There’s a hole in the bucket, Dear Otto

Let me be perfectly clear, as a preface, here, that not only do I love my husband to pieces, I think he’s something of a handyman savant. He has a garage full of tools and he actually knows how to use them (and often does). It’s rare that something needs fixing or tightening or modifying and he can’t take a look at it for a minute, nod, and take it out to his workbench and make it better than new.

Furthermore, unlike some other husbands (perhaps even one I was once married to), he is a patient and helpful instructor and an excellent work companion. Working on projects together is one of my favorite things, because it never ends with arguing and ruination—and I honestly never knew that was POSSIBLE, before marrying him. IT’S LOVELY.

All of this is to say, I couldn’t be blessed with a better partner when it comes to home renovation. I’m very lucky and I know it. Truly. But in spite of that, I have to say: DEAR GOD, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.

It all started with the floor.

It seemed so simple, really. We budgeted for it when we moved in, last year, to put hardwood down in the family room. The carpet in there has seen better days (like, when disco was king). And it turns out that the hardwood in the (connected) dining room is almost as much wood putty as it is wood, so why not do the ENTIRE area? Okay, then.

And so we spent hours looking at flooring samples and poking around online and then we went and ordered some flooring and then I both told the internet about it and our contractor.

[Digression: Of course we have a contractor. Otto can’t do EVERYTHING. And perhaps you recall that we closed on this house and had a crew putting on a new roof five minutes later, and there’s nothing quite like a job of that magnitude to make a contractor either shine or fail. Turns out, our guy is pretty good. So we’ve had him back for various tasks, because we like him and our house is The Money Pit.]

Our contractor may have actually SLAPPED HIS FOREHEAD in consternation when I told him about our flooring adventure. Not that store! Not those installers! What’s this wood we’d picked? That’s 3/8″! It’s gotta be 3/4″! He was horrified. And I panicked.

I canceled our order. We started looking at flooring through the contractor’s guy.

Otto then brought up that the door out the dining room onto the deck really needs replacing. Now, sure, I was all for that on account of it’s hung crooked and only stays closed if you lock it (so if we’re outside and it’s a breezy day, it’s apt to just blow open), but then we went to look at doors and I DIED. I am pretty sure that I used to own a car that cost less than your average patio double-doors.

The contractor said we needed to install the new door before the flooring. So we ordered the door. And ordered the flooring. And scheduled him to do the door first.

Now, we’d been planning to do the dining room walls AFTER the new door and floor, because I was afraid that the floor crew would ding the walls. But the contractor (wisely) pointed out that if we did the walls FIRST, we could drip paint on the floor and it wouldn’t matter. Plus, he promised they’d be careful. Well, the floor isn’t scheduled to go in for a few more weeks, so we figured we’d start on the walls.

And as you know, that started off really well.

Three layers of wallpaper and a metric butt-ton of Googling later, last week we drove across town to Home Depot to buy the Behr Venetian Plaster because our walls were now ripped all to shit and texturing wasn’t so much an option as a necessity. Otto and I were still debating colors, but it turns out that the shiny Behr pamphlet has a dozen suggested colors, one of which was pretty darn close to what we’d been discussing. So we got that. How much did we need? Two gallons, said the Paint Guy. And a gallon of primer. And some topcoat!

Rather than the Behr Ventian Plaster Topcoat, he sold us some polyurethane. “Use this instead,” he said. “It’s fine!”

While the paint was mixing, we wandered around and picked up a bunch of other stuff, including a ceiling fan for our bedroom. The fan was selected after half an hour of serious debate, and along with it we grabbed a “universal remote” kit.

Back at home, we raced to put two coats of primer on the walls before the contractor showed up with the new door. SURPRISE! The wrong door was ordered. Whoops! Well, he’d get the right one and bring it the next week (this week). We decided to go ahead with the plaster.

The first coat of plaster was time-consuming but relatively painless. We marveled at how much less sucktastic it was than we’d feared it would be. And then Otto went to install our new ceiling fan.

