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Moving mountains is less difficult than remodeling kitchen

March 13, 2003|by TIM ROWLAND

For any man out there whose wife perchance is considering remodeling the kitchen, I have some sound advice for you: The south of Spain is very nice at this time of year.

You will want to get out of the house somewhere, there's no gainsaying that - although it's a lesson I learned too late.

I blame the government.

It all started with a refund check from the IRS. And heaven knows, you can't just put it in the bank, or do something crazy like that.

No, this is a windfall that must be spent for something dramatic and purposeful. So when the HGTV Network in High Heels started getting that glimmer in her eye that says "home improvement," I went full fetal.

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Worse, I threw out the feeler as to how this was going to cost us more than we could afford at the moment and she said, "I totally agree; that's why I think we should do most of the work ourselves."

My head was still spinning from that little plot twist when she informed me that she wanted an island. I said, "Me, too. How about Malta?" But she wanted a kitchen island, which is a piece of furniture that is half countertop, half exercise machine, seeing as how you have to walk all the way around it if you want to get a can of Pepsi (sorry, Smithsburg High) out of the fridge.

You will need the workout to repair the strain on your heart that comes from seeing how much a kitchen cabinet costs.

Basically, a kitchen cabinet is six boards and two hinges. Maybe a shelf or a drawer or two, but that's pretty much it. A sane person who hasn't been brainwashed by the kitchen cabinet industry might plunk down $25 for one - which is about one-sixteenth of what they actually cost.

Making it worse, the cheaper the wood, the more expensive the cabinet. Pine costs a lot more than hickory or oak or maple. Six weeks ago, my cabinets could have been scrub growing on the edge of a North Carolina swamp, for all I know. No matter, I had to break my vow never to pay more than $300 for something that couldn't download MP3s.

At least it sort of softened the blow for the appliances. Purchasing a gas range, an item which actually DOES something, for only the cost of two kitchen cabinets (12 boards and four hinges) seemed like the best deal since we landed Manhattan for a box of Rio Snappers.

But the island was easier to install than the stove. Andrea, bless her, has this wholly ungrounded faith that I can perform any imaginable contractor-like task. It's like the Bible talking about having the faith to move mountains. It's a nice sentiment, but have you ever tried it?

It would have been easier for me to will Sideling Hill to Miami Beach than it was to hook up the gas. My favorite bit of advice on the installation directions, which was Confuciousesque in its sagacity, was, "Do not check for gas leaks by using matches or a lighter."

Right. And I won't test for sharks by chopping off a toe and sticking my foot in the water.

Depending on whether you were reading the instruction on the stove manual or the gas-connection kit which does not come with the stove, you are either, 1.) supposed to, or 2.) not supposed to, use pipe cement on the pipe threads of the "flared ends." I swear, the instructions were completely opposite. You'd think when dealing with something that is, technically, highly explosive, there might be a consensus on the proper way to proceed.

I tested for leaks, and of course there were about 50, which leads me to believe gas hoses are designed by the plumbers and pipefitters union, to guarantee they work.

It takes two pipe wrenches the size of ballbats and about 50 square ton-feet of torque to jam the fittings together so as to prevent leaks.

Yet any Sheetz store has an air hose that you connect to your tire with no force, and no pipe cement and no hint of a leak. So why can't the people who make the air hoses make gas hoses?

If you know the answer to that, please send it to me, c/o the south of Spain.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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