Braunholtz: Tales from remodeling hell |

Braunholtz: Tales from remodeling hell

Alan Braunholtz
Vail CO, Colorado

Despite my innate talent for procrastination and best efforts to keep my off-season streak intact Gayle managed to get our long-awaited living room and kitchen remodel going. Damn! So much for any fall plans of clear and crisp rides on a smooth single track weaving through shimmering groves of golden aspen leaves.

I realized we’d pulled out of the peaceful autumn eddy and committed to the swirling currents of home improvement when Balz delivered 445 square feet of floor boards needing to be stained. Luckily wood floors are an emotionally alluring start because they look and feel so good.

Even small remodels quickly become all-encompassing. Tedious little things keep popping up. Why not paint the walls (all the furniture already is stacked in the bedroom)? And before you paint, texturing might look good, too. Then there’s the spongy chipboard under the water heater that is getting on a bit itself and etc. etc. Eeek!

Soon you’ve lost yourself to the process, sticker-shock fatigue sets in, you produce your credit card with increasingly bored ennui, and its high limit ” with a special offer of no payments for six months ” becomes a two-edged sword.

When you find yourself perusing glossy catalogues the size of a phone book for that perfect match of light fixture and colored glass shades it’s time to step back, take a breath and dig the mountain bike out from under the sofa.

Striving for that elusive “just so” style becomes a never-ending quest, which can be enjoyed if you don’t stress out about actually attaining it. There is always a better fixture, more complimentary tile and matching shade of paint somewhere if you keep looking.

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In today’s world you can look forever. Gone are the days when all the houses in a town looked about the same because everyone built with the same locally available materials and styles. The world is your marketplace and choice almost endless ” sometimes paralyzingly so. One advantage of the last-minute lifestyle is its capacity to truncate this process. “What have you got in stock?” makes things a lot easier, quicker, and cheaper and I’m guessing in six months or so we won’t even notice or care about our lack of Indian granite.

Still you learn a lot in the process. Some things are easier than you thought ” then you get cocky and then you plead for help. You find out who the compassionate people are. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that experts are, well, full of expertise at what they do. Watching a good drywall crew is quite humbling after your efforts.

Our attempts at texturing the walls for that distressed look have evolved from 3-year-olds playing with Play-Doh to unskilled peasant. Hopefully we’ll reach some grade of artisan style before we’re done. Still it doesn’t really matter; beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We live there and we’re going to like it.

There are positives to the hell of remodeling, though. I’ve been able to walk through Home Depot without feeling totally emasculated. Sure I’m still an imposter but camouflaged with paint, mud and other assorted building debris I can at least pretend. If you look hard enough my hands still look too Body-Shop-hand cream-ish to pass muster and my verbiage is way off. Fortunately Home Depot’s expanse and scarcity of employees allows me to wander around relatively unchallenged.

It’s fun to watch the dogs adapt effortlessly to any changes in their living environment. In a bare room they’ll find the softest spot even if it is tile mortar. After pulling out bubble wrap to pack fragile objects I returned to find them both happily and methodically popping every bubble. Their satisfied tails are worth at least another trip to the store and perhaps a message for me to enjoy the process, accepting whatever happens.

The favorite quote of building types (after “cash is good”) seems to be “it is what it is”, which works for remodeling projects especially well.

It’s only a means to an end for a more pleasant living space after all. When stressed in that elusive pursuit of perfection it’s easy to forget about the pleasant living bit.

Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a biweekly column for the Daily. Send comments or questions to