Flashback Friday With VM Editor-In-Chief D. Randy Riggs

From VM Issue 09.3 May/June ’09

Home Projects Made Easy
by D. Randy Riggs

Photo: D. Randy Riggs

If you’re anything like me, you can spend endless hours wandering the tool aisles at a big box store or local hardware outlet. Wood tools, metal tools, automotive tools—the variety and sheer number available today for the home handyman boggle my easily boggled mind. And then there are the tool catalogs to peruse, either online or holding one in your hands old-fashioned-like.

I saw a pair of brake tube forming pliers in the Eastwood catalog and I thought, ‘Wow, how cool are those! If I only had some brake tubing to bend, wouldn’t that be fun?’

But when I really stopped and thought about it, I was glad there was no brake tubing to bend, because that would mean crawling under my Morris Minor van after raising it up on jack stands, slipping into some overalls and then squirming underneath, only to get a glob of oily dirt in the corner of my eye. Oh yes, forgot the safety glasses, the ones that don’t exactly fit over my reading glasses. Of course, now that I’m 62, I need readers to make sure what I bend isn’t a finger. Then would follow the brake fluid part of the job, and the brake bleeding and you all know what can happen with brake fluid.

I have a wonderful Makita cordless drill that has served me very well on countless projects but I see the latest ones have a built-in LED light and are are a bit more ergonomic and stylish. Trade-in time? Nah. The one I have reminds me of past fun home projects like outdoor decks and framing out heater ducts and exciting stuff like that.

Ah, home projects! My most recent involves our two-car garage, one that I moved my belongings into 12 years ago and just started hanging stuff and filling every inch of wall space with what would fall under the heading of “memorabilia.” The house was nearly 30 years old and the garage was done back in the days when they didn’t finish off garages too well, the walls covered with homasote board rather than sheetrock, and no insulation or electrical outlets. It was also painted that awful industrial green.

With so much “stuff” in there, I had to work up the courage to take it down and get it out of the way while I went to work on all that was wrong. In hearing my plans, my wonderful wife Karen came out with her usual line, “Why don’t you just hire a contractor to get all this done?”

Of course that would make perfect sense. She is always, always right about these things and yet, I always follow up with, “No, this is really a project I want to do myself.”

Some people never learn.

Soon enough, I was removing photos and posters and banners from the walls, taking down signs and grille badges and you name it, as well as emptying metal shelving of all the accumulated junk that had been piled there. I sold the shelving on Craig’s List, so the units were out of my way.

I made the smart move in bringing in professionals to build new cabinets to our specifications and they worked out wonderfully; now all the clutter is hidden behind closed doors.

I tackled the homasote with a hi-tech hammer and prybar, filling my pickup with the debris, two loads later the walls bare and me $80 poorer, at $40 at load in Marin County’s landfill. Near my second home in Oregon, it costs $3 a load. Go figure. California screws me yet again.

Next came the electrical, adding outlets and running conduit through the wall studs, and that went very well. I can now turn on my Texaco neon with a wall switch. Neat.

With a long-sleeved shirt and eye protection, the wall insulation followed, and what a difference that made in keeping the garage cooler in summer and warmer in winter, even though we don’t have huge weather extremes here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Loading the sheetrock, heavy piece by heavy piece into my truck at the lumberyard, my wife’s voice kept ringing in my head, “why don’t you hire someone to do this?”
Some people never learn.

Little by little I tackled the sheetrock, measuring and cutting, and screwing it to the wall. Afterwards I felt like I had been run over by a truck and was covered in sheet rock dust. The taping and mudding is even more fun.

Then it happened. I tossed a ball to Duke the Doberman and felt something pop in my shoulder. Ouch! $1100 in x-rays and a CAT scan revealed a labral shoulder tear, so my sheet rocking days were over, along with the painting.

Came the inevitable from Karen.

“Why don’t you just hire a contractor to get all this finished?” “Yes, dear.”