For want of a nail…

If my latest home improvement saga was a horror movie, there would be a slow-motion bit as i noticed the dead bugs collected in the flickering fluorescent light fixture at the bottom of the stairs.  Creepy music would play as i climbed up on a chair to pull down the diffuser panel – with the intent to shake off the crispy critters, and replace the flickering tubes…

“Noooooooo!  Don’t do it!  You’ll be sorry!”

From there? You know the rest…

The diffuser panel – being over 15 years old – was a bit of a crispy critter itself.  It cracked straight through the middle when i tried to put it back in place after swapping out the fluorescent tubes.

“Ahh…”, i thought, “i can just buy a 10-pack of panels at the hardware store.  Replace the lot of them.  They’re all kinda yellowed anyway…”

A 10-pack of shiny new diffuser panels, for $80.  Standard size, 48″ x 24″.  Thinking that i could drop the back seat of the Civic and slide the box into the trunk – i was confronted with the reality that only half of the seat folded down.  And the box didn’t fit… Hence, it could not be tucked in flat – to prevent breakage – but had to be wedged in through the rear doors at an odd angle, with the hope that the gentle torque i applied wouldn’t snap the panels into useless plastic shrapnel.

The box sat in my garage for a week, as i went about other business.  Finally getting a few free moments to swap out the panels – i learned something about the word “Standard”.  A “Standard” size diffuser panel, marked ” 4′ x 2′ ” is NOT, in fact, 48″ x 24″.  Each side was short – and off the top of my head, i couldn’t figure out an easy way to rig them securely without duct tape.


The standard panels are 47.75″ x 23.75″ – while the openings in my ceiling required 48″ x 24″ panels. Who knew?  The only solution: custom panels.

Reloaded the box, torqued it, and stuffed it back into my car.  The box kept me company while driving around for a few days before i found time to return it.

Finding the sexiest most helpful lighting department manager, i learned that custom panels would cost far more than i wanted to spend.  Given that this guy was really smokin’ hot when i moved in, i’d planned to replace all of the fluorescents downstairs with can lights, i decided to check out his can lights.

Invariably, this led to a meeting with an electrician for an estimate on re-doing all of my downstairs lighting – including installation of a light for my billiards table.  This light has been resting comfortably underneath my billiards table since i bought it.  Three years ago…

“Oh, while you’re here – how much would you charge* to replace the ugly light fixture in my dining room?”

“Ya know, if i get rid of that ugly light, i will need to replace the ceiling fan/light in the great room.  How much for that?”

Followed shortly thereafter by:

“i always bang my head on the light in the kitchen.  Can you add that to the estimate?”

As i awaited the six-part labor estimate for the lighting job, i started shopping online for fixtures.  “i like that one!  What? It’s not available at this store?” Now racing about on another lunch hour to retrieve the last-remaining, discontinued ceiling fan in the city from a store across town.

“Ya know, i REALLY should go with the LED lights…”  Sure, they cost more up-front, but they last 10 years and burn a helluva lot less energy.  “$600 for sixteen of them?”

At this point?  What the fuck?  Somewhere between discovery of the non-standard diffuser panel and the bit where i decided to have the entire downstairs re-wired, it’s become a major renovation project.

Two months – and a serious divot in the check book later – there is a moral to this long-winded story:

Never clean anything in your house.  It can only cause you trouble.

Hmmm… My patio door – the one the dog knocked out?  i should probably replace the screen… and maybe the window, too…

* Circuits aren’t hard – i can do electrical work.  But the fact is, it scares the crap out of me.  When you replace a toilet, you don’t lie awake at night wondering if it will burn your house down… After i did the microwave oven installation?  i checked the batteries on my smoke detectors EVERY WEEK.  From now on? i leave the electrons to the professionals.

34 thoughts on “For want of a nail…

    • exactly! there are a million reasons why compact fluorescent lighting is evil – namely they’re loaded with mercury. i’m blowing the big bucks on LEDs. solid state semiconductor-based white lights. Often being trashed because of cost, or color, of the belief that they can’t be dimmed. The EcoSmart variety have a lovely ‘tuned’ light spectrum, are dimmable, and may last me about 10 years. A friend reports that installing them in his house even helped his seasonal affective disorder last winter – but no proof on that claim… i’m excited about this upgrade. Because i’m kinda geeky like that!

  1. My very sweet husband who is a photographer by trade, has changed all of the lighting in our house. His philosophy is “One should see what is illuminated not the light source”. Therefore we have very sexy lights (my opinion) . However this all came after lots of bad words and me demanding that the whole house be without power when he plays with electricity.

    PS…yes do come back, we promise it will be fun.

