Over the course of my life, I’ve had the privilege of working with two talented men – my father and my husband – on a variety of home repair and home remodeling projects. My dad taught me basic things such as how to paint and varnish, how to hammer a nail properly, and how to repair cracked wood with putty. By my teens, I could repair, sand, and paint all manner of things around the house.
My husband and I have painted every room in our home at least twice, learned to put up wallpaper together, and rebuilt a spring house. Actually, he did most of the work on that project, but I did hand him tools and materials, so I watched the whole thing take shape.
This week, it occurred to me that I’ve also learned a lot of things that help with home repair, but aren’t actually home repairs. For example, many years ago, I realized that it’s never a good idea to “eyeball” things to determine if they are straight.
This lesson was brought home about twenty years ago, when my husband and son were placing a large Christmas tree in the stand. One was lying on his stomach, securing the trunk to the stand and the other was halfway inserted into the tree, holding it up. My job was to tell them when the tree was straight and could be fully secured. I did this rather well, I thought, and the screws were tightened. Then they pulled out from their respective positions, looked at the tree, and then looked at me like I had grown a second head.
That was primarily because the tree was at about at 60 degree angle, tipping widely to the left. Our son even drew a picture of it to commemorate the occasion – after he wriggled back under the tree to loosen the stand.
It’s an important lesson, and one which is why some smart person invented a tool called the level. We used the level this week when we were attempting to find and create a chalk line on our living room ceiling. We used a pole to mark the center of the ceiling, and since all lines were going to come from that mark, it was important that the pole was level. I was looking at the pole from across the room, assuring my husband it was straight.
He wisely used the level to move it about an inch to the left, and then, it was straight. Lesson learned.
The reason we were being careful was because it is important that our chalk line is right down the middle. That’s the second lesson I learned this week – make sure that your chalk line tool has chalk in it.
We pulled the little string out and I thought it was going to be difficult to see the chalk line if it was white and the ceiling is white. It took several times of rewinding the string and pulling it out for us to realize that there was no chalk in the tool. So…off we went to the hardware store to buy blue chalk dust. We filled the tool, shut it tightly and voila! We were able to make a perfectly visible chalk line!
Putting a chalk line on the ceiling requires both of us to be on step ladders. These ladders weren’t terribly tall, but did the job for us. At least, they did when placed correctly. The third lesson I discovered is that when placing a step ladder, it’s critical to make sure the floor is flat and secure.
The floors in our living room are 210 years old and there’s one little piece that’s about 4 inches long by one inch wide that’s just wedged in between two other pieces. Naturally, that’s the tiny little area I placed the right front leg of my ladder.
Having not noticed this little wood chunk, I was surprised when the ladder leg slipped down several inches, toppling me off the first step. That poor little wood chunk wasn’t prepared to hold my weight at all!
Lessons learned: use a level, fill your chalk line reel with chalk, and place that ladder carefully. Also – not a good idea to use a ladder in flip-flops. This wasn’t a problem (this time), it’s just good advice.