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COUNTY AGENT GUY

By Staff | Dec 4, 2009

The way I see it, it’s all Norm’s fault. Norm is that affable, bearded guy who is the master carpenter on “This Old House.” Norm also has a TV show called “The New Yankee Workshop.”

On his workshop program, Norm often says things like, “Today we’re going to build an exact, full-scale replica of the Taj Mahal. No home is complete without one!”

Norm then proceeds to build a perfect copy of the Taj Mahal. And he produces this wondrous wonder in just half an hour, using only his jackknife and a carpenter’s pencil.

That’s not quite true; Norm has a huge selection of power tools at his disposal. His workshop would make even the most hardened tool head drool.

Watching Norm is where the trouble starts. I begin to think “Norm has a beard and 10 fingers, and so do I. He’s affable and I’m well, I can be friendly sometimes.”

These similarities cannot be mere happenstance. Perhaps I’m also a woodworking whiz. This convoluted thinking leads to me tackling carpentry projects that should have been left to the professionals.

The most recent example involves installing windows for my mother. And no, I don’t mean that new operating system from Microsoft. Unlike the virtual kind, these are real windows that are used to experience the actual world.

Mom’s house is where we eight kids grew up, so I can’t look out those old living room windows without feeling wistful. I recall all the family time spent in that room, the innumerable games of Yahtzee and Monopoly and Spin Until You Feel Like Ralphing. It wasn’t so much a living room as a family fun room.

But the windows were looking tough. I suppose I would be in tough shape too if I had withstood the weather for more than a century.

Mom’s house was built by my great-great uncles Jens and Ole (I don’t think he was the Ole who inspired all those Norwegian jokes, but who knows?) Jens and Ole were rugged pioneers, the kind of guys who could voyage across the stormy Atlantic and find their way to Dakota Territory and carve a farm from the harsh and desolate prairie.

They were obviously also the kind of guys who thought insulation was for wimps. At least that’s what I discovered after removing the old windows. No wonder that house seemed so cold! And my kids thought I exaggerated when I said that we had to sleep under piles of blankets that were as thick as a mattress.

The new windows were successfully installed only after prodigious cursing and grunting and, finally, enlisting the aid of a professional carpenter. New sheetrock was needed below the windows. That sheetrock needed to be painted, which means we may as well paint the whole room, which means we’ll also have to paint the trim, and so on. This is known as “mission creep.”

Another creepy project I tackled recently involved our living room. Specifically, the living room floor.

It began when I visited one of those super-mega home improvement stores and learned that they had a quantity of flooring on sale. The only way it could have been cheaper would be if they had given it away with the purchase of a large pizza.

Our living room carpet was 15 years old and worn out, so I bought the flooring and brought it home. I expected some mission creep. What I got was mission gallop.

Removing the old carpet was cathartic. Rip, cut, toss! Hooah! Out with the old!

Then came installation of the new. Our new flooring is that laminated stuff, which looks like wood but is made of Lord knows what. I wouldn’t rule out depleted uranium.

I had never installed such a product before, but have watched the process on “This Old House”. The stuff snaps together, so installation is a snap.

At least it is in TV Land. Here in the real world, there are structural imperfections that can be multiplied by an inexperienced installer. I think it’s called “snap flooring” because you’ll probably snap by the time you’re done.

When I started, our living room floor was just a few hundred square feet. By the time I got done it had grown to a dozen acres or more.

Installing that new floor was also tough on the knees. I spent more time kneeling than a drunkard in a confessional.

But that’s the least of it. My wife gave the living room a thorough cleaning, which caused her to decide that some of our ratty, assemble-at-home furniture had to go. Aieee! Mission creep!

So now we’re in the market for some new furniture. Its cost will likely far exceed what was saved on flooring.

But that’s OK; I know exactly what to do. I’m going to send the bill to Norm.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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