Now that spring home-remodeling time is nearly here, newspaper editors have been blowing the dust from their copies of my book and calling me for interviews.
I am, of course, eager to comply, since the only other option I now have for selling the books is door to door, just as my father sold encyclopedias for Sears back in the 1950s.
So far, my sales are slightly ahead of his, but just slightly.
One interviewer said she was drawn to my book because it was "a cautionary tale." I liked her characterization, not only because it sounded somewhat Chaucerian, but it is more accurate than calling it "the Book of No," which is how I've been referring to my work since it was published last year.
The book doesn't say, "Don't remodel." What is does suggest is that much of what you are hoping for will come true if you think everything out completely before you pick up a hammer or the phone to call the contractor.
From what my students at Temple University's Real Estate Institute tell me, part of this cautionary tale should have focused more on sequence -- when to do what.
The sequence issue arose when I showed the class a Hometime video on kitchen renovation I'd used when I remodeled the one in my second house. I'd bought the video in the mid-1990s, and while the recording technology has changed since then, the basics of renovation, including the sequence such a job should follow, have been altered little.
When we talk about sequence, there is the obvious and not so obvious.
Among the obvious is hiring a roofer to take care of leaks in the ceiling below before you paint it.
The not-so-obvious: Where does the floor installation come in a kitchen renovation?
When should the new floor be installed? Toward the end of the renovation, once the base cabinets and all the appliances except for the refrigerator are in place.
One reason is that you don't want to drag appliances and cabinets across the floor and damage it. Another is to save work, since when everything is in place, trimming and fitting the floor, whether it is tile, wood or vinyl, is easier to figure out.
That's not how I did it, which is one reason why my book is a cautionary tale. The pre-renovation kitchen had a linoleum floor that was old and could never be cleaned, no matter how much and how often it was scrubbed.
It also was cracked and loose in several places.
Although a new kitchen was on our list, there were several priority items preceding it, such as roof repair, a second working bathroom, at least $6,000 worth of electrical work, replacement of a structural beam in the front porch roof and a back porch on the verge of collapse.
The best I could do for the kitchen at that point was a new floor, or so I had convinced myself. Rather than use a roll of vinyl flooring, I decided on peel-and- stick vinyl tiles, installed on a new quarter-inch plywood sub-floor.
I didn't think the project through completely, and it showed. Raising the floor a quarter-inch (not including the thickness of the tiles) meant that I had to raise thresholds and trim the bottoms of ancient doors to compensate.
I should have used ringed-shank nails to fasten the sub-floor to the old floor. The smooth-shank nails popped and dented or broke through many of the tiles, which then had to be scraped off and replaced.
I also was cutting and fitting these tiles around base cabinets and appliances that would not survive the actual kitchen renovation three years later.
When the renovation finally got underway, whole sections of old flooring on which the sink, stove and cabinets sat had to be replaced, and the tiles over which I dragged them to the dump went, too.
Every piece of a remodeling project has to be thought out completely. For every reason why, you should come up with six reasons why not, and then work to turn the "why nots" into whys, no matter how long it takes.
Here's another example: Several electrical outlets had to be added to a brick party wall. To avoid paying $500 extra to have the electrician chisel into the brick, I framed out a new wall.
A good idea? Not necessarily. What I hadn't considered was that adding the wall meant I'd have to reduce the width of the basement doorway. Not only that, but the wall was now the only one in the kitchen that was plumb, meaning that it threw off measurements for the crown molding I was nailing along the kitchen ceiling.
Still, it was the only wall on which the cabinets looked as if they were straight. If you focused on that wall, you tended not to see the others.