The BC Home and Garden show last weekend was a bit of a LezRenovate bummer. First, we were surprised that Lez Renovate was not selected featured as celebrity guest hosts. But even worse, the dozens of exhibition vehicles ousted CoolJ from discount parking near my Day Job all week. That was the final straw & so we lezcotted (like boycotting but a bit different) the big corporate show.
Anyway, the weekend was taken up with fruitless trips to the Industrial Suburbs searching for supplies for a very cool IkeaHack CoolJ learned from a dear friend, talented artist and scene painter, Lou DeGagne - who helped LL construct some baffling sound baffles in Season 2. You'll meet Lou again soon, and learn more about her awesome hack as we prepare the lighting fixture to conclude this epic bathroom renovation.
The key lesson learned, however, was one that I learn again and again: small local businesses are almost always the best choice for the DIY newbie. Because:
1. An established shop is likely to have experienced trades people hanging around on a Friday afternoon
In our last video, you saw the gorgeous floor tiles we installed, and glimpsed some of the helpful advice we got from our local tile expert, Doug K at Lower Mainland Ceramics.
But the bonus about that place is not only that I got design tips and several hours of technical advice from Doug and his colleagues, but also valuable life lessons from the tile setter pros he works with.
This gang was both entertaining and informative. They told me lots of stories about the various snotty clients they'd worked for over the years, and I confirmed what I'd learned about working with tradesmen: they probably do know what they are doing.
|Watch Lez Lay it Down - the latest Lez Renovate video|
If you argue with a pro based on what you learned in a 4 minute YouTube video, you may just get your job done your way. That is, instead of the CORRECT way. Sure, the customer is always right, but if it is my youtube-inspired opinion on how to tile a shower surround, vs that of a tradesperson with 20 years of experience and a portfolio, this is one of the very few times in life when I will not insist on being right.
Bonus: Trades horror stories inspire safety on the DIY worksite. Here's how it went when I bought the diamond blade for the angle grinder, to cut the tiles that go around our much-beleaguered toilet:
Tile setting Dude #1: Oh sure, you can just hold the grinder with one hand, and hold the tile with the other and zip those curved cuts right out.
CoolJ: Erm. Have you seen the tiny size of my forearm? I think I might use a clamp to hold the tile so I don't zip my finger right off.
Dude #2: Ha ha. Oh yeah. Hey do you remember that time Charlie almost disemboweled himself when the blade came off?
Charlie: Oh heh heh. That was a close one. Do make sure you tighten the screw on the blade. I'd check it twice.
2. The local guy is local.
As in, you don't have to waste your Saturday driving to 40 minutes each way to get lost in the frigging industrial suburbs. The local glass shop just up the street from my favourite thrift store, can probably order me anything I might need (a 1/4 thick piece of plexiglas at 20cm x 56 cm, for example). Why I didn't just call the local guy on Friday and pick up on Saturday after thrifting? I don't know. But I do know I would not have gotten lost for an hour on the way, nor wasted my Saturday afternoon if I had bought plexi on Commercial Drive instead of driving to PoCo!
3. The small shop/tradesperson has to care about customer loyalty and referrals.
As long as I don't organize a large-scale consumer boycott (or lezcott, for that matter), it does not matter a whit to HomoDepot if I never shop there again at 9:56 pm. But we picked the tile shop because a friend said they solved his tile emergency. We hired the plumber through a colleague's brother, and we hired the electrician through our much-trusted Contractor Advisor. When we first got our place and I cracked a water pipe during our basement renovation, I (foolishly in this case) waited a week for a plumber used by friend to come, rather than call one out of the phone book.
In any case, my fear of being swindled is diminished by a referral from a friend, and my delight is immense to recommend a skilled tradesperson to a friend.
4. Local shops create a small town feel in the big city
I grew up going to the Beaver lumberyard with my Dad in Westbank BC. I wish LezRenovate could shop at a Beaver Lumber. Sometimes we make do with Dick's but that is another story. The Beaver was owned by the family of a girl I went to school with. I got my first 1980s perm in a woman's basement family room-cum-salon. I bought retread tires for my 1977 Honda civic from Hugh's tire shop, behind the barbershop on Main St. In any of these settings, my parents would chat with the other shoppers, who they knew from town, and my dad loved especially to kibbitz with the proprietor and try to get a deal.
And now as a grown up Lez Renovator, it is fun to shop in the village in the big city.
I've sat and heard all about one of my suppliers' shoulder operation. It was a bit gross and I almost fainted, but it was great to get to know the guy. At local shops, I sometimes get a little freebie thrown in with my order. I get help loading my car. I get to know the people who live and work in my neighbourhood, and that my friends is great fun. How about you - are you doing all your shopping for DIY materials at 9:45 - 10:00 pm and therefore can only shop at the box store? Or have you seen the benefit in making local contacts? It takes a village to renovate a 83 year old bungalow!