TV show "This Old House" chose a cottage in Cloudland Station as its 2015 "idea house," a showcase of inspirational trends in home design. The home's rooms are filled with clever, do-it-yourself design and color ideas.

I blame "This Old House" and "The New Yankee Workshop." Those were the shows I watched on Saturday afternoons shortly after getting married. They made home repairs look easy, and they always featured guys using really cool tools.

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Barry Courter

I, on the other hand, owned at the time one used hammer that was likely purchased at a yard sale or left behind in a kitchen drawer in some place I'd rented. Its main purpose was for breaking up ice for the beer or hanging a small picture frame.

I also had access to my father's handsaw. For the uninformed, this is an antiquated tool that only Roy Underhill of "The Woodwright's Shop" still uses. He uses his to create beautiful crafts and pieces of furniture. Mine was good for making kindling.

Anyway, the other thing I possessed was the naivete of youth strengthened by watching those shows. Armed with all of that, I tackled my first major home renovation project some 27 years ago.

My wife woke up one Saturday morning and said, "I'm going to Clements Antiques to buy a clawfoot tub. You tear out the nasty old shower, and we'll put the tub in."

We honestly thought we'd be bathing in our new tub that night. As if you needed further proof of our level of actual forethought and knowledge, we bought an 18-foot above-ground swimming pool a few years later and expected that I could level the ground and erect it all by myself and that we'd be floating in it that evening.

I learned a lot with that tub project. Things like "measure twice, cut once"; "have the appliance on hand before running the plumbing and wiring to the spot where you think it will go" and "things are always worse than you imagine."

For example, when I pulled off the very first tile in the shower, it became apparent that the entire wall had to go. The floor as well. My wife came home to a gutted bathroom. And we discovered that the tub she'd bought was an inch too long. This led us to remove a half bath in an adjacent room.

Long story short, nine months later, and just in time for the birth of our son, we had a new bathroom. I did framing, plumbing, electrical, masonry and hung drywall and wallpaper.

I'll never forget my buddy who'd come over to help with that last project asking me, "Which way is up?" Who knew wallpaper had a top and a bottom?

I also learned a trick about using bread when sweating copper pipes. If I knew then what I know now, I would have played golf that day and been a happier man for it.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.


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