Springtime for hardware

Spring is a time of renewal, a time of reawakening after the long, dark winter. And we all know what that means. It's time to tackle those home-repair projects we are not qualified to do.

We're not talking spring-cleaning here. That's a given. As warm weather arrives, many of us (mostly female) feel the urge to refresh and renew, to scrub off the grime, the muddy bootprints, the road salt and dessicated leaves. The rest of us (mostly male) play along, sweeping and scouring, getting the house ready for the onslaught of our children's summer vacation.

Our topic today goes beyond simple cleaning. We're talking about all those home maintenance projects that we put off because it was too cold. We burrowed in through the winter, hibernating like bears, but now warm weather has arrived and it's time to throw open the windows, assemble our tools and hurt ourselves in new and inventive ways.

For instance, my wife and I stripped some horrendous wallpaper in our bedroom and then painted the entire room. The results are splendid and we feel virtuous because we did the job ourselves rather than hiring professionals. And, we'll no longer have nightmares because of that hallucinatory wallpaper.

But -- there's always a "but," isn't there? -- I made a few mistakes. I didn't wear a respiratory mask while scraping and sanding the walls and I paid the price over the next week as I tried to chisel hardened plaster from my sinuses. All the repetitive stretching and bending served as a harsh reminder that I'm aging. And, naturally, I had to make many trips to the hardware store for items I'd overlooked, such as mineral spirits. (I still don't know what mineral spirits are, but we have plenty now.)

Before tackling your springtime home improvements, you should remember some basic rules. These will help simplify your projects and you'll be better prepared. And, if you follow these rules carefully, you'll soon see that you're better off watching TV.

1. Ignore home-decorating and handyman magazines.

Those beautiful remodeling projects pictured in magazines can inspire you to attempt ambitious projects better left unimagined. Refinishing those hardwood floors sounds great, until the power sander leaps out of your hands and climbs the nearest wall. A new deck seems like a good idea until the ninth time you hit your thumb with a hammer.

2. There's a correct tool for every job.

You will not own this tool. Make another trip to the hardware store.

3. Paint can cover up many errors.

It can also cover your carpet when it spills.

4. Wallpaper is the work of the devil. Avoid it at all costs.

5. The use of basic tools can result in injury. But if you really want to spend some time in the hospital, step up to power tools.

6. Solvents, pesticides, herbicides, cleaning solutions, paints, root killers, roofing tar and many other home-improvement compounds are toxic and should be handled with extreme care.
Might as well just kill yourself and get it over with.

7. Avoid ladders.

Falling is scary, and that sudden stop can hurt. Plus, getting 10 or 12 feet off the ground gives you a new perspective on your house. You'll spot more chores to do.

8. Wear gloves.

Those of us who usually sit at computers all day do not have the proper buildup of calluses to protect us from blisters and splinters. Of course, gloves won't help if you insist on hitting your thumb with the hammer.

9. Fasteners -- nails, screws, bolts, etc... -- must be the proper size to do the job.

Make another trip to the hardware store.

10. If something is supposed to move and it won't, spray it liberally with WD-40.

11. If something is not supposed to move and it does, secure it with duct tape.

Those last two rules come from my in-laws -- hardy, self-reliant ranch folk who live 100 miles from the nearest home-improvement superstore. They're forced to do it themselves, and they know the simplest solutions usually are best. Here's one more from them, which has become the byword for all home repair projects in our family:

12. Get a bigger hammer.

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