It is with great pleasure that I announce the first recipient of the Greatest Handyman Ever Award for Do-It-Yourself Daring. The winner, who has shown herself to be the paragon of do-it-yourself virtues, will receive the coveted GHE Golden Whatchamacallit, gilded with the finest gold-colored spray paint that I could get for $1.99.
And the winner is…Kira, for her project entitled “Erstwhile Powder Room Medicine Cabinet Hole.” Kira, who wants all of you to know that she’s a SWF in search of a handy man (or was that handyman?), recently removed a medicine cabinet from the wall in her townhouse bathroom. Having watched a former boyfriend remodel his entire house, she decided — at 10 o’clock on a Thursday night — that she would patch up the resulting hole herself.
Following a late night trip to the nearby home store, Kira says that she “raced home, excited to start my project.” Now, Kira knew nothing about working with drywall other than what she had learned by boyfriend osmosis (undoubtedly an enjoyable learning technique, but about as effective as reading home improvement books while sitting on the toilet). But ignorance was no barrier for our honoree.
The Nature of Genius
One of the surest signs of genius is the ability to see connections between disparate phenomena. Einstein said (more or less), “Hey! Matter and energy are two forms of the same thing!” Darwin said (to his friends’ chagrin), “Hey! You look like a gorilla!” And our very own Kira said to herself, “Hey! This joint tape looks like wallpaper!” And Kira knew how to put up wallpaper.
So after cutting a piece of drywall that approximately fit the hole, Kira brought her previous experience to bear. “I figured the next step would be to place the piece in the hole and set it with the tape,” she says. “I wet the tape and stuck it all along the edges.”
Now, those of you who have worked with drywall before are saying to yourselves, “You mean she did all this after she screwed the drywall into the studs and backfilled the joints with compound, right?” Get out of the way of progress, my friend. Was Alexander Graham Bell content to communicate with Morse code? Did Thomas Edison light his workshop with candles? No! And Kira wasn’t concerned with — heck, Kira wasn’t even aware of — how those before her had chosen to install drywall. She used her radical wallpaper technique, then went away for a while to let it set.
“When I returned,” she says, “I found the tape hanging off the wall, all limpy.” Faced with such a setback, many people might have faltered or (gasp!) called a professional. But Kira knew that do-it-yourself glory is only ten percent inspiration. She wasn’t quite sure what the other ninety percent was supposed to be, but she had an intuitive notion that it was something a little messier than her 10 o’clock fantasies.
Kira wet down the tape again and spread some joint compound over it with a plastic putty knife. While waiting for the compound to dry, Kira had an insight that marked a critical turn in her project’s eventual triumph. “Maybe,” she said, “I should have consulted the do-it-yourself book under the coffee table.”
The Limits of Drywall Tape
After reading the book’s drywall instructions and using her “phone-a-friend” lifeline, Kira came to two important conclusions: First, drywall “tape” has no adhesive coating on it, relying instead on joint compound both under and above it to stick it to the wall. (There is available a fiberglass mesh joint tape that has its own adhesive. It’s wonderful stuff, but Kira, though radical in technique, is a traditionalist when it comes to materials.)
Second, she realized that joint compound and tape have limited structural strength. She would have to put screws through the drywall after all. But there was a problem…she hadn’t widened the hole to expose the studs.
Take note, potential suitors, Kira doesn’t give up on a project gone bad; she makes it work. Some people might have ripped out the patch and started anew, but Kira was committed to her beloved wall mess. The next day, she went out and bought some very long screws. She screwed them into the drywall at a sharp angle so that they would reach the sides of the hidden studs. She applied her layers of compound, day after day, and, one week later, “the wall was almost straight.”
Having demonstrated her diligence, her bravery, her creativity, and her genius, Kira capped off the project with the coup-de-grace that assured her position in the GHE Hall of Fame. Staring one day at the fruit of her labor, she came to a most important decision. “I’ll hang a picture over the mess and be done with it.”
Congratulations, Kira. I am proud the present to you the Golden Whatchamacallit.
Update: Here’s a good guide for how to repair drywall the non-Kira way.