Several hours and a new hole in the ceiling later, we had a gorgeous fan with a light that emitted approximately enough illumination for anyone wishing to read a book two inches directly beneath the bulb. But as an ADDED BONUS, when you used the remote to turn the light off, it converted to a STROBE! Yes, it blinked in time with the whirring fan blades, which was very… ummm… special.

The next day, the contractor was supposed to come install the door. But he called to say it still hadn’t come in. Otto took the fan down. We applied the second coat of plaster, which, oddly, was a lot harder than the first. For one thing, we’d followed the directions to not be worried about spots of bare wall on the first coat, but now we rather needed the entire wall covered, which meant we needed to put it on more thickly. Putting it on thicker began to result in tiny air bubbles which refused to be smoothed by our trowels. And we were about halfway through when we RAN OUT OF PLASTER.

(Have I mentioned that we bought two gallons? And that it’s not a very big room? And that it has a chair rail, so we were effectively only doing two-thirds of the walls, anyway?)

Otto took the fan back to Home Depot and bought another gallon of plaster. While he was there, I decided to read the back of one of the polyurethane cans, the one that said in big letters DO NOT USE THIS PRODUCT OVER BEHR VENETIAN PLASTER. Of course, I had all the cans at home. While Otto was at Home Depot. I called him and told him to buy the right stuff and punch the guy who sold us the wrong stuff.

He did buy the right stuff. He did NOT punch the guy who sold us the wrong stuff, even though he was there again, because he (Otto, not the paint guy) is a gentleman.

We finished the second layer of plaster. We then stood around and looked at all the air bubbles and places where the plaster had cracked a little. We started talking about how WE ARE NOT FANCY PEOPLE and how this is RUSTIC, JUST HOW WE LIKE IT, and it will all be FINE once we do the topcoat, after everything dries.

And then Otto packed up to leave for California on a trip. He left this morning. Technically his trip was planned before all of this happened, but I think he might be running away.

In the meantime, I got up and touched up the plaster in a few places, and now I’m waiting for the contractor to show up and install the damn patio doors already. I’ve gotten a shipping notice on our flooring, which means it’s going to arrive in a couple of days—while Otto is gone. That’s FANTABULOUS, because when I was thinking about all of the things I might do while the kids are gone and Otto is gone, I was TOTALLY wishing I could have the SUBLIME EXPERIENCE of having to haul an entire pallet of hardwood into the house ALL BY MYSELF.

And yes, this is ALL because we wanted hardwood flooring in the family room. Shut it.


  1. Megan

    I love me some vicarious home improvement. All of the thrills, none of the actual pulled muscles or eye-twitches. I’m a little sorry you decided against the strobe light fan though because dang if that didn’t sound totally discotastic!

  2. Sara

    Oh, I feel your pain. At some point today I will have 10 ROLLS of carpet placed upon my newly laid wood floor in my living room. It will sit there for almost a week waiting to be installed upstairs. In the meantime, I will have to explain about eleventy billion times to four children (roughly 44billion times) why they cannot use the pile of carpet as a fort/jungle gym/playscape. While I am thrilled at the prospect of new, ungross carpet (it is too a word) the idea of having it take up much needed space for several days is giving me a tic. And why? Why is all of this happening? So that we may get this house in shape so that we may sell it so that we may find a house with a basement! Whew! Yes, ALL because we want a basement.

  3. Leandra

    I bet if you smiled real pretty you could get your contractor guy to lug that hardwood into the house for you. Also, that’s the kind of stuff you PAY contractors to do — move shit and get stuff done. Though if you hurt your neck again moving it, that would be an excellent excuse for another massage. :)

  4. Aimee

    Well, on the bright side, I think having to haul an entire pallet of hardwood all by yourself entitles you to another massage.

  5. Em

    The LIST. It is the bane of my existance. When my husband mentions a project that he’d like to do that is not on the list already, he does it while instictively covering his man parts. Smart boy, my husband.

