt. Everest. Dachshund versus wooden stairs. It was obvious the stairs intimidated him, and it took a whole day before he dared set his paw on them again. If he went up the steps quickly, he would do okay; problem was, with his confidence lacking, sometimes he’d stop halfway up or halfway down and then couldn’t get started again. Someone always tried to be there right by him in case he needed us, yet that wasn’t always possible. There were times I’d find him lying on the middle step, afraid to go up or down. This, of course, would not do. We had to block off the steps with ottomans and chairs, sort of like childproofing. Finally, when the carpet runner was installed on the stairs, Fenway was free once again to go up and down as he pleased.

The most recent home improvement we made was in the winter of 2010 when we remodeled our master bathroom. All I wanted was Kevin to recaulk the shower so mold didn’t show any more. Honest. That’s all I wanted. But somehow it turned into a major renovation complete with tile and a new vanity. Kevin always would get upset with me when I brought up recaulking the shower because he said the caulking he’d already done was the best he could do. And of course, he was determined not to call in a professional.

Much to my surprise, one day after Christmas, Kevin suggested we go look at new shower stalls. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth or to try to determine the motivation of said gift horse, I said okay. We went to the local Home Depot and picked out a shower stall that we liked; yet, Kevin said he’d like to look around a bit more.

Enter Kevin’s good friend, Chuck, who was visiting from Florida that week. Chuck has a talent for somehow getting Kevin to agree to making major purchases. God, I envy that talent. I don’t know how he does it. The boys and I have both noticed. Chuck suggests ideas he thinks would be good for house, and Kevin will automatically begin to seriously consider it. If I’d come up with the same idea, Kevin would never listen to it. I used to be jealous of Chuck's talent until I realized I could use it to my advantage.We had been planning to have our pipes replaced in our entire house because they were the polybueteran type that was prone to leaking or bursting; however, we hadn’t done it yet because it was rather expensive. It was Chuck who said, hey why not go ahead and remodel your bathroom as long as you’re pulling out the pipes.

Next thing I know, Kevin, Chuck, and I are sitting in a tile shop ordering Italian tile for the floor and shower walls, a glass shower stall, a new vanity with mirror and cabinet, and even a new toilet – the kind with the strong flush that alleviates toilets getting stopped up. Oh Happy Day. No more using the plunger! The tile is gorgeous, but that toilet – it is the crown jewel of the bathroom. The piece de resistance. It’s definitely the most popular thing with the boys we’d bought since buying Fenway.

I love our new bathroom. I feel like I’m in a hotel. As a matter of fact, it took Kevin and me a few weeks to feel comfortable actually being in the bathroom because it was so nice, it didn’t feel like we lived there. The other thing is that remodeling an upstairs master bath means that visitors will never see it, and come on, isn’t showing it off to visitors supposed to be half the point of it? But it’s not like adding on a sunroom and having people over for dinner. You can’t say to dinner guests, “Why don’t we have dessert up in our master bath?” Well, you can, but you would get some very strange looks.

The next thing on my list is to get the guest bathroom updated. As I said above, nobody can really see the nice master bathroom except us, so a guest bathroom update would be nice.

I think it’s time Chuck comes up for another visit.

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