Bob Tedeschi: It almost seems like there are too many to count.
Bob Vila: Well, where do you draw the line between what you’ll consider dealing with and what you’ll definitely call in a handyman, professional or carpenter to handle?
Bob Tedeschi: I’m still wondering where that line is. Part of “The Pragmatist” is doing things on the cheap, so I will do everything I can not to call in a $100-an-hour guy. However, plumbing is something I usually avoid. I’ve taken a whack at a lot of different leak jobs. But plumbing, for me, is a real area of weakness, because I’ll try to find a leak and either make it worse or tear out a piece of wall in the process. And then I’ve got a bigger job on my hands.
I once tried a tiling job and mixed enough grout to cover my neighborhood with the stuff. But that’s the idea of the column, winging it on your own because that’s what everyone does. Then I’ll get a hold of somebody like you or someone else, who really knows what they’re doing who can get me out of trouble.
Bob Vila: Well, not everybody knows everything about everything. When I’m asked about projects that are suitable for DIY, I always advise people to steer clear of anything that could be life threatening—electricity, steam/radiators, plumbing, heating equipment, and climbing on the roof. What kind of projects do you have coming up?
Bob Tedeschi: We’ve got a few ideas we’re working out. I think the one that I’m most looking forward to is replacing the kitchen countertop and cabinet doors. It’s a project that is definitely overdue. I think these countertops are probably original to the house. And, like a good many projects, it’s one that I’ve always seemed to have an excuse not to get to.
Bob Vila: What are they made out of?
Bob Tedeschi: I think the countertop is Formica and, while the cabinet doors seem to be particle board, the frames look to be solid wood. So I don’t know if we’re going to replace all the cabinets or just the doors, which sounds like a much easier way out.
Bob Vila: It’s an easier way out if you’ve got good frames. And by good, I mean solid wood as opposed to particleboard, chipboard or MDO [medium density overlay plywood]. If your cabinets are 20 or 30 years old, they’re probably good solid wood-base frames. What are you planning to replace the countertop with?
Bob Tedeschi: We’re not sure yet. We’ve got to come down to a budget, but design-wise our kitchen could go in a lot of different directions. I know that the countertop material we choose will dictate how our kitchen evolves, so it does require some serious thought. I’m not sure we’ve thought through that piece yet, but it is an important piece.
Bob Vila: You also have to consider your budget in terms of how long you intend to stay in the house and what impact the kitchen remodel may have on resale value. It seems like everyone wants granite countertops, but it is so expensive.
I was just at the Builders’ Show and the newer laminate products from Formica are very attractive. When I was starting out in the ’70s, we would often combine Formica with butcher block (butcher block being the granite of its day because it added a deluxe appearance and was functional). But you’re right, just making the decisions can be challenging. And, if you’re going to do any of the countertop replacement yourself–boy, that’s a big job if you’re working with stone. With Formica you may be able to reface without having to rip anything out.
Bob Tedeschi: That’s my first set of guidance right there. I’m going to quote you, Bob.