    One small silver lining (I hope). I think hardwood needs to sit in it environment for a few days before it can be installed (so it can get used to the humidity, etc. and warp all its going to warp before its nailed down). So if you can get the deliverers to bring it inside, you are obligated to ignore it entirely while it acclimates itself. You don’t even have to be a good hostess. Just let it sit there and if it gets bored, too bad.

  6. zeghsy

    i need new wiring. everywhere. in the entire house. i hate homeownership.

  7. Jenny

    [cackles with homeownership-related troubles glee, completely in sympathy, of course]

    I always say you haven’t lived until you’ve lived with 40 boxes of hardwood flooring stacked in your front hall for two months. You will know you’ve lost it when you start to treat the pile like a piece of furniture, and put a lamp and maybe some nice framed photos on it.

  8. Stephanie

    I think i’m with zeghsy… my comment to DH is generally something along the line of ‘tell me again WHY we wanted to own a house?’.

  9. All Adither

    I think I’d just move everyone into an apartment.

  10. Headless Mom

    You are a lucky girl.

    When we start projects I say something like “I only need help with this one part.” Then it is pulling teeth to get that help from Headless Dad. We still have unchanged outlets all over our house.

    Otto is worth his weight in gold.

  11. Beachgal

    After the fiasco I’ve had fixing my bathroom, I dread whatever next project becomes necessary in my crappy house. Cause nothing will happen unless it is absolutely necessary, otherwise I am ignoring it because I cannot stand the thought of more projects. Bah!

  12. Beth

    Hey, at least you don’t have to start projects while Otto is away…just so he won’t say, “You’re doing what?” Oh wait, that’s my hubby! Little does he know the laundry room is getting painted in the next couple of weeks! muah-haha!

  13. Undomestic Diva

    See. This is why we live in a state of half-done projects… you know: new door hung, check; new coat of paint, check; moulding? MOULDING? It’s been TWO YEARS, where’s the goddamn moulding?


  14. suburbancorrespondent

    Home improvement is like an awful game of pick-up sticks. You touch one item and everything else ends up moving, also. Why haven’t I replaced the ugly wallpaper in our master bath? Well, because then we would have to move the toilet; and if we’re gonna move the toilet, we really should tear up the floor because the tiles are all messed up around the toilet; and if we are gonna tear up the floor, the vanity has got to go. Believe it or not, that is all doable. But, if we’re going to replace the vanity and the floor, it would be silly not to replace the tile in the shower and the disgusting ugly pan on the floor of it also. And if we’re going to talk about the shower, we need to talk about knocking out the wall and expanding it into the bedroom closet so that we could have a tub…

    So forget it. The wallpaper stays.

  15. dad

    This too shall pass. Feeling overwhelmed? So have we, in our time.

    I suggest when Otto returns you go to Blockbuster, or its Dixie equivalent, and rent “Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House.”

    It will make you smile and realize that endless construction projects are not unique to you. It’s part of the human experience.

  16. Burgh Baby

    Funny, just last night my husband and I were discussing the fact that we are very nearly done with all of the projects we wanted done to our townhouse. Of course, this comes right on the heals of having outgrown the place and within months of us buying a new BIGGER place (with more issues, I’m sure). So, we get to start all over again. Woohoo!

  17. Sheila aka Manic Mom

    I hate home projects unless they include a cold drink & snacks while I’m watching HGTV. Key word here is watching!

  18. jennielynn

    OOO OOO! A strobe light in the bedroom is exactly what is recommended to spice up the love life.

  19. Stephanie

    Feeling your pain. We’re halfway through priming & painting our hideous kitchen cabinets, texturing the walls where we tore off layers of wallpaper…then we’ll replace counter tops, then floors. It’s endless. Homeownership! Wheeee!

  20. Melindey

    We are just getting ready to buy our first home and now I am having second thoughts. The nice thing about renting, “Yes this house looks like crap, but at least we don’t own it.” Hmmm…I can’t wait.

