About six months ago, my partner and I bought our first house. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the transition from being renters to being home-owners. There have been many changes – big and small – but the one I want to talk about today is drywall.
Throughout my fifteen years renting apartments (in three different different countries!) my relationship to drywall was pretty simple. Drywall was the interior surface of my apartment which deteriorated throughout my time there until I eventually left, at which point I would fix it up as quickly as I could to recoup as much of my damage deposit as possible. The drywall deteriorated because it was in poor repair, because – I assume – the previous tenants had treated it the same way I did. Someone else owned it, but the owner didn’t have to live with it. “The incentives were misaligned”, to put it in business-y speak.
Now, for the first time in my life, I own drywall. If I put a hole in it, no one is going to withold a damage deposit until I fix it. I’m responsible for it, and the burden of that responsibility is that I have to live with it.
However, this is pre-owned drywall we’re talking about, right? And the previous owners of the house, well, I don’t really know them, but drywall work was not a strength of theirs. They did a lot of DIY renovations which involved drywall finishing, but there are signs of poor work throughout our home: lumpy seams, noticeable patches, and previous quick-fix repairs. Not to mention the screw pops, cracks, dents, and bumps that naturally appear as a building ages and settles.
So anyway. I did my first drywall repair as a home-owner and, wow, it’s a lot! When you own your own walls, you care a lot more about those walls. I repaired three structural cracks in the guest room, and it took me a week. Actually, it’s still ongoing because I haven’t painted the patches yet.
I did a great job fixing those cracks. A good job, at least. For a beginner.
I learned a lot, first and foremost, that drywall isn’t flat. ”Drywall is about making large, long, imperceptible bumps in the wall. Drywall is not flat.” And my repairs made the drywall look flat. Mostly flat. Flatter than it was when I started.
Drywall work is difficult because it requires I work outside my usual mode. If I have a task normally, I’ll just throw myself entirely at that task until it’s completed. Drywall repair requires you do a few minutes of work and then it requires you to walk away. You can’t fuss with it. There’s a pipeline of operations that all need to be done, in order, with big gaps of time between them. And new operations can get added to that pipeline at any point.
I’m not a patient person and I found this way of working to be a real challenge.
As I said, I’m still living with unpainted drywall repairs. And I’m balancing all the work I put into this repair (and the huge that mess it created) against the increased satisfaction of smoother walls. I’m wondering: do I really need to repair those other cracks? Those screw pops? Those peaked joints?
And if I do feel compelled to fix them, do I really need to do it right now? Probably not.
I can live with that. For now.