Metro-East Living

Home improvement projects are just another problem with getting older

Wally Spiers
Wally Spiers

I have found that another problem with getting older is that you have to revisit past home improvement nightmares.

Projects that nearly killed you 30 years ago or so are now becoming outdated and need replacing. You can ignore the stuff which is just out of style, but there are too many things which have reached the end of their lives and have to be replaced. That means either you fork out money to have things fixed or spend time to do them yourself.

Neither is a good choice for me.

My back storm door broke. I wasn’t adverse to just letting it hang open but other people in my household were. Also the cats kept running out.

That meant a trip to a hardware store to buy a new door. I have a love-hate relationship with hardware stores. Love to look. Hate to buy.

The door also had to be tan, to match the other trim on the house. Or, as I found out, it had to be sandstone, because apparently tan isn’t a classy enough color name.

Class, of course, costs money, just as sandstone costs more as does a handle for the door which you have to buy separately.So, by the time I got to the $100 charge for installation, my tightwad instinct kicked in and I decided I could do it myself. I had installed other storm doors on my house so it seemed like I could do this one. Besides, the door box advertised that it was 50 percent easier to put in than other doors.

Fifty percent? Jeez, it sounded like it would almost install itself. Why spend money on installation?

Well, because I forgot the agony that most home improvement projects subject me to. Even when I was younger I wasn’t much good at them. Experience hasn’t particularly helped. With experience has come age and my joints have become less supple for bending. My fingers are even more clumsy and drop things easily. My arms are weaker for overhead work. My patience has all but disappeared.

The box containing the door recommended having two people to handle it. But once I left the store there was only me. So I removed the glass to make it lighter. That actually worked but then there was the glass to install again when the door was up, instead of flat on a couple of nice sawhorses like the picture in the instructions.

I spent several hours trying to decide whether the hinge rail was really right side up and if I had attached it correctly, after, of course, spending a lot of time figuring out what the hinge rail even was. I worried for a long while whether I had placed the pilot screw in the correct position.

My ladder only had two steps but I was constantly up and down them as I dropped screws, screwdrivers and even my drill.

The retaining pins had tiny rubber O rings which I hope aren’t important because my thick, clumsy fingers had no hope of ever getting them where they needed to go.

I always forget that my old house was built back in the days before having everything square was much of a concern. It has settled since then, so adding shims all over the place to try and even out things isn’t much fun either.

The further along I got, the better bargain that installation deal was looking to be. But once the box is open, best to just blunder on, I always figure, always incorrectly.

But later, when I found the new door had two closers and there was twice as much installation to perform and twice as many holes to drill and screws to drive, I quit for the day.

Besides, by then I had dropped the tiny black allen wrench I needed to tighten the door handle to keep it from falling off and I couldn’t find it in the mulch alongside the sidewalk outside. I know I have at least two sets of similar wrenches in the basement but I couldn’t find them. So that had to wait until I could borrow one.

The next day I forced myself to finish the installation and everything seems to work. But now that I look at it, the door doesn’t seem quite straight. It seems there might be a need for a few more shims. Or something.

I may yet end up spending that $100.

Wally Spiers: