The Right Tool for the Job
A little mis-communication, a good helping of experience, and a can of car repair goo saves $1,500.
Maybe if I had scoured the painters help forums, talked to a few painters, asked a few handymen, spent hours online in maybe wiki or the help desk at the hardware store forums, or actually stepped foot into a hardware store and asked, then maybe I might have figured it out. But I didn’t do any of that. I used what I had on hand, did it quickly and … I got what a deserved: a shoddy job.
Priorities: time, money, learning, experience … pick one, but not more than one.
“That’s OK,” I tried to convince myself, “it needs to be replaced anyway.” We had some rotting wood at the bottom of a window and the window sill. I patched it (by perilously leaning out of an adjacent window) with Plaster of Paris and called it a day. It looked even worse, but at least it wasn’t exposed wood. The painters were coming in a few, uh, months anyway. It’ll hold.
We ended up having even more (and more complex) work done to the house before the painting job and the contractor we hired said, of course, that he could replace the window, too. It was a small window, but had a complex closing mechanism and an odd size and was going to cost $800. Furthermore, it was on the second floor and had no easy access so we’d need to get scaffolding ($700) and the installation would be another $700 in labor. I was more than a little disappointed as the window itself was in pretty good shape except for the rotting at the bottom. The sill had a good size chunk taken out of it (that I removed with a fork) and was going to collect water. The contractor put the order in for the window, but it was going to take a few weeks as it was an odd size so the painters got started.
The painters were midway done when I got an email from the contractor that their supplier didn’t have that size window. He’d need to place the order again. I went to talk to the painters to see how far along they were and asked about the window.
I forgot to tell the painters that we were going to replace one of the windows. But with a little Bondo–and a lot of experience–they saved me $1,500.
“Oh, we fixed that one,” he said. They seemed to fix everything and just get the job done. “But it was rotted in the window and the sill,” I said. “Yeah, we fixed it. Have a look.” I went to look and sure enough, it was almost as good as new. Considering that I wasn’t really keen on replacing the window in the first place, this looked far beyond Good Enough for Me. I quickly emailed the contractor, told him we would no longer need the window and then went back to the painter and asked how he did that and would he show me. He was happy to.
The big secret was Bondo. He had a gallon can of the stuff and he told me how it’s really for car repair (dents etc.) but that it works wonders on cars and last a long time. You did need to mix it correctly (you need to add a tube of another goo that will then give you only 10 minutes to apply it before it dries) and then get it good and stuck onto the wood and then flatten it smooth with the painter’s knife. He did a full demonstration for me. He was so proud of his work and he was right to be so. He knew his stuff.
The experts use the best tools for the job. How do they know? Experience.
I wondered why I wasn’t a carpenter or a contractor or a painter as they get such satisfaction from seeing the finished job. We talked more and more about the tricks of his trade. He loved talking about it because he was an expert. He loved his work and he was good at it. Or was it: he was good at it so he loved his work?