  21. SoMo

    In a few years you will look back and laugh about all this and curse the hardwood floors that you now have to clean everyday or your life. ;) It just never stops, this life.

  22. Lori

    We need a new deck – or rather a screened in porch. Of course we’re realizing this in JUNE when every contractor for miles around is either busy or expensive or both. I guess the old one will do – considering we lived with half torn off wallpaper in the bathrooms for over a year I estimate the porch being 2015’s project!

    My favorite scene in “the Money Pit” is when Tom Hanks falls through a hole in the floor and is stuck flying paper airplanes until he is “rescued”. I giggle every time I think of it.

  23. Brandy

    You could be like us. Our house came without molding at the ceiling and around the windows. SO, hubs decided we’ll do it ourselves! If that’s so, why do I have ONE piece of molding on my bathroom ceiling? JUST ONE! GAH! And, um, it’s been there a year. *sigh*

  24. heather

    This is really starting to scare me! My husband and I (well my husband) is about to redo one of the bed rooms in our house to turn it into a nursery. We…errrr he has to rip out the paneling (yes 70’s style paneling) and sheet rock the walls and paint, rip out the carpet (from the same era as the paneling) and install hardwood flooring in there that matches the rest of the house.

  25. mommytherobot

    even better if you flashed the contractor maybe you can get him to finish everything that needs to be done! worth a try!

  26. Walking In My Sleep

    I think the lyric goes: “One thing leads to another”. ;-)

  27. carolyn

    There are times when I am glad that i do not have enough money in the ol’ bank account for serious home improvement projects. This is one of those times. Really, it is much less stressful for me to sit here in the four (un-fancy) walls of my humble little home than to deal with the agonies you are currently going through. I’m proud of you, though, and I hope you will post pictures of the walls and floors and doors after they are all completed.

  28. Michelle

    And this is why, 5 years after moving in, we still haven’t ripped up the badly done flooring, the cracked tiles, the uneven cabinets, the wrinkly wallpaper, or the ugly back porch. I go to Lowe’s, get excited, BUY PRODUCT, come home, and curl up in a fetal position. Oh, and now the ceiling in the garage is hanging down and getting caught when the garage door opens. But SOMEDAY it will all get done. Just not sure if it will be this millenium.

  29. elizabeth

    dad has the right idea – watch Mr Blanding, even if you don’t like the lesson of endless projects you get to watch Cary Grant and Myrna Loy. and that has to be one of the best things ever.

    I do keep staring at certain wallpapers in my house and telling my self not to pick at them because I KNOW the drywall was not prepped properly and it will he horrid to pull down. but I so want to.

  30. Kelly

    I am trying to decide if this is time for a cheese and wine or encouragement that you can do it. (you know, “wine” I hate home improvement projects and someone else says, “Cheese” your right, why do we always end up hauling the heavy stuff and then you feel better) Either way, I have been reading your blog for about 6 weeks now and I have enjoyed every minute of it. (Even the times I cried.) Good luck with project.

  31. Steve

    Welcome to our world :) Ten years and we’re STILL not done with our house. Not even at a point where we can say “I can live with this for now…”

    Maybe you can come and give us some pointers on your next trip back to New England…

  32. Deb

    It’s ALIVEEEEEEEE…yes our house ate us too! The never ending saga of one woman and her home renovation. I love that you put it in such “precious” terms! Welcome to Homeownership hell!

  33. Jamie AZ

    There is no end to home improvement projects. Just when you think you’re done, you move and/or something else comes up.

  34. Mom24

    I am scared to even read your blog lately…it’s not contagious is it? Good luck. Keep thinking how WONDERFUL! and PRETTY! and NEW! it will be when you are done.

