You Know the Aphorism ‘Be Careful What You Wish For?’

BathlightJust two days ago, I was lamenting the fact that there were no house projects on which I could work, because it would be beyond foolish to dig into something guaranteed to make a mess. Oops.

Yesterday evening, after arriving home from a delicious dinner (thank you Christopher Schwarz) at which I ate far too much poutine, I wanted nothing other than to sprawl on the couch and groan about my overindulgence.

But there was a note from the realtor who showed the house last night that the light fixture in the third floor bath needed some attention. Perhaps she was showing the house to the Incredible Hulk, because the cord to turn the light on and off had been pulled completely out, and the bits that connected it inside the base were missing. I couldn’t fix it.

It was a cheap (and ugly) fixture that was there when I bought the house, though, so I in no way blame the visitors – I just wish it had happened to me a month ago.

With a showing scheduled for tonight, another tomorrow morning and an open house Sunday, I had no choice but to forego the couch for the evening. At 7:30 p.m., I raced to the big box store to find a replacement. The sconce I bought is far better looking than what was there – and it has a  switch on the bottom rather than a grotty piece of string to turn it on and off.

But of course, the base is smaller, so I had to pull out the paint and brush before I could worry about the electric. Then it turned out the new base also didn’t cover the missing plaster that had been hidden behind the previous fixture. Out came a snippet of backer rod and the fast-drying joint compound (yeah, yeah…I could have mixed up some proper plaster, but that would be more mess, and it was a small hole).

Finally, daylight fading fast, I grabbed the intern, Priyanka Mehta, who’s renting my third-floor bedroom for the summer, showed her how to use a circuit tester, then raced to the basement to start flipping the circuits, cell phone in hand.

With the current cut, I showed Priyanka how to attach a fixture strap to a plaster wall and then how to wire the new light. We got it installed just as the sun dropped fully below the horizon, and I cleaned up the resultant mess of plaster dust, old fixture parts and crusty old wire nuts.

Easy, right?

Almost. Turns out, the glass shade simply sits in the base; there are no set screws to hold it in place – and that’s a problem, because the fixture is installed on an angled wall. (I guess I should have ponied up for a fancier fixture – or at least thought to look beyond the aesthetics of the one I chose; too late!)

For now, there is a strip of electrical tape securing the shade to the base at the appropriate angle. And while you can’t see the tape, I’m pretty sure the mastic will quickly release if the light is on for any duration. And anyway, I can’t bear to leave it jerry rigged in such a shoddy manner.

So tonight, I have take it back off the wall in order to drill a small hole in the back of the sleeve to rig up a set screw. (Do I remember which circuit breaker controls that wiring? I do not.)

While I’m confident I can solve the light shade problem, I’m out of the blue paint I need to touch up the small area of new “plaster” work. I may have to just let that one go (Valium, please).

I’ve changed my tune; I do not want any more house projects for the nonce. But Priyanka was pleased to have learned how to wire a fixture, so that’s something. (Hmmm….perhaps I should introduce her to a dovetail saw and a small box project.)

p.s. Sorry about the crap photo – my proper camera was at work and the iPhone wasn’t really up to the job.

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About fitz

Editor & content director for Popular Woodworking, ABD PhD focused on early modern drama, freelance content and copy editor/writer, ailurophile
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5 Responses to You Know the Aphorism ‘Be Careful What You Wish For?’

  1. Norm Reid says:

    Would it offend you if I laugh? I mean, your adventures are verging on the hilarious. At least, that’s so when viewed from an appropriate distance, which in this case is several hundred miles. I think this is one of those situations where you’ll look back on it as humorous–after the sale, that is! Here’s wishing no more unplanned projects.

    • fitz says:

      Not a bit. But it will be funnier if/when I have a new house in need of a complete overhaul 😉 Stories of dinners warmed on the manifold exhaust and that sort of thing, because there’s no kitchen…

  2. Rob Dickson says:

    Wasn’t there another blog post on this subject? Something about “Resistentialism” and a “redheaded librarian pirate”….

  3. I remember coming back from a showing and they had broken the new shower fixture that we had just installed. Again, perhaps the same Hulk that visited yours.

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