Sometimes I wish I could fix things! Like the washing machine or dishwasher, or install my own heating system or for that matter build my own bloody house. But I can’t. So like so many others, I'm at the mercy of tradesmen, which is often an infuriating predicament to be in, particularly if you come across a shit one. Thankfully I have encountered extremely competent, well-mannered and punctual tradesmen who do a fantastic job, but I've also come across far too many incompetent ones - even crooks!
A year and a half ago we moved into our current house. Naturally there was a tonne of things we wanted to change; the dated and awkwardly laid out bathrooms with pebble inlay detailing (something that might work in Bali, but looks ridiculous in Melbourne) and thick slabs of travertine that covered every other surface; the kitchen had a tower of appliances we would never use, as well as an impractical built-in ironing board and heavy, cold and aggressive-looking bench tops with a tiny cut out sink that you could comfortably wash a teacup in! The walls throughout were all a very safe beige, so that needed changing too.
And so, the long line of tradies descended week after week, month after month. On one particular day when the house was heaving with them we decided to call out a washing machine repairer, ‘we may as well squeeze in an extra person?’ we thought. A couple of young-faced repairers arrived and we showed them to the laundry room. One started tapping on an Ipad, while the other one just stood there looking rather vague. Several minutes passed before Mr Fritz told them to pull the bloody washing machine out and have a look - which they seemed reluctant to do. By now they reeked of incompetence and even more so when we realised they didn’t have any spare parts or tools on them, and that they had in fact arrived in an Audi. We stupidly paid the $150 upfront call-out fee and as they left they promised to order the spare part and get in touch later – and that was the last we saw of them.
The kitchen 'designer,' a term, bandied around a bit too freely in our current renovation-obsessed climate, was, in fact, a constantly-hung-over stinky bloke in his thirties, dressed like a homeless man, and was about as useless as tits on a bull (I'm still puzzled as to why we chose him!) He was clearly in the wrong profession, but daddy wanted to include him in the business. He made a kitchen bench top design suggestion, that we regretfully agreed to - which still irritates me today. He suggested we include a small splashback in a corner where the walls of this older house are crooked, a 'minor' detail he overlooked. Of course, the splashback didn’t sit flush against the wall and the solution was to fill the wide, uneven gap with enough silicone that could easily fill the Grand Canyon.
But long before we moved into our current place we had the pleasure of dealing with painters who only realised after the sixth, yes, sixth coat of paint that the reason it wasn't adhering to the wall was because the original coat was oil-based, not acrylic. The same guys omitted to remove doorknobs and cupboard handles and simply painted around them and onto them. It was an enormously 'fun' eyeball-rolling experience to scrape the excess paint off afterwards.
During that time a very special tiler - who I could have strangled with my bare hands - came into our lives too. His job was to retile our small bathroom. He opted to simply retile over the existing floor tiles. Was this simply laziness or sheer incompetence? Possibly both. At that point, I should have thrown him out because I knew this wasn't right, but instead, I just gulped down some air, turned red in anger and walked away.
To compound this disaster, every time he cut the tiles on the external walkway of this seventies block of flats, he left the fucking front door open. He proceeded to align himself in such a way that the tile dust, like a fierce sideway dust storm, blew straight into the flat. But there's more! “What about the bathroom door? I asked. How are we going to close it?” OMG. He didn’t allow for the lack of space under the door. When I pointed this out to him he had already tiled two-third of the floor - all he did was give me a dumb stare and suggested we take the door off. So Mr Fritz and I removed the door, took measurements, and the next day cut a one-centimeter strip off the bottom of the door - with a hand saw – oh the joy! We cursed this stupid bastard for days!
Then there was the super stressed and aggressive guy who took an entire day to install a wardrobe; the plumber who replaced our small boiler with a larger one but forgot to bring the tray it sits in and instead forced the new one into the small rusty tray - which looked totally shit by the way! Another tradesman burnt out our vacuum because he couldn't be stuffed bringing an industrial one to suck up all plaster dust, he also fucked up our shower measurements and asked for a cup of coffee every fucking hour! The day he finally finished and drove away, I sobbed uncontrollably for an hour - it was sheer fucking relief and good bloody riddance all rolled into one massive sobfest.
These types of stories are unfortunately far too common, but it doesn't make them more bearable. They’re enormously taxing emotionally and financially. There are often major stuff ups, miscommunication, sitting around in a state of limbo waiting for a tradesman to turn up, not being notified if they can't make it or just dealing with unfriendly and uptight behaviour in your own house! It's super stressful. And don’t even get me started on the cleanups and clumsy accidental damages!
So at what demented point in time was the idea born, that renovating is somehow ‘fun’? There is nothing fun about it. All it is is a process that tests your patience, stretches your wallet, your decision-making capacity, and your tolerance levels to the absolute max!