Bad Home Improvement Ideas or How Not to Build a Deck
The whole premise behind the Do-It-Yourself approach to home improvement is that with patience, hard work, and a willingness to learn anyone can repair, improve, or renovate their house without turning to a hired professional. And, while everyone should enjoy equal rights before the law, everyone is not created equal. By that I mean, not everyone is temperamentally, mentally, or physically able to successfully Do-It-Themselves. There are some people in this world that ought to hire a professional, and my father-in-law, John, is one of them.
Fortunately, he too has come to this conclusion, but he suffers occasional lapses of judgment.
At this point, you may be wondering why this post began with a picture of our irises blooming. And, the answer is that every time I see them I think of my father-in-law. We got these irises a few years ago as an unintended consequence of one of his ill-fated DIY home projects.
First, I should mention that John is a man devoted to anything with an engine: cars, boats, motorcycles, planes, bulldozers, and anything else with horsepower (except horses). He doesn’t like animals, flowers, gardens, or anything else without mechanical parts. His love of machines should not be misconstrued to mean that he is mechanically inclined. Actually, he isn’t. John hires people to fix his machines for him; his main interest is in using them.
A few years ago John decided to fix his yard up at the urging of his new wife. Their goal was to build a new deck onto the back of the house and to fill in a low spot in front of the house because . . . Well, I never figured out why. There seems like there was a reason for it, but I can’t remember it. Personally, I didn’t think they needed to do the last part, but it’s not my house.
My wife tried to talk him out of it. When my wife was about five years old, her dad had tried to build a deck off the back of the house. He spent all day working on it, and when he finished it looked bad, even to a five year old. One of her uncles came by and looked at the deck.
“John,” her uncle said, “Did you measure anything?”
Dumbfounded, John said, “Measure?”
Later, in a murderous rage, John doused the deck with gasoline and burned it to the ground. I’m not sure how the house didn’t burn as well. He is lucky that way.
Even after being reminded of this little episode, John was determined to move forward with this project.
We weren’t around to see it, but a few weeks later a deck materialized on the back of the house, but it looked a little odd. For one, the wood looked ten years old. It was all gray and weathered. Two, the posts didn’t have any footings. It was just sitting on the ground. Three, it wasn’t attached to the house. It was sitting just a few inches away from the exterior wall. And, there was an odd smell in the air.
When we asked about it, he reluctantly gave us all of the gory details. John had recently bought a mobile home or house (if forget) as a rental property. It had a deck and he decided that it would look really good on the back of his house, so he did what anyone else would do. He tied a chain to the back of his Dodge dual-axle diesel and tore the deck off the house in one giant piece. Then he borrowed his father-in-law’s John Deere tractor and loaded the deck onto a car-towing trailer. He drove the deck to his house and backed it into his backyard. He used the tractor to shove the deck up close to the house. While he had the tractor, he also dug out a couple of flower beds and dumped the dirt his front yard to fill in the low spot. As an extra bonus, the weight of the tractor ruptured his sewer line, so raw sewage was running through the front yard and down the storm drain.
So, what about the irises? The previous owner of his house had planted irises in the flower beds he dug up with the tractor and dumped in the front yard. They started coming that spring and my wife was admiring them.
John said, “You like them? You can have them if you do. I hate messing with crap like that.” So, my wife and I dug up all the poor things and tried to give them a better home.