You’d think that with a title like This Old House, I might be having a bit of fun this month with my home handyman skills versus a home in dire need of repair work – a nod perhaps to the enduring PBS TV home improvement show of the same name.
Well, I might brush across something like that, but as we prepare to sell the home that has been in our family for 60+ years, I’m more inclined to marvel at some of the work that was done while my Dad was still alive, and muse on trends that have thankfully come and gone, but unfortunately may still reside under flooring and behind walls.
The more furniture and belongings I pack up and remove, the more I recall installations that my Dad and I worked on together, or he completed after banishing me to the yard to play with my toys. While we were two completely different people, we shared one lifelong common trait – an unwillingness to learn how to properly complete (or even start) home renovation projects. How would we have learned, in an era when the internet had not yet been invented and Mr. Dressup didn’t ever pick up a drill or a hammer?
No, most times we learned by guess or by gump – once a project was started it had to conclude, successfully or not. Painting was among the simpler efforts – although I’m pretty sure common wisdom now might include painter’s tape applied strategically ahead of the brush work. There are still door locks and hardware, lighting outlets and fixtures, plus more than a few windows caked in paint of varying colours over years of eager application. Who needs fresh air when you can run a table fan?
The old family home predates drywall. I’m not sure what the actual walls are made of – a churned blend of chewing gum and newspapers? I’ve poked sections a little bit while trying to clean off smudges on the wall dating back to The Partridge Family era, and I think there may even be wallpaper behind layers of paint. Either that or an old oil painting we forgot to move in a rush to get a job done.
For any family or friends who have been in our wood-panelled rec room over the years, one topic of conversation is always the egg crate ceiling my Dad and I installed. It is a marvel of economical construction and a design possibly conceived over beers at the lake with a friend.
There are probably still hens out there that tell their own chicks and great-grand chicks about the crazy men that drove from grocery store to convenience store picking up as many 11″ x 11″ crates as they could find. Stapled to ceiling trusses and fastened in other parts with one-inch strips of wood, that was another hard-learned exercise in learning to paint. I may have needed three new pairs of glasses before we learned to put a broom handle in the paint roller and not stand directly underneath it. Or even just use less paint to prevent wholesale drip-back.
Also in the basement, there is a lifetime of pennant wall flags pinned to that wood panelling, gathered from travels around North America, or gifted from friends and family travels knowing of that ongoing collection. A conservative estimate would suggest there are about 300+ flags from mundane and exotic locations, some pinned in exotic locations on the walls and egg crates.
Hey, maybe that’s what’s under the paint on the upper level? I’d better Google how to safely remove lead-based paint before I try to find out.