DIY: It's not in my DNA

01:20, Jul 29 2012

Less-than-handy homeowners should keep on good terms with handy relatives.

The day after we moved into our first home I stood in the lounge and considered the sage counsel of the former United States secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld.

There were the known knowns, such as the rust around a couple of roofing nails that the builder's report had identified, or the need to trim trees to let more light into the bedrooms.

There were the known unknowns, like how warm it would be in winter.

And there were the unknown unknowns, which I couldn't have predicted on that first day but now, after four months, I can rattle off a list.

I didn't know about the floorboard in the hall that was unsupported and not to be stepped on.


I didn't know that so many of the light switches were not connected to actual lights, or that one of the oven's elements didn't work.

I didn't know that the insulation in the ceiling had been laid over the recessed lights in the bathroom: a major fire hazard that might have voided any insurance claim if the house burnt down.

I didn't know the mains cable into the fuse box would short and smoulder, causing the lights to flicker and nearly burn the house down a second time.

One of the known knowns, however, was that I'm no handyman. The one piece of home improvement I've done single-handed is to hang the dart board in our garage (one large divot in the wall and one bent nail later).

But I'm lucky that my stepfather has built a couple of houses and my brother is a dab hand with an electric drill. He actually asked for the drill for Christmas. I think I asked for book tokens.

So far he's fixed the sticky ranch slider with two milk bottle lids and a couple of well- placed screws, and helped erect a spotlight outside so we can barbecue after sunset.

The secret to success as a less-than-handy homeowner is to keep on good terms with your handy relatives.

I've not been completely idle. I've made a compost bin and cut down trees (and learnt the rule that a felled tree contains twice the mass of a standing one).

Marisa and I have also planted a vege garden. While doing the dishes (a dishwasher is still a distant dream), we look out the window at the emerging florets of broccoli. Moments like this are worth a few pesky surprises.

Last Friday I hosted my work's mid-winter party and learned a new suite of things about our house. Our lounge can be transformed into a dance floor with the lights off and some LMFAO on the stereo. Our bathroom is big enough for five colleagues to have a girly conversation and a sixth to wash his hands (so long as someone stands in the bath). And wooden floors are much better than carpet the morning after.

I'm sure there is still a host of unknown unknowns that await us, but I reckon I can handle them with a little help from my friends.

And, if the worst comes to the worst, there's always the Yellow Pages.

Craig Cliff is a writer and an unhandy man. He writes a fortnightly column.

The Dominion Post