Doing It Myself (DIM): A Tale from the Amateur Aisle

best DIY toolA few decades ago, it was weekend warrior athletes driving up health costs.  They sat in their offices Monday through Friday only moving fingers and mouths, then spent a couple of hours driving getting a little wrist and foot action in, then parked their butts in front of the TV barely moving their eyes.  On Saturday and Sunday, it was out with the boys for softball, baseball, soccer, football, attempting to recapture their high school and college ‘glory days’.  Sports medicine became a profitable niche industry.  The ‘burbs were booming.

Lowes and Home Depot took note of the damaged knees and shoulders, scrapes, fractures and breaks and decided to target these weekend warriors (who obviously had excess disposable income and health insurance) to bolster their own profit margins. They taunted and encouraged and cheered with slogans of “let’s build it” and “you can do it” implying free labor and expertise came with every tool and supply purchase.

The labor isn’t free, though they rent it out in the form of subcontractors.  Expertise is not innate unless you’re a savant, but after all, it’s not brain surgery.

Lowes and Home Depot should display a disclaimer sign upon entering their store for all amateur DIYers to buy tools and supplies at their own risk.  Perhaps I’ve just missed seeing the fine print.  I’m actually surprised they haven’t been sued by insurance companies for medical expenses.  Maybe I’ve just missed the news items…

Medical costs have risen further.  Drug advertising is booming.

It was a small innocuous project — truly.  Why the previous owners had never done it was well…surprising.  It required neither professional knowledge nor heavy power tools.  While the furnace was in the house, the ductwork for the heating/cooling system ran across the crawlspace beneath the house.  I’d had to call my HVAC contractor to fix a vertical portion which fell since the previous owner never bothered to screw the sections together and just dry-fit them together to appease my home inspection list of required fixes, so I had tied the sections together with an old nightgown until Paul could arrive (men will use duct tape, women use old nightgowns.  Deal with it, but at least I did call a professional to permanently solve the problem) — he agreed that most people would insulate the ductwork for maximum efficiency.

A small project.  One that really didn’t require the skills and knowledge of a professional licensed contractor. Wrap, cut, tape insulation. No special or expensive tools necessary.  So one Saturday in September, after the summer heat was past, I went to Home Depot for insulation and tape. Grabbed some scissors, threw the supplies in the crawlspace and went to town wrapping the ductwork.

Wrap, cut, tape, waddle a few feet, repeat.

It was so painless and easy working my way across the house, that I didn’t bother taking a break and climbing out of the crawlspace until I was halfway across the house.  (Stop laughing.)  Also, while I knew the length of the crawlspace, I had forgotten that I had to wrap the insulation crosswise not lengthwise, so I was also out of insulation at the same time.  (Stop laughing.)

When I climbed out from under the house I could barely straighten myself.  My back screamed.  My legs screamed from the crouching and waddling.  When I finally crawled out I laid on my back in the grass looking up at the sky.  I didn’t want to move.  But I was only half-finished and  I knew my body would feel worse the next day, so I had to finish the project that day.  After stretching for a half hour it was back to Home Depot for exactly the same amount of insulation I bought in the morning.  Then back under the house.

I took more breaks working across the second half to ensure I would not be stuck bent over for the next several days.

The next morning — even after a warm shower — I could barely bend my knees to get down the stairs.  I had to hop, very gently, down the stairs.  My arms, legs and back were stiff and even small movements were painful.  I spent the entire day on my back on a chaise lounge on the deck.  On Monday, it took a half hour to pull on a pair of pantyhose and off to work I went.  When I took a break during the morning with a friend I insisted on taking the elevator and not stairs.

She asked what I did over the weekend…And she laughed.

That night I went to Mr. Bill’s house.  He had recently installed a hot tub in his yard and had extended an open invitation to use it anytime.  When he saw me shuffling he asked what I did over the weekend…Then he laughed.  I just told him to show me how to turn on the tub and identify all the different jets.

The warm water and massaging jets were just heaven for my aching muscles.  I wanted to stay there all night drinking wine.  I soaked for two hours.  I’d have stayed in longer, but the tub automatically shuts off after two hours (safety feature).

The following morning I was moving without any pain or stiffness. And I started planning the next weekend’s home improvement task.

I spent every Monday night after that in Mr. Bill’s hot tub.  Used it more than he did. Then I bought it from him and had it moved to my yard so that I could finish all the improvement projects on my to-do list.  Without it, I would have had to spend a lot of money on contractors.  And doctors.  And drugs.

The house was much cozier the following winter.