family health observations projects work in progress

Home Improvements Delayed by Pandemic

Me, using a random orbital sander to sand trim for our house, May 30, 2021. Note that my hand is a little small to properly hold the sander, which has obviously been designed with bigger hands in mind.
Me, using a random orbital sander to sand trim for our house, May 30, 2021. Note that my hand is a little small to properly hold the sander, which has obviously been designed with bigger hands in mind.

I’m blogging late today. Hubby and I have been sanding, priming, and Bondo-ing trim as part of our home improvement projects. The weather has been lovely today, so we’ve been able to work outside, which kept the dust mostly out of the house.

As I was sanding trim with an orbital sander, I had plenty of time to consider blog topics. I want to talk about “My Fair Lady,” but after today’s work I don’t have the mental wherewithal to discuss that properly, so I’ve decided to capture a pandemic-related observation that might soon be lost.

Hubby and I have been vaccinated since April. With the recent lifting of required mask-wearing in stores for those who are vaccinated, we are quickly losing the mask-wearing habit. (Although my masks are coming in handy for sanding.) A pandemic-related situation is still affecting us, however.

When regular life shut down in March 2020 and people headed to their homes and mostly stayed there to avoid spreading COVID-19, two things happened: (1) People launched into home improvement projects because they were home and had money to spend that otherwise would have been spent on gas, entertainment, eating out, and shopping and (2) Factories closed or reduced capacity and a materials shortage developed.

We’ve been in the midst of this situation since last summer.

The back of our house, November 2020, before the roof and back porch exterior work was completed.
The back of our house, November 2020, before the roof and back porch exterior work was completed.

We needed a new roof and had a couple of rooms that needed insulation, sheetrock, and wiring, so we decided to refinance our house to get these projects done. The interest rates were great and we had plenty of equity for the projects, but it took months and months to complete the refinancing, a process we started in June 2020. The refinancing wasn’t done until September.

By that time, we were looking at another wave of COVID, with our contractor having to quarantine because of exposure to the disease. We heard that a lot of other building, electrical, and plumbing contractors were short on help as their employees were undergoing quarantine.

Pretty soon it was October and November, with snow and cold, which meant our contractor could not get started on the roof.

Prior to this, in August 2020, he removed the plaster and lath from the upstairs bedroom and later removed the old sheetrock and insulation from the back porch. The rooms stayed in this state for a while. He told us many times over the course of our project about the skyrocketing prices for construction materials like sheetrock and lumber. The drop in manufacturing plus the increase in demand for home improvement projects created the perfect conditions for prices to rise.

An electrician came to rough in electrical. He told us that he was having difficulty finding electrical boxes for outlets and light fixtures. All the nearby hardware stores were out. Thankfully, we had a stockpile of boxes in our basement from work we had done 17 years ago, almost enough boxes for the entire project.

At this point, the two rooms have been wired, insulated, and sheetrocked. We have done the priming and painting ourselves. Our trim sanding and priming project is part of the painting.

While sanding and priming would be necessary anytime, using Bondo on the trim is not something we’d normally have to do. This is another instance where the pandemic supply shortage is impacting our project. Our contractor had trouble finding wood that was clear of knots for the baseboards. The clear boards he was able to find were double the cost of the ones with knots.

Because my husband is a master refinisher (he would say I’m overstating his skill, but I’m not), he knows that if we don’t properly handle those knots, they will weep sap and create stains in the finish. Hence, the Bondo.

First, we sand the boards as smooth as possible on three sides (no need to sand the backs), then we lay on a coat of primer, sand again, then Hubby mixes up Bondo and applies it to the knots to fill and seal them, then another sanding, prime again, sand, then paint. It’s not hard work, well, except for the backaches caused by leaning over, but it is fussy work. Hubby has been recording the process so he can put together a YouTube video. (If you want to see one of his refinishing projects, check out his Unshabbying the Chic: Mid Century Modern Dresser Restoration video.)

We’re hoping to finish the trim tomorrow so it’s ready for installation.

The back of our house with the new upper roof, new metal roof, siding, and windows on the back porch. Also note the new deck and the back door, which was actually the old kitchen door moved out to become the exterior door. Our trim project is on the sawhorses on the left side of the photo. May 30, 2021.
The back of our house with the new upper roof, new metal roof, siding, and windows on the back porch. Also note the new deck and the back door, which was actually the old kitchen door moved out to become the exterior door. Our trim project is on the sawhorses on the left side of the photo. May 30, 2021.

While we work on this, we are waiting for the roof to be finished. We had the upper roof reshingled, which has been done for quite a while. For the lower roof on the addition and back porch, we are having a metal roof installed. The back porch is done and the addition is mostly finished, except that when our contractor order the roofing, the hardware store forgot to order a box. Another delay. [Sigh.]

We’re so close, we can see the end in sight. But I really wanted to capture these peripheral effects** of the pandemic because they will so easily be forgotten.


** One other peripheral effect of the pandemic that has been caused by a supply chain shortage is that delivery of the refrigerator we ordered in March has been delayed three times as of now. Oy vey!

Thoughtful comments welcome.