About a year and a half ago, my wife and I bought our first home. From the start, we knew very well that we would need to get our hands dirty in order to make the house work. In case you’ve been living under a rock, real estate isn’t cheap on Long Island. And we got lucky with our place — it’s in the back of a neighborhood in Wading River, with about as little through traffic as we could ask for.
But with that came the need for a little bit of elbow grease and updating. Four words: carpets in the kitchen.
In addition, the front retaining wall and stairs began to crumble over the winter. And the overall landscaping, which was overgrown because the previous owner was unable to keep up with it, is a constant work in progress.
It brings up a scenario that I can vouch for personally, as I’m sure many others can: Being a homeowner is a constant, flowing, sometimes depressing and other times hugely satisfying math equation. We are almost like small-business owners, trying to improve the value of the property we own on a limited budget. What work can we do ourselves? What work can we afford to do? What work will have to wait?
Which brings us to the Pinciaro household. My wife and I spent the first year in our new home clearing the yard, a process we’re still tackling. It was so overgrown when we moved in that we literally could not see the house behind us. And by the time this summer came around, we’d been able to save enough cash to fix up that crumbling retaining wall.
What I didn’t see coming was how long it would take to make what seemed like a relatively simple fix after we had the new wall installed: putting in a new storm door and switching it around so it opens in the opposite direction.
You see, the new retaining wall cut into the space near the front door, so opening it from the right side has you nearly stepping off the ledge. And oddly, the knob for the main door is on the left side, so it simply made sense to switch it around.
So one Sunday morning, my wife came back to the house and there I was, ripping apart the door frame. The bottom piece of wood and part of one of the sides had rotted, so while we were switching things around it only made sense to make it right. Right?
Once I pulled out that first piece of wood, things kind of turned into one of those HGTV shows, where the designer has no money for the kitchen AND bathroom renovation because the bathroom — surprise! — cost more than expected. There are always more problems lurking underneath.
In our case, water damage had seeped through the wood and into the cement underneath it. Luckily, my neighbor is a mason, so some quick-mix concrete is never far from home. I mixed that up, placed a new board on top, and voila! A new bottom for the door frame.
Which still left me with the side of the frame to replace, not to mention priming and painting the frame and installing the new storm door itself. I’ll spare you the minor details, but let’s just say I underestimated all of the steps in this process. New trim around the door apparently meant we were picking the exterior color of the entire house, a decision that on its own has the potential to take up an entire weekend day.
Altogether, putting on a new storm door took me two-and-a-half weekends. If I’m still going with the small-business owner analogy, probably not the kind of pace that keeps me in business too long. And I still have the front walkway to do next.
As the saying goes, I won’t quit my day job.