    • eventually, i will have this lighting upstairs as well – small, embedded can lights (dimmable, of course) are incredibly sexy! and if i get them wired into my audio/video control system, i can manage the lighting (and mood) of my entire homestead with the touch of a button on a remote! i happen to agree with your husband… it’s just taken me 3 years to get rid of the drop-ceiling fluorescent tubes downstairs!

      will have to plan that return trip! starting to look for more conferences out that way!

  2. I like the moral to your story. Hell, I knew that! I’ve been ducking doing anything more than basic straightening up for years. Anytime I start a ‘cheap’ project…ya know, a do-it-yourself-er…it costs me something: Money, nerves shot, laid up with a bad back. You name it. And I saw you chicken-scratched out your duct tape remark. Are you like me thinking that anything–other than your love life maybe–can be fixed with duct tape? It truly is a miracle worker. Okay..okay…if you wrapped it tight enough, I guess it could fix a love life too. Ha..ha..

    • i am quite fond of duct tape – but wasn’t crazy about the idea of having to tape the lights. even i have limits in the redneck realm… duct tape can play in love life. well, sex life. i have been told there’s a “mummy sex” movement. not my gig, mind you… i look awful in silver…

  3. Housework is bad. I LOVE this philosophy. Though if I am not semi committed at least to vacuuming the house rapidly gets a fur overlay. Sigh.

    I would like a traditional wife. A do everything without complaints sort of wife. Including bill paying and dinner cooking. I would make a very bad wife, but I would really like to have one of my own. Do you think I could ask Santa?

    • i’ve said it for years – when the guys at work talk about wishing their ‘stay home’ wives would get a job? i say “i’ll take what you got, and PAY HER FOR IT!” i stop short of slapping them, however, as that could become a human resources nightmare…

      i do a lot of my personal errands on my lunch hour because there are somethings that are difficult to get done nights and weekends (banking, court things, documents from court things…).

  4. If you didn’t work developing death rays all day you probably wouldn’t be that frightened of electricity. My never-ending bathroom remodel is pretty much down to the lighting and wiring part, and that is where it has stayed for several months, so I sympathize. Also, electricians smoke more weed than any of the other trades. Seriously. Look it up.

    • the death ray is coming along quite nicely, thanks. and yeah… suspect that my work with the photon torpedo and the high power microwave crowd management technology has also played a role in my aversion to electrons… the work is now done. hired out to a very nice man who knocked it out in 10 hours. and playing pool tonight under the light of a REAL billiards table light was pretty fucking amazing. 10 hours. think about it…

      this guy was not “of the weed”. heard him say “dang it” several times when he screwed something up and didn’t realize i was within earshot. very sweet man. no butt crack, either. score.

    • i can do that – as performance art.

      when i’m really working, it’s far less sexy. dirty yoga pants, bare feet. hair in a greasy knot on my head. broken nails. swearing like a drunk motherfuckingsailor. a lot of time standing around, hands on hips, saying “now what, mother fuck?” as i try to figure out what i’m gonna have to do to get something back in working order. duct tape at the ready…

  5. A man I used to work with used to deliver flowers and one day he went round to a house and the woman asked him if he knew anything about electrics. Funnily enough, the faulty plug was in the bedroom. He sorted her fuse box out good and proper that afternoon.

  6. Great story! I’d love to know the cost comparison between the custom panels and the major renovation….

    I take that moral to heart. I vow right now that I will never clean the barn out. Or the food room.

    • custom panels would have cost about $200 for 10. renovation? about 10X that price… BUT, with the panels, my billiards light would still be underneath the table,and i’d have terrible fluorescent light tubes all downstairs – just with new panels. and i wouldn’t have that super-duper really wicked cool metallic ceiling fan that is energy efficient AND has a freakin’ remote!

  7. My dear mother gave her baby grand piano to Little Sister…which displayed how badly the dog had stained the living room carpet…and how frayed the curtains behind the piano were. Do I have to tell you that this lead to repainting, recarpeting and recurtaining (sp?) the entire house.

    • yep. never start painting, either. end up doing the whole house…. because the CEILING. the ceiling goes through the whole house! who knew? and you can’t stop painting at ANY point because the contrast between the OLD ceiling white and the NEW ceiling white is atrocious. never paint. never move furniture. never clean.

      • You people are at least 25 years too late for me….

        Hi, my name is Yogi, and I’m a serial remodeler.

        At least this time I kept my promise to my wife that we wouldn’t LIVE in the house we/I was remodeling.

        And if you show me how to keep scientists running in line, I’ll show you how not to get bitten by the rabid electrons…Just keep your hands away from the Radical Harm saw.

      • to keep scientists running in line? your best bet is electrodes on the genitals… but that can get messy and gives headaches to the folks in the human resources department. best thin to do? make sure the “Ego Feeding” station is well-stocked, and you have a supply of Cheez-its in the break room…

        i shall consult Yogi before i attempt any more renovations… the kitchen counters shouldnt be hard, though… just swapping out formica for granite… how messy can that be?

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