Some Assembly Required: A step-by-step guide to home repair (is not included in this column and must be purchased separately).
Author: Barry Kaufman | Photographer: Mark Staff Photography
I have been a proud homeowner for nearly eight years now, and in that time I’ve learned one crucial thing about home improvement: Before undertaking any kind of DIY home repair project, it’s crucial to stock up on gasoline just in case you feel like burning the house down and starting over when you’re done.
It’s not to say that I’m some kind of bumbling, black-and-white-before-image-in-an-infomercial beta male, it’s just that, somehow, every time I’ve undertaken any kind of home project, I’ve invariably not only failed to fix whatever I was fixing, but have also completely and accidentally demolished everything else. Fortunately, it’s not my fault. In some weird pact with the devil, the DIY supply people love finding different ways to not include things in the box that should totally be in there.
Let’s start with my garage door opener, which failed due to the world’s most specific lightning strike. This laser-guided smart bolt, from whichever God I owe money, hit the side of my house and snaked through the wiring in a blood vendetta against one ceiling fan, one garage door opener on the opposite side of the house, and somehow just one of the two HDMI inputs on my TV.
Clearly, someone up there didn’t want me playing Nintendo in High Def. But obviously I had to fix the garage door opener, because while my wife is perfectly happy to let me rescue Princess Zelda in standard definition, she refuses to park in the driveway.
I went to Home Depot, bought the stupendously heavy replacement garage door opener and got ready to work. In just a few short hours, I managed to secure drive screw A to motor chassis B, using a torque wrench no larger than 75 milliliters, an adjustable-kelp flanging girder and a bunch of other things whose names I will continue to make up because I don’t know them.
Snag one: I had to make a return trip to Lowe’s to buy a separate set of screws because I have an exceptional and exotic garage door (made of the rare metal “aluminum”) that is apparently only a myth to the garage door people, who explicitly state in the directions they did not include screws to attach the garage door opener to it. I pondered a moment what kind of garage door these people were expecting me to have, but I nevertheless left my work, purchased my screws, and returned.
All of my zinc sprockets now aligned with the grommet housings, I shouldered this 50-pound monstrosity of a garage door opener, climbed the ladder up to the ceiling and prepared to attach it, using whatever gasket cromulents came in the box.
It is at this point I read the following. (Bear in mind that at this point I am several feet off the ground with a shoulder full of heavy machinery.) The directions read, and I quote, “If you have a finished ceiling, you will need to purchase additional reinforcements, which are also not included, because to hell with you and your stupid garage.”
What? WHAT? What in the blue blazes kind of ceiling did they think I had? You didn’t include the pieces for an aluminum door or a finished ceiling? What am I, installing a garage door opener in a barn?
It’s at this point that a rational man would simply return to Lowe’s, buy whatever diamond steel nickel alloy reinforcements were necessary, and finish the job. I, however, come from the “Oh screw that noise” school of home repair, so I immediately blacked out with rage and nearly plummeted off a ladder with several thousand pounds of garage door opener on my chest. Steadied after creating a symphony in foul language which advanced profanity classes still study to this day, I began blasting holes in the ceiling with a power drill until I found a stud, then rigged that thing up there with old bicycle parts and spite.
In the end, I wound up with a working garage door and a semi-finished ceiling. But again, not my fault. If you can’t install the garage door opener in any garage not built by the Amish, that should be in large letters on the box.
And it’s not just garage door openers that refuse to warn you that vital parts may be missing until it’s too late. You ever install a garbage disposal?
Here’s a home improvement hint: New garbage disposals don’t come with power cords. Seriously. Like it’s a wonder to these people that you’d ever want to do something as stupid as plug the damn thing in and use it.
Fortunately, the one time I was forced to replace a garbage disposal, I was in sound enough mind to realize that I could simply swap out the power cord from my old one. Brilliant!
Here’s the catch. Garbage disposals are incredibly possessive of their power cords. It makes sense. They were built without them, spent half their lives in a box never knowing a power cord’s sweet caress, so when they get one they don’t want to let it go.
So to get the old power cord off of a garbage disposal, you really have to get under there with a screwdriver and give it the prying of a life time. And when you do this, please know that you’re going to lose your grip on the screwdriver, which is now coated in garbage disposal glop.
Here’s another home improvement hint: Do you know what the sharpest part of a garbage disposal is? All of it! For whatever reason, the bottom of a garbage disposal is razor sharp, so if you lose your grip while prying out the power cord, you’re totally losing a finger.
So once again, I found myself having failed to improve my home but succeeded in causing severe damage. This time to my knuckle, which was now flapping about in a hilariously mangled fashion.
Again, the fact that you could not plug in your new electronic appliance should probably have been on the box somewhere. They probably leave that off because they’re in bed with the people who sell new ceilings and medical-grade gauze.
And don’t get me started on re-caulking a bathroom. I tried to re-caulk my shower once and my bathroom ended up looking like Spider-Man blasted through there on a meth bender. That’s not really a fault of the manufacturer this time; you probably can chalk that one up to me being terrible at home repair. All the same, don’t even try re-caulking; just paint your entire bathroom mildew brown and move on with your life.
So in the final analysis, the best advice I can give to anyone contemplating a DIY project is to either rip the box open right there at the store, figure out every single piece that should have been in there that isn’t (all of them), or pay a professional—you know, the guys who actually read the instructions before they start.