Home Guru

Pandemic Spawns Home Projects, But Please Be Careful

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Home GuruBy Bill Primavera

It’s been 18 years since I first started writing The Home Guru column and about all the chores that go along with improving and maintaining a home. During that time, I haven’t gotten any younger. The frequency and complexity of my do-it-yourself projects around the house have diminished significantly with age – my age. 

In fact, especially during COVID-19, even though I live in a relatively chore-free condo, I’ve spent days, weeks and even months just staring at my four walls, embarrassed to admit that there are three overhead lights that need to be replaced, but I’m only capable of reminding myself that the chore needs to be done.

With 10-foot ceilings, the task just seems too daunting. But then, all I have to do is call condo management to get the job completed.

Here’s a little scary history. Years ago, a neighbor of mine was making a repair on his roof when he lost his footing, fell off and hit his head, knocking himself unconscious. Incredibly enough, when he gained consciousness, he suddenly no longer wanted to be married to his wife. It just came out of the blue following his near-death experience.

That experience offered a good excuse to me – and my wife – that I should never do anything around the house that is either dangerous or for which I am unqualified.

But we guys are a stubborn lot, we are. And women are right up there with us when it comes to the satisfaction we derive from doing ourselves what we might hand over to others for a price. There are other factors involved, both practical and psychological. 

For one, not all of us are moneybags. When I first moved to the suburbs as a young husband and father, I could barely scrape together the money needed for the mortgage, utilities and taxes each month, much less even considering whether I could afford a service to have my lawn cut or my shrubbery pruned. 

On the other hand, with a young family and a stressful job, I was grateful for the therapeutic element that came with building my own bookshelves, applying my own wallpaper and doing my own foundation plantings. I would step back and say, “Wow, that’s some heck of a job; no one could possibly do it better.”

And you know what? Except for some really skilled artisans I have found along the way, like a carpenter who is an artist with wood and a painter who can do faux work that should be in a museum, my handiwork from years past stood up very well indeed.

In my former antique home, I would marvel when stepping into my bedroom, and almost compulsively, I would look at the perfectly matched pattern on the papered walls and marvel at how each corner is miraculously matched to the other. When I was in my dining room, I couldn’t stop myself from observing the stenciling along the top of the walls, the swag and leaf pattern on which I labored for weeks on end when my back and neck were supple enough to endure the physical effort required.

But the years do take their toll. As soon as the snow of winter melted each spring, I would start my first home ritual of redressing my driveway and parking area by leveling the mounds of crushed bluestone created by the snowplows.

Of course, I would soon hear a window open, my wife admonishing me to stop immediately, warning that the chore is as taxing as shoveling snow and that I was too old to do it anymore. I would respond that it was good, healthy exercise for me. We went back and forth. She would win, but only because I always try to be a good husband and don’t want to worry her.

Today, it’s a different time of life and I must face the reality that it’s time to be a different kind of homeowner with a different kind of to-do list, mainly one of who to call to get the various jobs done that need to be done.

According to a Consumer Products Safety Commission report, nearly 250,000 people have to visit emergency rooms each year simply because they fall off a ladder. This is the most dangerous chore around the house.

In descending order, the next most dangerous home improvement chores are lawnmower accidents; power tool accidents; chemical-related accidents (pool chemicals, paints, lubricants, solvents and other household or workshop cleaning agents, so read those labels carefully!); chainsaw accidents (I was always afraid to even own one); and finally, electric shock. (Always assume a wire is “hot,” unless you know for sure that the power has been turned off.)

It’s wonderful to do it yourself, but be careful which chores you choose.

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), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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