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Home Improvement Porn

2010 Fay Jacobs

Fay Jacobs

Home Improvement shows are like pornography. Watching them makes you do things you shouldn't do. Like tiling the bathroom floor.

"How difficult is this project?" I asked my handy spouse as we watched DIY porn on Saturday morning.

"It's easy."

After 28 years you'd think I'd know better. I'm surprised nobody showed up to try and sell me the Brooklyn Bridge. Frankly, it would have cost less. Since we already had the floor tiles, all we needed was concrete board to go under the tile. And grout, a trowel, a grout sponge, adhesive, concrete board screws and an appointment to have my head examined.

They call it concrete board because it emits concrete dust that sticks to your clothing like powdered sugar. It's also called concrete board because two old dykes cannot lift a sheet of it into the car by themselves without developing sciatica.

Meanwhile back at the ranch house, Bonnie wanted to avoid crawling under the house to shut off the water. So she convinced me we'd just cut out the back of the under-sink cabinet to remove it without fooling with the water supply. Well, sawing a hole in the cabinet made a filthy mess but we got it out of the bathroom without incident. Sadly, it turned out that the turnoff valve on the toilet was broken, so removing the porcelain horse would have caused a geyser. See Bonnie run. See Bonnie slither under the house to turn the water off.

I married for better or worse, but not for carting a toilet through the house. It poured more liquid on my floor than visiting dogs. With the water off, if I wanted to wash my hands I had to use ice cubes. See the consequences of watching porn?

Next came removal of the backsplash from the sink, half of which was the leaning tower of formica, having become unglued over a decade ago. I became unglued when the remaining section, which must have been fastened with Gorilla Glue, was removed, taking a chunk of wall board with it. Great, now we have to repaint the room. It's amazing how the destruction phase of these projects goes awry so fast.

Back to Lowes for the part to fix the toilet cut-off so we can turn the water on again. By 3pm we had the water fixed and one sheet of concrete board on the bathroom floor. By 4 pm we had screwed it in place. By 5 pm we had cocktails and called it a day.

Day Two of the one-day project
Broke several drill bits on the concrete board. Back to Lowes. Second board screwed into place. Fay and Bonnie screwed because we are out of time. Must put project on hold for two days. The sink and toilet are in the hall, we have to clean up our master bathroom in case guests have to pee. The house is a construction site.

Day Five of the one-day project
Little details like Bonnie's employment supersede construction. Back to work on the floor now. After painstakingly trimming one tile to fit around where the toilet would be if it wasn't in the hall, we determine that everything is easy with the right tools - and we don't have them. We rent a tile cutter and race home, playing beat the clock to cut all the tiles before nightfall when the rented machine turns into a pumpkin or costs us another $44. We make it. Huzzah!

Day six of the one-day project
Great. A narrow slice of concrete board is sticking out past the tile, infringing on the space for the door sill. Gotta trim that concrete board. Did I mention concrete dust?

Bonnie took a jigsaw to the offending concrete board and blew a cloud of thick white fog up to the ceiling and back down into every crevice and onto every surface in the whole house. We've got concrete dust in the dog food bowls, on the bedspreads, in the computer keyboards. We could scribble %&*% DIY in concrete dust on the tabletops. Auuggghhh!!!! Now we need a cleaning service.

Off to buy a sill to fit between bathroom and hall. Got a cheap metal one and it looked like crap next to the tiles. Back to Lowes yet again, where we lost our marbles and bought a black marble sill. That sucking sound was the ATM.

Day seven of the one-day project
Bonnie mixed the adhesive and began meticulously setting tiles in place. With each subsequent tile the glue got thicker and thicker, setting up faster than she could possibly set tiles. Pretty soon she's tiling like the sorcerer's apprentice and cursing like a sailor trying to finish before her putty knife turns to the sword in the stone. She didn't make it. Out of usable glue, out of time. Toss bucket and embedded putty knife in trash.

Time Out
Here, the story detours. Project on hold for a quick trip out of town. Arrived back on Sunday night and by Monday morning both of us are struck down with world-class food poisoning. Beebe visit required. I will spare you the details but remind you that one of our two toilets was sitting useless in the hall. Timing is everything. In so many ways.

Day seventeen of the one day project
We're grouting now, with a brand new putty knife. Decided it was silly to put back the old cabinet with the holes in the back for the water pipes so we bought a new, decorative cabinet with new hardware. While we're at it (it's the while-your-at-its that will kill you) we're looking at a new granite countertop and decorative sink because we have to hide the wall gouges where the old formica ripped off.

Ripped off, did we say? The new cabinet is in place but the drawers won't open because we got a lefty not a righty and upon opening the drawers they hit the door jam. Can't move the cabinet the offending one measly inch because water pipes won't move. Call the plumber to move the pipes, begging him to hurry because company is coming in three days. Exercise the credit card.

Day nineteen of the Manhattan Project
Buy paint and new baseboards. Close the bathroom door to keep the dogs from exploring unfinished baseboard areas. Wait! The door won't close. Tiles are too high. To sand the door down we have to take it off its hinges.

Fay becomes unhinged. See Bonnie and Fay schlepping the toilet and sink back into the bathroom. See an expensive cleaning crew come get concrete dust off every Tchotchke in the house.

Fay and Bonnie are now in rehab for their addiction to Do-It-Yourself projects. HGTV is porn. Pure and simple. I'm swearing off. Or am I just swearing?
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Fay Jacobs, a native New Yorker, spent 30 years in the Washington, DC area working in journalism, theater and public relations. She has contributed feature stories and columns to such publications as The Advocate, OUTtraveler, The Baltimore Sun, Chesapeake Bay Magazine, The Washington Blade, The Wilmington News Journal, Delaware Beach Life and more.

Since 1995 she has been a regular columnist for Letters from CAMP Rehoboth, and won the national 1997 Vice Versa Award for excellence. Her columns are collected in the books, As I Lay Frying: a Rehoboth Beach Memoir and the newly published Fried & True - Tales of Rehoboth Beach.

Fay is Publisher and Managing Editor of A&M Books, the publisher of the 14 classic Sarah Aldridge novels.

She and Bonnie, her partner of 25 years, relocated to Rehoboth Beach, DE in 1999. They have two Miniature Schnauzers and a riding lawn mower.

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