First Words — 02 March 2018
Learning my limitations on a big home project

By Mark Gauert

City & Shore Magazine

Maybe your house is like my house.

I did not build my house. I didn’t pour the foundation or hammer the nails or string any wire. I just bought it, make the payments and call the wire company whenever there’s an interruption in wireless service. (Which means I’m on the wire a lot.)

I have not done any renovations to my house. The kitchen still needs to be updated, there’s a crack in the garage floor, and we could probably use another guest room – at least in season when the family up North shelter in (our) place.

I do not feel qualified to take on any of these projects. I may be able to unload a dishwasher, but I will leave the installation of a new kitchen to trained professionals. Or whomever Yelp recommends that week.

But maybe your house is like my house, and there’s one project you think you could take on yourself. Maybe you had some experience in shop class or Scouts or actual vocational training, and you think you can handle a spice rack for the kitchen or a shelf in the garage or even new tile for the bathroom.

I thought I had one of those, too.

My backyard gate. My Project.

I did not build my backyard gate. It was already hanging there on the house when we bought it. It was made of sturdy wood, painted forest green, and looked like a gate you might see swinging from a gingerbread house in a Brothers Grimm tale.

My gate had withstood hordes of indifferent lawn-care professionals and meter readers and kids pushing bikes from backyard to front – but, after a few years of this indifference, it started to look just grim.

So I took the old gate apart, replaced the unsturdy with sturdy wood and repainted it forest green. And it was magnificent, My Project – like a gate you’d see swinging in a Game of Thrones episode. Thar may be dragons, and meter readers, but my gate was ready in the breach, my friends.

Until one day I put my hand atop the gate and felt it give like warm gingerbread. I paid it no mind – I had important calls to make to wireless companies – but, as the weeks went by, the top of my gate softened from gingerbread to forest green moss to something more like fromage atop a French onion soup.

But, because this was My Project, I knew just what to do. Which was to consult Yelp and call in a trained gate professional. (I may not know home remodeling, my friends, but I know my limitations.)

“Here’s your problem,’’ the gate professional said. “You used interior wood. You need pressurized wood for an exterior gate.’’


So, three weeks, one interior-wood gate removed, one pressurized-wood gate installed and about $900 to a trained gate professional later, I still have not done any renovations to my house.

But I do have a letter from the home-owner’s association, stating my gate does not comply with the community standard for gates, and because my gate is considered “new construction” – even though it looks just like the old gate that was hanging there on the house when we bought it – it must be removed and replaced with a new gate that complies with the gate code.

Not that my grim tale should discourage you from paging through this special Home Issue and finding inspiration for a project or two for your own home. Or just show a few pages to the trained professional of your choice.


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