Hi there. I’m surprised you’re still hanging around. I know I haven’t been here in a while; let’s see if I still remember what to do with this thing.
Where have I been? Uh, busy at work, being unintentionally made to feel guilty about even turning on my computer by my mother-in-law for a couple of weeks, and wandering home improvement markets trying to find shower stalls that will fit our bathrooms and tiles that don’t have images of fruit or nude women on them (and you think I’m exaggerating…I’m not…they’re often in 3D).
But over that time, I have discovered that men are the same no matter where they are from or how they are raised. At least when it comes to renovating a house. More specifically, they are cheap and full of pride…ahem, I mean ‘confidence’.
The last time we talked, I shared that my husband and I had, after looking for about a year and struggling through the process, bought a house. It is a second-hand home, and had been finished on the inside, but unfortunately for my husband, some picky wife decided that she didn’t like the kitchen and the two bathrooms (as well as a few other, more minor things) and wanted to change them entirely.
So it was that we embarked upon this renovation journey.
After talking to a number of his colleagues who have finished houses here before, my husband had a pretty good idea of what we needed to do (also, I should point out that here in China, you’d be crazy to live in the house while you’re renovating. Not only would we not have a kitchen or bathrooms until they were finished, but the dust and noise would be unbearable…so no, we are not living in our house yet). The first item on the list, obviously, was to demolish the current kitchen and bathrooms.
Now if you’re familiar with Chinese decorating, you’ll know that that means not only pulling out all the fixtures (toilet, sink, vanity, cupboards, range hood, etc.), but that we would also have to remove all the tiles. That’s right, the tiles that cover the entire floor and the walls, floor to ceiling.
Cue my husband coming home one day armed with a hammer and a crowbar and proudly announcing that he was going to do the work himself (having talked to a couple of workers who demolish things for a living, he had decided that the money could be better spent on something else in our house).
Now, I knew from the minute he announced this that it was a bad idea. A very bad idea. But I also knew that voicing this belief would lead to an argument, and that judging from his attitude, he was entirely convinced of his decision. I had no choice but to keep my mouth shut and let it play out.
I feel like I should mention that my husband already has a full-time job that sees him leave the house before 7:00 in the morning and not arrive home again until after 7:00 in the evening, Monday through Friday. It also sees him often have to work on at least one morning each weekend, even though those are supposed to be his days off. So my biggest question regarding the whole “I’m going to do the demolition myself” idea was…when?
As I expected, the hammer and crowbar sat in the spare bedroom of our house for at least two weeks, untouched. Finally, one Saturday while his mother was visiting, he announced at lunch that he would be heading over to the new house that afternoon to begin the work. And off he went.
When he returned, I could see the triumphant glint in his eyes had been dulled just a bit. He had worked all afternoon, he reported, and he barely got the tiles from the floor of one bathroom removed. He physically could not get the tiles off the walls. And his arms hurt and he had a couple of blisters. But, he still insisted, he was going to do this himself. I rolled my eyes in my mind, smiled, and bit my tongue.
His resolve was weakened just a little more the next morning when he woke up with very stiff forearms, not being used to the physical labour required in smashing and pulling up well-stuck-down tiles. I thought this might have been the end of it, but at noon, he informed me that he and his mother were going to buy a couple of things they needed to plug the pipes in these rooms and then he was returning to do more work.
But, by dinner…success!
After a bit more work and a phone call to a colleague, he discovered that not only would he have to remove all the tiles, but also any adhesive and grout left on the walls, as well as digging down into the floor several inches past the water sealant layer. At some point while hearing all this and imagining doing it all by hand, the tides turned and he realized that maybe, just maybe, the money he wanted to save for something else would in fact be best spent on hiring a group of workers to do this for us. And so he put in the call.
They arrived the next morning, and had all the work done and the garbage hauled away in two days.
And that’s how my husband learned that sometimes, it is just best to pay money to have someone who knows what they are doing do a job for you…especially when they have power tools.