Four years ago this month, my wife and I closed on our house and joined the ranks of the “homeowners” (a misnomer if ever there was one, because, I assure you, we SO DON’T own this house; Countrywide Mortgage owns not only this house, but, thanks to the plummeting real-estate prices of the past several years, everything in it … but I digress).
At the end of our first winter here, it became apparent to us that the previous owners, in order to make the house they were selling look pretty for the least possible cost, slapped a coat of paint on it with little or no preparation. Their plan worked; we gave them an assload of cash for their pretty house, they vamoosed, and, after less than one year here, we had a house that looked like a giant, pale-yellow scab.
Of course, there were a million other things that needed doing, so an exterior paint job languished at the bottom of our priority list. Last year, we bit the bullet and got the roof done. The old roof was so aged that the new one looked startlingly better … until your eyes drifted downward to the exterior of the house upon which the new roof sat; then it looked like an exquisite top hat worn by a slop-covered pig.
We gathered estimates from a number of painters last summer and, sadly, none of them were willing to accept as their payment a delicious bowl of instant macaroni and cheese, so we again gritted our teeth and accepted the fact that, for at least one more year, we would have to be the neighborhood eyesore.
Over the winter, my family convinced us that we could paint the house ourselves, that it would be an easy job, hell, it’s a small house, and with their help, we could do it in two weekends, no problem. Standing in the yard with my father this spring, I pointed out a number of places on the house where the wood appeared to be rotted. “Well, all you have to do is just take a carpenter’s knife and score around the rotten pieces until you’re able to remove them, then cut some new pieces that will fit in the same spaces, then nail those in place, then caulk the seams, sand it all down, good to go, no problem. You might have to pull off some of the big pieces and replace them, too, but that shouldn’t be too bad.”
Who do I look like, Bob Fucking Vila? (It should be noted that, were my father to learn that he needed emergency brain surgery, rather than pay a professional to do it for him, he would spend several weeks looking for a coupon that he could use to purchase a generic-brand, do-it-yourself brain-surgery kit in tax-free New Hampshire during a clearance sale of open-box items with a no-return policy.)
Still, we continued to stick with our “Little Train That Could” mindset, and further deluded ourselves into believing that we could tackle the oh-so-easy job of, you know, repairing, power-washing, scraping, sanding, priming and painting our entire house in four days—presumably while our unsupervised children played with matches in the basement.
Around this time, one of the non-macaroni-and-cheese-accepting painters from last summer arrived at our door unsolicited to see if we were still interested in having the house painted. “No, no, we’re going to paint it ourselves,” I assured him. As an alternative, he offered to do the prep work, to include repairing all of the rotted wood. Hmmm.
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” I said to my brainwashed self as I tried to resist his Jedi mind trick.
He surveyed the exterior of the house with me, pointing out the numerous places that needed to be repaired, and described the process those repairs would involve.
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can … probably come up with enough money to pay you for the prep work,” I decided.
The gales of laughter that burst forth from my wife and I as we watched a four-man team spend two days using an arsenal of professional carpentry tools to replace all of the rotted wood that we had so foolishly told ourselves we would be able to fix on our own were surpassed only by the side-splittingly ferocious guffaws that we let loose while a rotating team of five men spent seven full eight-hour days prepping, priming and painting our house—a job we wisely decided was worth paying for, even if doing so meant letting our freshly painted home slip into foreclosure.