Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Wasteland Left By The Home and Garden Channel: Or, " It's a mad house! A mad house!"

At this moment, our home is in the midst of self-imposed chaos. The end is clear, but not near, as I am attempting to simplify and order things, home improvements, donation of clothing, trying to find the floor. Along with the usual household tasks, there is sorting, storing, tossing, and questioning. Given my usual packrat tendencies, there is frustration in Paleoville.

"What's this, honey?"
"Oh, Billy The Singing Bass*. Well, I paid good money for it, and we may need it someday."
"Bullshit, you haven't seen it since the previous century. And, really, need?"
"But, honey!?!?!"

Doesn't matter which one of us started the above exchange, that is how it will end. Oh, and then donating/tossing/storing of said item. With all of this, out of nowhere, a new wrinkle has reared it's ugly head.

Any homeowner will recognize this - the zombie home improvements of previous owners. In our case, the bathroom, 'my' bathroom in the basement. The room is uglier than forty miles of mud road, and a renovation was going to happen eventually. However, my hand has been forced now. There is water under the floor tiles. Understandable as the floor tiles were commercial vinyl stickyback tiles, with eighth-inch gaps, that then had silicone caulk run as 'grout'. The drywall is crumbling, and where not actually flaking out, is a series of bubbles under the paint. Understandable as the walls are gypsum, not plumbing grade fiberboard. The shower is one of the 70's style glass door showers that are less watertight than a frog's ass. Enough mold to either make bread, brew beer, get reeeaalllly high, or get black mold disease. 

So, I gotta deal with it, well ahead of my internal 5 year plan. Ok, wevs.

But, this brings me to my larger point. 

HGTV and TLC are evil and must be destroyed.

Now, I can say, with a fair amount of pride, that I am very good at home improvement thingys. I've remodeled, extensively, two previous homes, and will be doing this one. I'm a professional electrician, I can do my own HVAC, I'm a competent plumber and carpenter. A lot of this arises from the fact that I work in construction. And it thoroughly infuriates me that these two channels, the worst offenders in my book, make home improvements look like a walk in the park for the homeowner, while actually having pros do the horse work behind the scenes. I remember reading, during the great boom in 'house-flipping' and 'fix-my-kitchen' type shows, that Ty Pennington was one of the few home improvement show people who had been a working tradesman (and I think he had the greatest gig in television history, I really respect Home Makeover, a public good, a public win, and entertaining as well), that most of the hosts were actors or Bob Villa-type salesmen (Bob Villa had been a Sears salesman and apparently didn't know an axe from his elbow).  I'm not a construction savant by any means - I've had a lot of training and a lot of exposure to different trades, and I've asked a lot of questions.

I am not going to hack on people who do their own stuff. I respect that. It's fun, good for the bank account, and good hard work. But, to say again, IT'S HARD WORK. And it must be done RIGHT. I'm not talking aesthetics - if you want your bathroom wall to be institutional green, well, whatever floats yer boat. Structural stuff, though must be done correctly.

Water damage from a half-assed bathroom install can, with no exaggeration, kill you. You get black mold inside the walls, an adult just gets miserably sick; kids and the elderly can die of respiratory stuff. Bad carpentry? Bye-Bye sunroom (and hello woodpile). The dangers of pulling an electrical installation from your rectum are many and known - let's start will turning on your toaster and ending up a smoking puddle of fat, and progress to burning down the neighborhood.

Ask questions. Get help. Read, for fuck's sake. And know your limitations. I won't work on gas lines. They look easy, and can go easy, but they can also go incredibly stupid. If you an afford the stainless-steel cooktop, you can afford to have someone do the gas-line hookup. I have to cut an escape hatch in for a downstair bedroom. I'll dig the hole, install the bolster, and install the window, fine. Guess what - I am not messing with my foundation, I'll pay someone to do the block-cutting right, so that, you know, half my house doesn't start to sag. Some of the other remodeling I am going to do, I am going to get an engineer in to let me know where I have to keep support. I can look at a wall and guess it's load bearing or non-load bearing, but I'd really like to know what I need for supporting the, you know, first floor.

Each of these shows has the professionals to do this, working behind the scenes, and I don't recall seeing many disclaimers. 

I don't have cable, nor a desire for it, so I don't have any idea if the shows in general are even still 'all the rage', as the hip kids say, or if these specific channels still exist. I won't be arsed to look it up, either. But these shows walk a fine line between fraud and stupidity in the first place, and in the second place must be plowed under and the ground salted.

Home improvement soundtrack:

Lawn care soundtrack for today:

Michelle Bachmann soundtrack for today:

*I do not now, nor have I ever, owned Billy teh Tasteless Bass.

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