  35. Shalee

    Suddenly all the home improvements that I pictured for out not-so-new-but-new-to-us house don’t seem so necessary…

  36. Astrogirl426

    Ah, the hell-on-earth that is home improvement. Stories like this are why, when people come to visit the Bunker and look around at our cement floors and unfinished drywall and ask, “So you guys have been living here 5 years, right? When were you planning to finish the place?” I just chuckle contentedly and say, “Oh, we’re in no rush.”

    I understand your feelings about Ottos mad skillz with the tools. My hubby is the same way – he built his first house (a log cabin) himself, and we have built the Bunker ourselves also (well, except for the precast concrete walls that were brought in on a gigundo flatbed truck). Never underestimate the handyman skills. My sister is married to a guy who couldn’t hand a picture without killing someone. Ugh.

    Good luck – just think, after all this is over: A. it will look wonderful, and B. there won’t be any home improvement projects that will phase you. You’ll be an old hand.

  37. Astrogirl426

    Ottos = Otto’s
    hand = hang
    phase = faze

    Sorry about that. Guess my mad typing skillz are a bit lacking today. Ugh.

  38. Chuck

    I also vote for another massage. Now that the initial work is done, you may find the second one much more enjoyable. Wait until after the wood is hauled in and then reward yourself.

  39. Jodi

    I so feel your pain. We are finishing up a major kitchen remodel and also had hardwoods installed throughout the house. It’s enough to pull your hair out several times over. I think the kicker for us was when I came home to see that the kitchen window had been installed. There was wide trim right through my line of vision….meaning that while standing at my kitchen sink..I couldn’t see anything. Needless to say that was a waste of 1500 dollars and we’ve now ordered a new window.

  40. Deputy's Wife

    Fifteen years ago I wanted an updated sofa. So, I picked out some fabric and sent the sofa to my talented father, who is an upholsterer. Dad asks me, you gonna put that fabric on that sofa with the carpet you have? No, I guess not. I ordered carpet. Dad asks me, you gonna put that sofa with the new carpet with those paneled walls? No, I guess not. I ripped out the paneling. Dad asks, you gonna do something about those holes in the wall that the paneling had covered? I guess so. I proceeded to rip out plaster walls. Dad asks, you gonna replace the windows and wiring since the walls are down to studs?

    Four thousand dollars later, I had my updated sofa. That was also the period in my life where I decided I wouldn’t listen to my dad anymore.

  41. Damsel

    If you give a mouse a cookie…

  42. Randi

    I’ve gotta tell you, at least Otto LIKES to do home improvement stuff! Scott constantly says “let’s hire someone”, which drives me BATTY! I mean, how hard can it be to put linoleum in a bathroom? Right?!

  43. tori

    I am so sad I don’t live near you. I actually LOVE to do these kind of things. I had fun doing the venetian plaster, even though it made my arms feel like they were going to fall off. I did do it myself and did both rooms that I tried to take pictures of for you (and failed at getting anything to be able to tell what it looked like…sorry about the awful pictures!) at the same time, so maybe that was my mistake. I can’t wait until you are done so I can see pictures! (although I’m guessing you can’t wait to be done more!)

  44. Heidi

    Two years ago we decided to redo our paint job, but before we did that we tore out the carpet and installed wood flooring. Then we did the counters, which while installing cut a nice big hole in our dishwasher, which bled all over the floor and warped the brand new wood. We are still in talks about what to do about the cheap ass dishwasher and the warped wood floors.

  45. J

    Totally relating here, except from the other side…
    Thanks for the enjoyable read and great insights…


  46. Jenny

    Randi, I have to respectfully disagree. “Let’s hire someone” is the most beautiful three-word sentence in the English language and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. [weeping]

  47. Asianmommy

    Sorry this is so painful. I’ll be over soon, and then your house will be awesome!!

  48. Flea

    What? Otto didn’t rush out to HD to grab mirrors to install on the ceiling behind that strobe light?

  49. Cele

    Oh honey, I know that place of frustrated exhaustion you speak from. I now demand two years rest between “projects.”

  50. Mom101

    Still, it beats wall-to-wall

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