Hindsight is 20 dollars: An Andrew Jackson can save you 2 hours or more on home improvement

Home improvement

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A termite infestation was discovered during our last insect treatment. Our “guy”, Bugs by Brian, sprays on a quarterly basis and always does a great job keeping spiders and other bugs from getting into our home. What we didn’t know was that large pieces of wood separating the sloped yard from our flowerbed and patio was home to some wood-eating critters. Not wanting to spend any money on the project, I decided to take care of them myself.

This was a big project but I already knew what had to be done – I had replaced some of the 6’ by 6’ planks a few years ago. It was time to pull them out – all four rows of them.

The first step was to pull any dirt away from both sides of the boards. Sounds fairly easy, right? Not when you realize one side has been buried by 30 inches of soil for more than 20 years. So I got busy right away and, about 30 minutes later, most of the wood was exposed. Score one for the big guy! Things were progressing and not a single penny was spent on the project.

The next step was to remove all the wood so we could lay down a new stone barrier. The top row was easy, it was the layer I had replaced a few years ago, but the 2nd row presented a bigger challenge. Armed with a hammer and screwdriver (the only tools a real man needs) I started working on the 8” nails used to fortify the small wall. The head of the hammer was too small to pry out 1/4” thick nails so I started using the screwdriver to chip a crater around the head. You would think I was chiseling the Roman alphabet into stone tablets! This was no way to pull the huge suckers out.

I surrendered a piece of my manhood to go and retrieve another tool: a set of pliers. This would allow me to get below the head of the nail and pull, or pry, the nail upward. I was rewarded with a moderate amount of success and removed the next level of boards in about an hour. Only 2 more to go (rows, unfortunately, not hours). Still no money spent. Yay me!

The third layer didn’t like me. You’d have thought the wood had petrified by now, having been buried for at least two decades. Or maybe it would have rotted a bit? Nope, they were still as solid as the day they were cut from the forest. This was the last straw! I had already spent an hour chipping, prying, pulling and tugging at those stubborn nails. I gave up and decided to bring out the big guns – my circular saw. I already owned the saw, and this was a dangerous tool so it awarded me some more Man Points. The only expense was the electricity used to run it. #Winner

This had to work. At least three hours passed and I was getting frustrated. There were no other tools in my arsenal and I needed to get this project done! I pushed the yellow extension cord into the outlet, pulled the trigger, and heard the saw rev to life. Things were getting serious now!


Stubborn Wooden Planks!

Wouldn’t you know it? My circular saw was only big enough to go through half the board. I started cutting from the top, then over both sides to get as deep into the stubborn thing as I could. I worked that way for another hour – cutting what I could, knocking off a foot or two along the way, but these board weren’t budging. Then I hit a roadblock: four more nails to work around. What? The others only had two or three. I had to get these nails out because there was absolutely no room to work around and I didn’t want to pull any more dirt away from the site.

I know! A crowbar – that’s what I need. If I could just pry the boards apart it would be much easier. Yeah, that’s the ticket! (Millennials: Refer to a Saturday Night Live skit featuring John Lovett to understand this reference).

Um, have you seen what passes for a crowbar in the trunk of your car these days? It’s a glorified screwdriver and is NOT suitable for separating two planks that have been married since the 90’s. What about a shovel? Nope, the handle isn’t strong enough. Searching my brain for ideas I came up short, which wasn’t a surprise for my wife. It was time to break out the wallet and go buy another tool. #Fail

I found a 42” crowbar at Home Depot for $20. Not bad. I don’t know what I’ll do with the crowbar after today but you never know, right guys? You just never know.


Success, and a new rock wall!

Back to the yard: I took that shiny, yellow, brand new crowbar and got busy. It worked! A little bit of jimmying and jamming and the crowbar helped separate those stupid boards! What took me most of the morning was done in just a few minutes with a $20 tool.

There was a six foot section that I couldn’t get apart, but the crowbar allowed me to lift both that board and the bottom row so I could feed a ratchet strap underneath. I wrapped the straps around my wrists and lifted with my knees (not my back – safety first). Holy Toledo, that’s heavy! But in about 30 minutes since returning from the store I had the final rows hauled out of their resting places. #Success!

Spending $20 on a crowbar from the beginning could have saved about 3-4 hours of work. All my frustration and sore muscles could have been spared if I just surrendered earlier and submitted to my physical limitations. I ain’t no lumberjack. After this experience my wife thinks I am more like Cliff from Christmas Vacation than Paul Bunyan. And she would be right.

This was yet another experience that taught me to have the right tool for the job or hire someone to do it for us. I was lucky that I only had to spend an AJ (Andrew Jackson) to complete the task at hand but, in this case, hindsight is 20 dollars.

Now, if you excuse me, I have to find $150 to purchase the rest of the rock wall.

About Steve Stewart

2 Responses to “Hindsight is 20 dollars: An Andrew Jackson can save you 2 hours or more on home improvement”

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  1. You are at least as stubborn as that board : ) The whole DIY thing requires know-how and a significant stash of tools. It also requires time – and then the time vs. money debate comes in. My husband is pretty able when it comes to handy-man jobs around the house and car, but he’s also self-employed – and it would not make sense for him to spend a whole morning trying to get a DIY job figured out. I’m glad you decided in the end that next time, you’ll either buy the needed tools or hire someone : )

  2. Ha! Guess what DIY thing I did today: I had to cut all those boards into smaller pieces so they could be picked up with the trash. It’s going to take another 3 weeks to have it all picked up (only a few pieces fit in the can at a time). Will the curse never end?

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