Renovation: How difficult could it possibly be?

I knew that someday I will want my neighbors' forbearance and understanding when I embark on home renovations. Well, that day has arrived.

 Man sanding wood in a construction project (Illustrative) (photo credit: FLICKR)
Man sanding wood in a construction project (Illustrative)
(photo credit: FLICKR)

It’s a noise every apartment dweller dreads: the sound of a hammer drill reverberating throughout the building.

Just as the song of the turtledove is a harbinger of spring, and flocks of migrating birds overhead herald the coming winter, a hammer drill vibrating through the building is a portent of days, if not weeks and even months, of someone doing home renovations.

In short, a prelude to misery.

Some guy in your building, or even in the next building over, wants to add on another room, put in a new shower, or move his kitchen to where the living room is currently located, and you have to suffer through the earsplitting noise. If a workman is drilling on the fourth floor, believe me, you hear it – and sometimes can even feel it – on the second.

Chances are the home innovator is not going to be home through it all – who can live in the house through a massive home repair? – but you, because you work from home, have nowhere to run and no place to hide.

So throughout the day you live for those precious pauses in the drilling, hoping that the worker is a slight fellow, rather than a massively built one, so he has to stop and take breaks frequently, providing a few minutes of newly appreciated silence.

An apartment dweller for nearly three decades, I’ve lived through this numerous times.

During those pauses in the racket, I find myself imagining, John Lennon-like, a utopia where nobody remodels their home. Imagine no home renovations, I wonder if you can, no need for drilling or pounding, a brotherhood of the apartment-dwelling man.

Then the noise begins anew, and I’m stirred from my reverie. I silently curse the inconsideration, mumble that there “ought to be a law” and that home improvements should be banned. But I hold my tongue, knowing that whatever comes around goes around, and that someday I will want my neighbors’ forbearance and understanding when I, too, embark on home renovations of my own.

Well, that day has arrived.

Now, as the drills pound and the saws cut and the hammers bang, when the neighbors curse – as they surely must – they are cursing at me, for I am the cause of their misery.

But what if they don’t curse?

What if, instead of mumbling obscenities, they send gracious messages over WhatsApp wishing luck and enjoyment on what is soon to be the newly renovated home? What if, instead of giving dirty looks in the communal staircase, they give food for Shabbat?

Then you feel doubly bad. First, because you are the cause of all the racket. And second, because you realize people can be a lot more gracious than you. And this is exactly how I have felt for the past two weeks.

IT ALL STARTED when The Wife wanted to install some baskets in the kitchen.

We’ve lived in the same apartment now for some 25 years without ever changing much in the kitchen. It’s as if my parents, when I graduated from high school in 1977, had the same kitchen in their house that was there in 1952.

But a lot changes in kitchen technology over a quarter of a century. And one of the greatest innovations, or the one that most caught our fancy, is pull-out basket drawers instead of unwieldy shelves.

These are those slick basket-drawers that slide in and out and, like magic, all your food and kitchen accoutrements become instantly and easily accessible.

No more need to create a tower of pots in deep shelves, risking breaking glass lids when reaching for the one pot you need.

No more having to forgo spaghetti because you can’t find the noodles. No more need to stuff bags of pretzels behind jugs of peanut butter and cans of tomato sauce in the overstuffed pantry, having to take out the tomato paste and peanut butter to get to a lousy pretzel... if you can even remember where you put them.

The Wife and I saw these baskets in our youngest son’s apartment and said this is something we could really use.

Naively we thought that one could just remove the shelves, and install baskets. How difficult could that be?

TURNS OUT, pretty difficult. Skippy’s Consort, our daughter-in-law whom we love dearly and who dabbles in interior design, said no carpenter will just install baskets, because to do so would risk damaging the cupboards and countertops, and no carpenter worth his circular saw would take responsibility for that. So, if you want new baskets, you’ll have to redo the kitchen.

And to redo the kitchen, you’ll have to move the sink; and to move the sink you’ll have to move the oven; and to move the oven you’ll have to move the electrical outlets; and to move the electrical outlets you’ll have to take down the wall; and to take down the wall you’ll have to put in a new floor; and to put in a new floor you’ll have to take down a second wall; and after you take down the second wall, you’ll have to paint the entire house. It’s home repair “Had Gadya” gone wild.

In the midst of it all, with fine white dust settling in every corner of our home, with the tiles ripped out of the floor, with wires dangling every which way, with gashes cut deep into our naked concrete walls, I needed to know how to call those types of drawers with the baskets that started all this. They had to have a name. What is their name?

A quick Google search led me to a five-minute YouTube video titled, “Easy! Convert Cabinet Shelves to Roll Outs for $10.”

After watching that video, my neighbors – at least those who didn’t send the nice WhatsApp messages or offer Shabbat food – were not the only ones cursing. But at least now I know the proper name for the object of my imprecations.