What Bob Vila Never Told You About Home Improvement

HGTV would have you believe that it takes exactly 22 minutes to erect a brownstone from the ground up on Manhattan Island. The reality is that it takes a lot of planning, execution, and a serious amount of problem solving for any type of home improvement or renovation. It’s also likely, that if you’re doing the projects yourself, you’ll end up electrocuted, covered in poop, or without eyebrows.

We moved into a new house a couple of years ago which means we’ve been getting things settled and adding our own personal touches to the living space. We also have an unfinished basement that’s needed some tender loving care since we’re running out of space in our upper level. Kids just keep showing up out of nowhere and I have no idea how it’s happening. (If you understand the phenomenon of children appearing out of thin air, please explain to me how that works in the comments. Thank you in advance).

Some of our projects have been small and some have been pretty big, but none of them have taken 22 minutes or less, even with commercials. In fact, installing french doors took an entire day and I saw Ty Pennington perform that very task using only a TV camera in under 30 seconds. I need to get better tools.

The reason I bring all of this up is so I can give a shout out to the crew who does the real behind-the-scenes work to make awesome things come to fruition. And I’m not just talking about on TV.

There are people out there working tirelessly and often without credit. They spend their time designing the grand plan, puttying holes in walls, painting through the middle of the night, and fixing leaks in pipes. When it comes time for the big reveal, people are enamored by the end result, but rarely realize the amount of work that went into making it a success.

Maybe a quick example to help illustrate my point…

Finishing the basement

At a certain point while we were finishing our basement, we needed to drill holes in a series of floor joists so that we could run electrical wire through them. I’m still not exactly sure how it happened, but somehow a giant hole was drilled right through the center of our sewer main.

Now for those of you who aren’t aware, having a one inch hole in a sewer main is a bad thing. What’s worse, is that nobody realized it happened. Well, I should say that nobody realized it happened until somebody flushed upstairs. Then, we all knew it happened.

I won’t get too descriptive about the smell, but if a garbage dump and a gym bag full of never-washed socks had babies, a sewer leak would be their octuplets. It wasn’t long before we had a huge pool of SH-water on our basement floor. The good news is that the floor is concrete. The bad news is that I was the last one around and I wouldn’t exactly feel comfortable listing “master plumber” on a job resume. My plumbing expertise is mainly limited to plunging clogged toilets.

Nevertheless, we had an issue on our hands that had to be addressed right away so I went to work. I could clearly see the hole and clearly remembered what happened to Clark Griswold when he tried to repair the Hoover Dam leak with Dubble Bubble in Vegas Vacation. Since I knew bubble gum wasn’t going to be a viable fix, I set to cutting out the piece of damaged pipe.

Not to “toot my own horn” (worst pun I’ve ever been a part of. I’m truly sorry), but I was able to cut that piece of pipe out, replace it with a piece of good pipe, glue the joints, and after 3 hours, a series of YouTube videos, and 2 trips to Home Depot, water was flowing freely again at our house.

After a few days of open windows, and a month or so of more work, no one would have had a clue about the day I was baptized a plumber.

The true before didn't have sheetrock or walls either. My brain was too small to remember to take a photo earlier.

My experience is obviously a ridiculous one (very true, but ridiculous), but these types of things are happening all the time. I feel like we get used to seeing finished products and rarely take the time to appreciate all of the work that took place to create them. I know I’m guilty of it. I see a product and my initial reaction is almost always “how can it be better?” Sure, sometimes that drives improvement, but I believe there’s something to be said for appreciating the process and the amount of work that has been put in up to that point.

My experience in web design has always made me somewhat sensitive to people appreciating what it really takes to create a nice looking site, but I’ve really been feeling it as I’ve embarked on a new adventure. In all honesty, I’m stoked about what I have coming down the pipe.

I’m in the process of writing a mini-book!

It’s a baby step to writing a “real” book but it makes a lot of sense for the way I work and to get my feet wet in the whole process. As I’ve researched everything involved in getting a book to market, and the amount of work that writers are putting in these days, and the huge number of talented writers that exist, it blows my mind that any books are ever published. And yet, they’re being published faster now than ever.

The goal with this book is simple. I’m going to appreciate every single one of the 10,000 words that end up in the final draft. Take that, HGTV!

If you want more details about the book and what it’s going to entail, you can watch the video below.



  1. says

    If you ever decide to write a book about remodeling mishaps, contact me. The stories I could tell.
    Yours took ONLY 2 trips to Home Depo? That’s it?

    • ryan says

      This was for one tiny repair, my friend. After 2 years of projects, the people at Home Depot now call me by name, hand me a coffee cup with my name on it when I walk in the front door, and have opened up what I believe to be an unlimited line of credit. We need to swap horror stories ;)

  2. says

    Well, I guess me killing cactus plants holds nothing to what you did in that house! ;-) I can’t even draw a straight line with a ruler so I never try any home stuff! :-)

    Can’t wait for your book – sounds like “a read”!

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