I am immersed in yet another home improvement project gone out of control. It is the kind when the simplicity of “insert tab A into slot B” is absent, and so I have to bring in the experts. I can paint unevenly over the most even of walls, and I can install grounded electrical outlets without being properly grounded. I even installed a new garbage disposer a few weeks back that only rarely drips. But some jobs exceed my capabilities.
This new debacle is centered smack dab in the middle of the kitchen, and from wall to wall. It is the floor on which I walk on a daily basis. Where the dog sheds while I cook dinner and the kids leave scuff marks as they race out the door.
“Did you finish your homework?”
I rolled out some linoleum many years ago in two small rooms in a different house, and despite having the aid of a much more handy person than I, it was a borderline fiasco. I ignored the time-honored handyman’s credo of “measure twice, cut once” and cut one of the rooms one foot short.
Instead of resolving that problem appropriately, I tried to cut corners (what a pun!) and everything got worse. I tried to lay a one-foot strip along one wall and lacked the proper equipment to flatten it effectively. Then it, too, was short, and I was left with a small square in the final corner.
Generally the entire mess was hidden under a sofa and end table, but every time someone had to move the furniture it would inevitably get caught on the curling edges of the linoleum. “Oh yeah,” the furniture mover would say out loud (especially if I was in the room), “this is where Matt tried to lay the linoleum.” Hilarity would ensue.
I swore I’d never attempt such a job again.
Nearly eighteen years ago we had linoleum installed in the kitchen. The house was new (to us) and I was too busy to consider such back-breaking labor. I would rather spend my time getting fat and lethargic behind a gray desk in a gray cubicle. Instead of being clever and industrious, I would use the vast sums I was earning behind the desk to pay others to be clever and industrious.
They were, indeed, clever. In the bathroom they erred making the cut around the base of the vanity in this relatively small area, and instead of just starting with a new piece they cleverly cut a small shape from some scrap and nicely matched the rest. Very clever, indeed. I wasn’t aware of their chicanery until many years later when the seam started to slowly pull apart.
They were clever in the kitchen as well. It looked nice for at least fifteen years, but eventually those seams started to show. Three seams, that is. In a room approximately 11x21 they used four different sections. I was convinced that I had been duped by merciless handymen, trying to improve their profit margins by using small bits rather than one long piece of linoleum.
“No,” the salesman said at the floor covering store last week, “it was probably the high-end Armstrong product from back then. The rolls were only six feet wide. Otherwise they were too heavy.”
“Oh, so they didn’t take advantage of me,” I said sheepishly.
He turned his attention to Kristin. He didn’t like me disparaging linoleum workers.
When it came time to choose the pattern, a familiar song-and-dance routine commenced. Kristin wanted to look at each and every possibility and complete a variety of compare-and-contrast charts and slowly pare down the original 500 possibilities to somewhere near 100 and then have me rank my top 30.
I can’t do it that way. First of all, I have very few requirements when it comes to linoleum patterns. I don’t necessarily want some diagonal scheme of cherries and lizards, but other than that I am likely to be pleased by whatever Kristin would choose (if she would just do that . . . choose!).
My other dilemma is that I just can’t get worked up about the minor changes in shading. Even when Kristin had chosen her favorite pattern, we had to go back and forth on several shades ranging from blinding white to black as night.
“Can’t we choose the one in the middle?” I asked, but both she and the salesman ignored me.
When he showed up at the house the next day to measure the kitchen, the first thing he said upon walking in was, “Oh, hmm, they should have had this in a twelve foot roll back then.” He shrugged his shoulders because he didn’t really care. I thrust my arms out to my sides and looked at Kristin, mouth agape. She ignored me and said to him, “What about the coving?”
But I guarantee I will be lurking during installation, ensuring that no corners are cut. By me, or by those we have hired.