The Cobbler's family have no shoes,
The Plumber's house has leaky pipes,
The Painter's house is pealing, and...
The Builder's house needs remodeled.
My wife is a saint. Her place in eternity is secure. How she's put up with me this long, I'll never know--especially after what happened about five years ago.
After working in houses for most of my adult life, I was pretty cocky about my ability to fix just about anything above or below the roof line. I'd amassed a very respectable portfolio and was fast becoming known in the communities I worked in for doing very high quality work.
While I was off gallivanting around town, building bright new spaces for other people, my family had continued to live in the so-so house we'd bought shortly after we were married. After so many years, it had turned into a running joke--the kind you laugh at a little nervously when you're around friends and family. You see, I was a perfectionist. I wanted the BEST for my family. So whenever the thought of doing a major project at home came up there was always some reason I needed to wait. There were materials to buy, a design to refine, and money to earn so I could afford to do it 'right'. In the end, my family got nothing. Or at least they did up until that very rainy day in June.
I had been working all morning putting the finishing touches on another beautiful project for a client, when I got a call from my wife. Seeing our number on the caller ID, I answered the phone with an impatient "Hey," assuming she wanted to know my thoughts on dinner.
"Chris, the ceiling is coming down."
"What?", I said.
"Well, it's um... The drywall is bowing down around the fireplace and there's water coming in." Her tone more than anything was what caught me off guard. Not frantic, not angry, not anything--just matter of fact with a hint of 'aw-shucks' thrown in.
[It's coming down? No way it's that bad], I thought to myself. (Denial is definitely more than just a river in Egypt.) Most of the calls I get from homeowners in distress are usually, in the end, about simple things. So out of habit I switched into my 'confident, consoling builder' mode.
"All right," I said. "I'll look at it when I get home." I hung up and saw the spot again in my minds eye. [Could it really be getting that bad?] Shrugging it off, I went back to work.
Ten minutes later she calls again, laughing. "The ceiling is now on the floor."
"What!?!?" This can't be happening. It was a 'small' leak. At least that's how I remembered the spot I'd been quietly ignoring for...[how long had it been there?]
"There's drywall and insulation everywhere, and the dogs are barking at the pile." She was giggling uncontrollably now. What kind of Jedi mind-trick is this? Where's the judgmental tone? Where's the 'I told you so' I've had coming for God knows how long?
"You're kidding me, right?" I said.
"No, it's all over everything." she said, still laughing. I can hear the dogs in the background.
"I'll be home in a minute." As I hung up and jumped in the truck, my heart sank. I was embarrassed. Ashamed. I had prided myself on being one of the best builders and craftsman in the country, but my own house was a shambles. It was everything I was used to making fun of in "other" peoples' houses. During the long ride home, that shame turned to anger... and finally determination.
Over the course of the next 2 months I tore out the fireplace, gutted the kitchen, and repainted the entire house. My wife got the kitchen she'd deserved for far too long, and I learned an important lesson.
As builders and contractors we often put off work and maintenance on our own houses. Every day we transform the lives of the families we work for by building for them what our own families want and deserve, too--a beautiful place to live.
I challenge all of you to get up from the computer and go check off a few things on your 'honey-do' list. Maybe it's the door knob that's been lose for months now, or the tub that needs re-caulking. Perhaps it's those few pieces of trim and punch-out left on the last project you started but never finished. (Yes, those are all on my list as well.)
Our families deserve to benefit from the knowledge and skill we've worked so hard for. They deserve a beautiful home, too.
Christopher Wright is President of WrightWorks, LLC--an Indianapolis based design-build remodeling company. He started his journey in remodeling at the age of 16, as a carpenter’s helper. Since then, he has worked in nearly every trade and facet of the industry—with side trips into martial arts teaching and leadership with a Fortune 500 company. His project experience extends from inner city HUD rehabs to multi-million dollar estates. He has appeared in numerous industry publications and was recently named to the REMODELING Big50.