Home Guru

How To Really Enjoy Those DIY Home Projects

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By Bill Primavera

It thrills me to remember my dad as a man who really loved and enjoyed his family and who really loved and enjoyed his work. I know because, although he wasn’t very talkative, he said many times how much he loved the work he did.

His official job designation was “cement finisher,” which I suppose is how he started out in the early 1920s. But by the time I came around as a late but “lucky” baby, as he called me, he was a flooring specialist who laid floors on luxury ships.  He also installed the flight decks of aircraft carriers. I like to think that he did great work for our country in that regard.

While there was little work for him during the Depression when neither businesses, ocean liners or homeowners were in the market for flooring, he was suddenly in high demand after World War II, when many ships were converted from war use to passenger liners and cargo ships.

He died young, at 56 when I was only 18, from what we now know as asbestosis before we really knew what it was. Asbestosis is a chronic lung condition that is caused by prolonged exposure to high concentrations of asbestos fibers in the air. Asbestos was ever-present in all those ships he worked on.

I try not to think about that period, brief though it was, when he was incapacitated because of the disease. But I like to think, prior to that, when he would talk about his enthusiasm for his work. He would describe his work with a twinkle in his eye and excitement in his voice. 

“I love doing a job,” he would say. “I love going into a room, doing the planning, sizing up the job and how I will go about it, and then the installation.”

Because he did all of his flooring work on his knees, that part of his anatomy was gnarled to the point of looking more aged than the rest of his body. They were testament to his years of really hard physical labor, but his face was totally unlined and most frequently projecting a big smile.

Because of his talents, every home we ever lived in had flooring in our kitchens and bathrooms that was the envy of the neighborhood. Our front stoops and porches always boasted the work of a skilled artist, covered in material used on ships and always with distinctive patterns imprinted in truly artful form. I especially remember a big teapot cut in a contrasting color into our kitchen floor linoleum. 

I guess I inherited his enthusiasm for projects around the house, which is now why one of my several personalities is as The Home Guru. Today I live in a modern home in Trump Park, where everything is tended to and there is precious little that presents itself as a home project. But for over 40 years I lived in an 18th century farmhouse, which was literally a work in progress from the day I moved in until the day I moved out. It might have been called the DIY house. Thank God my back and my knees were those of a young man when the really hard chores of renovation needed to be done.

The reasons why people engage in do-it-yourself activities are numerous. For some, DIY projects provide an opportunity to express the homeowner’s creativity. On the other hand, some do it driven by economic necessity. DIY can also be a form of occupational therapy. Certainly for me, along with my outside garden work, DIY jobs kept me sane, especially during a period when I worked for a boss from hell.

Besides being a great way to relieve stress, a DIY project accomplishes the task of achieving a better home. What could be more practical? And somewhere I read that DIY projects can lower one’s heart rate and blood pressure.

My rules for enjoying home DIY projects are simple and I have just two of them:  First, only do what you think you’ll enjoy. Why bother with any project that can be viewed as a chore? Secondly, tackle only what you feel capable of doing successfully. If the job requires a skill you don’t have, save yourself a lot of grief and leave it to the experts.

Oh, I do have a third rule if you happen to be employing someone to do the job:  NEVER pay upfront. Even though it’s been almost a half-century since a criminal contractor took my money in advance “for materials,” then absconded with it to whereabouts unknown, I have never paid in advance. It was only $500, but in my married youth, with a little baby on hand, it was a lot of money to me.

Of course, DIY projects save money. Maybe that’s the best benefit of all.

Bill Primavera is a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest-running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com). To engage the services of Bill Primavera, The Home Guru, to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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