Sunday, April 22, 2007

DIY: The Way to the Upkeep of Our Own House

Our D’s adventure into DIYdom (see here) has prompted our efforts to translate thought into action. Since we bought our house as-is, there are several non-structural “defects” that we have to attend to on our own. Also, in the midst of moving by hired help, we have found some of our furniture pieces to be less than satisfactory, stability-wise. On further examination, we found the following wanting:

1) Some cracked tiles on the stair steps.

2) Two missing vertical blind pieces for the sliding glass door in a 2nd floor bedroom.

3) Missing screws from the affixed wooden frame mirrors to the dressers.

4) Missing bolts from the affixed backboards to the beds.

Item 3 was addressed early on by a trip to the hardware section of Target with the purchase of boxes of nails, long screws, and a hand-held power drill-cum-screw driver. Single-handedly, I moved each dresser around, made a pilot hole with a nail and hammer at each location of missing screws, and tightened each screw using a Philip screw-driver. I did try to use the power drill that I just bought but the clamped screw seemed to turn eccentrically. Perhaps the screw is not meant to be clamped by the drill directly. So much for my DIY experience with a power tool.

And to be on the safe side, I decided to use the human-powered Philip screw driver, still DIY, but now with some perspiration. And yes, my D did help by holding the gingerly attached wooden frame, which was held on to the dresser by two screws only on the vertically aligned connecting metal piece (there are 24 such perforations), one on each side, while I screwed on the missing screws, seven on each compared to just two before. The result: a non-shaking (almost anyway) mirror on top of the dresser, which hitherto just seemed about to topple over at the slightest touch. See the right image for the attachment details. Yes, the thought of completing all the 24 screws did cross my mind. But in the end practicality convinced me that it would be an overkill in redundancy, though the fact that I was running out of screws did help nudge me toward that decision, vindicated by the ultimate test on completion.

After the heavy duty DIY, my wife attended to the less physically demanding but intrinsically more challenging chore of fixing the cracked tiles (item 1). Being clumsy at household repair, primarily because of the lack of experience as our first abode was a rented apartment where all repairs were just one call away and all the associated costs were included in the monthly rental anyway, we decided to try out a patch job instead of a full-blown remove-and-replace (which means breaking the cracked tiles, very carefully so as not to damage any adjacent tiles, re-lay the cement base to present a level surface at the same height as that of the surrounding tiles, emplace the replacement tiles, though finding tiles with the same texture/design/shine, or rather a kind of faded shine because of the passage of time thorough use, may prove next to impossible, and caulk the joints) operation. The solution: look for a self-adhesive plastic sheet with a surface design that mimics that of the tiles and thick enough to bridge over the cracks.

Scouring from memory, we tried our best to match the available surface patterns/designs of the plastic sheets on sale at Target to what we thought is the one we have been stepping on in the past week. Truth be told that we did have some disagreements over which presented the best match but as any loving husband will do, I deferred to my wife for the final choice.

Upon return, my wife did the patch work for the first step and then only it hit upon us how unreliable our supposedly differentiating and discerning eyes and memory recall can be (a classic refutation of Seeing is Believing?). See for yourself.

But I doubt anyone can do any better under the circumstances. At least the utility part has been met: now the covered tiles do not present any risk of injury to a bare foot that comes into contact with them. But the rest of the cracked tiles (there are several more) would have to wait for a better match of the surface design.

To address item 2, my wife first did some preparatory work involving measuring the length of the door blinds. But since we could not find the tape measure, suspected of being thrown away as trash with other kitchen items during the move, my wife decided to use the papers from a note pad cellophane-taped together to represent the actual length.

Thus armed, we sourced the Internet for the nearest Home Depot, and found one along Bruce B. Down, a couple of miles distant away. This is like a huge warehouse, with rows and rows and stacks after stacks of a variety of building and household materials. It took us some time (we went one full round the premises but to no avail) plus some inquiry (the Home Depot helper was most helpful and knowledgeable about the whereabouts: aisle 4) before we were at the right spot.

However, we could not find one that equaled the crude paper measure that we had prepared. It’s either too long or too short. Naturally, we went for the longer one. While my wife preferred to have the right length cut there and then, I confidently demurred, saying that nothing cannot be fixed with a pair of household scissors. After all, how tough would it be to cut aluminium foils? But at the back of my head I was already planning a contingency plan of buying a pair of metal cutting scissors.

My contingency plan soon turned out to be unnecessary when my wife called me from upstairs to look at her handiworks, using the household scissors for the work at hand. Now there is no more two gaping slits along the whole length (or height since it is vertical) of the blinds while in a closed position.

My mental perception of size again failed me when we approached the last item on our weekend to-do list: the missing bolts. The bolt diameter I had in mind was one size too big (5/16” compared to ¼” after the fact). But the length was spot-on (2.5”). So was that of the threaded part (to my credit, I did remember it is a partially threaded bolt). Also I have had the good sense (a common one?) to buy just one (we needed six for the three beds) because of the uncertainty that I had realized early on.

Moral of the story? Always measure when it comes to sizes (length, width, height, diameter, etc.) as it has been proven again and again that human perception of dimension can be way off. A handyman’s motto perhaps?

So two down, two more to go, I mean the to-do list, which means a revisit to Home Depot today (my wife is definitely not a procrastinator in this respect). Then the Home Depot’s Flyer that came with today’s St. Pete Times announced their giving away of free CFLs (which I blogged here) today in conjunction with 2007 Earth Day, which falls on today (April 22). So Home Depot it is.


Kitty Girl said...

Yay for DIY!!! Heehee, the story about the cracked stair tiles is pretty funny. Home repairs can be fun in the exploring, trial-and-error learning kind of way!

Dan and I also went to Home Depot yesterday, but to look at floor lamps; our living room is too dark, so we're going to get two lamps for there and then move the existing one into one of the bedrooms. However, we didn't find any that we liked there and went to Target (one of my favorite stores!), where we bought two floor lamps for $14.99 each. Unfortunately, when Dan put one of them together, it didn't work--the light would turn on, then off after a few seconds. So we're taking them back today (he didn't bother trying out the other one; we're just going to get a different kind).

Good luck with the remaining To-Do tasks! I will be there in one month to check out the townhome! :D

Say Lee said...

We did not go to Home Depot today, but ended up in Big Lots instead, which is nearer.

And Mom picked up several items for decoration purposes (including a wall drawing of a kum quat tree, a chinese symbol of good fortune) for $1.50. Mei did the same too, including an orange porcelain rabbit at 75% (after the Easter).