Sunday, February 15, 2009

Improving your home

The housing market, they tell us, is depressed. Rumour has it that it has been seen bawling its eyes out in the bar of the Clonsilla Inn whenever a Dean Martin song comes on the jukebox.
As a result, people are understandably wary of committing large sums of money to property, in case they get into something called “negative equity,” which, according to my online dictionary is a black treacly substance akin to molasses. Unspent SSIA money lies in banks, earning anything up to 50c in interest every six months, and people naturally believe it should be working harder. As moving house or upgrading may represent a dodgy option, many people are looking to improving their existing home, figuring that any type of improvement will count towards increasing the price of the house, when the upswing comes skipping gaily around the corner.
In our house, this topic of conversation has come up more than once, though I have always tried to discourage it, as it combines my two pet hates – spending money and work. However, my wife’s determination to do something with our home is increasing daily and my attempts at prevarication are correspondingly weakening.
My cause has not been helped by the plethora of house hunting programmes on the television, all demonstrating what wonderful things can be done with a jack hammer and a bit of plasterboard. On every channel, enthusiastic amateurs are sawing and plastering their way to beautiful homes for very little outlay. My argument that these reality programmes are in fact, scripted soap operas performed by actors, lacking any basis in reality, is falling on deaf ears.
Many people, it seems from these frankly unbelievable programmes, have opted for converting their attics and my wife seems keen on this idea. I have argued that religious beliefs, even those of attics, should be respected and we should not approach the subject in an evangelical frame of mind but my wife merely gives me a withering stare. The fact that our attic contains a web of cross-beams like the security lasers used to protect the bank vault in Oceans Eleven does not lead me to believe that this is a job that can be completed before lunch. But I have to grudgingly admit that it could earn extra rental income for her when she finally kicks me out.
The subject of a conservatory is also one that is rearing its ugly head with increasing frequency. It would be a lovely place, I am told, to sit in on warm summer’s evenings and read. I have countered that anyone waiting on a warm summer’s evening in Dublin 15 would need the patience of a saint and she has reluctantly admitted there is some truth in this.
I have always maintained there are two types of people in this world – those that like to split the world up into two types of people and those that don’t. Or those that like conservatories and those that don’t. Personally I am in the latter camp. I think this stems from a traumatic occasion in my childhood when I was informed that a sinister figure called Colonel Mustard had once strangled somebody in a conservatory with an elastic band (we believe the rope ended up in the Hoover.) Besides I have always been doubtful that a wicker chair would be able to support my bulky frame.
How about decking, she asks? To be honest, I’ve never really understood decking. What is it supposed to do? Does it protect your concrete patio area in case you wear it out? Why do we need something perfectly flat to walk on? I think the thing that puzzles me the most is why anyone would feel the urge to woodstain it every summer, given the proviso that they found a dry day. If I got a fine day, I’d want to sit in the middle of my lawn in a patio chair with a crate of Stella Artois, not toil over a never-ending decking system with a brown brush.
With the new energy rating certificate for second hand homes coming in very shortly, it would be a good idea, in theory, to make our home more energy efficient. Solar panels in the roof would probably be a good investment, though I’d have to see figures to prove that the amount of sunlight we get in a year would be enough to boil a kettle of water. The addition of a porch would certainly stop the draught coming under the hall door but, to me, an old jacket, is a much cheaper, if slightly more awkward alternative. Trying to follow my wife’s example, I have tried to make the colour of the jacket match the colour of the walls of our hall.
But of course, the whole area of home improvements does not necessarily mean gangs of workmen in hard hats pointing to architects’ drawings and shaking their heads sadly. It can be simply redecorating or adding little accessories that can transform a room. And the easier and cheaper they are to do, I argue, the more satisfaction you derive from them.
It is a fact of life that zeal for doing home improvements declines in direct relation to the length of time you have occupied the house. When we moved into our house with millennial excitement all those years ago, I was up and down ladders, painting walls like a kangaroo on a trampoline. Nine years on and I grudgingly admit that it is time the walls were all done again but my enthusiasm for the task has waned ever so slightly. The fact that my wife keeps bringing home colour charts and asking me whether I think concubine honey would look good in the hall, stairs and landing does not give me any great hope that the work can be put off for much longer. Spraining an ankle or feeling a twinge in my back would really only be putting off the inevitable, so I suppose I’d better bite the bullet and get on with it.
I’ll start with the window sill in the downstairs toilet.

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