Saturday, March 22, 2008


Sarah and I were talking the other day about our DIY competence. We both feel like we're pretty capable. But in the couple of big projects we've done, the thing that has always felt like the biggest impediment was just having the right stuff. We've both spent countless hours wandering Home Depot, searching for someone - anyone - to answer a question about what kind of supplies we need to finish something. The more we do of this kind of stuff the more comfortable I get just wandering into the store and finding things on my own. But still - there are 8 MILLION different PVC connections that you have to wade through if plumbing is not your first language (and it's not mine). So going to Lowes and being handed every single thing I needed to resolve my small plumbing issues in less than two minutes by the first employee I met was really pretty wonderful.

Proof that it works:

I'll say a couple of things about our faucet from Ikea. First, for $99 it compares awfully well to the various Hansgrohe Axor models we looked at that you can't get for much less than $400. But as we all know the installation "instructions" are in fact only pictures of a smiling stick figure and no words indicating which supply is hot/cold, which of those lines is intended to be removed during installation and which will leak afterward if you pick the wrong one. So a little bit of plumbers tape seems to have resolved that - we'll see.


Brandon said...

Thanks for expressing this. I think the hardest part of any trade or craft is the baseline knowledge that allows you to narrow down the search or the problem to focus efficiently on what you need and what needs to be done. Most intelligent, coordinated people should be able to "do" all of this house-related stuff, but it's often hard to know if you're truly at sea or just that last step away from succeeding.

I took a career sabbatical for five years to work on cars, and my level of confidence when approaching unfamiliar jobs was completely different by the end of those five years than at the beginning. Even though I could "do" just about everything after about six months, it was much more mentally draining.

Should we even open the can of worms that is having the right tools already in your toolbox, familiar to you? Perhaps not. That way lies madness.

Chris said...

Damn right, madness. I've been pretty lucky to get what I needed to round out my toolbox through Craigslist. But buying a biscuit joiner for six joints on a deck rail? Or a pex compression wrench for a handful of fittings? Or, as you say, even knowing which tools are the right ones in the first place? Forget about the money - "mental energy" is exactly the currency that gets exhausted first if you're not careful.

And then time. I'm pushing nine months on this as a part-time project, and so much of that is just trying to get my arms around what needs to be done, whether I can do it, how to do it, what I need in order to do it, etc. Like you say, I'm better at it now than I was at the start, but still...

That's quite a sabbatical!