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The Principles of Bathroom Remodeling


J. D. Pendry


Correct principles are like compasses: they are always pointing the way.  And if we know how to read them, we won't get lost, confused or fooled by conflicting voices and values. - Dr. Steven R. Covey


Whenever my wife advertises a contract, I'm usually the lowest bidder.  Being the great contracting officer that she is, she always ensures the task is understood, supervised and accomplished to the contract's specifications.  This time the contract was bathroom remodeling.  I learned some things.


I'll bet that no matter how wonderfully constructed your palace is you won't find many perfectly square corners in it.  This is only important if you are adding new flooring, wallpaper or anything else that must follow the line of the walls.  To make the paper and tile fit together properly and form seamless units requires you to work with each individual tile and piece of paper.  Unfortunately, no matter how hard you work with them some pieces are never going to fit.  In the best interest of the whole, get rid of those pieces that refuse to fit and move on.


I'm not Tim the Tool Man, but I eventually figure things out.  My figuring things out, however, meant a few budget busting cost overruns on the project and a couple of restarts.  Know your capabilities and the capabilities of available systems.


My brother helped on the project.  He is a tool man, owning at least one of every power tool ever made.  This past fall he decided to try out his new chain saw on a tree I was removing from the yard.  He sized it up, figured out where it was going to fall after he notched it.  Sized it up again, notched it, then dropped it right through a section of my split rail fence.  No matter how carefully you plan, things don't always turn out as you hoped they would.  When this happens, remember that brothers [people] are more important than fences.  Fix the fence and move on.


My wife picked out a nice oak vanity for the bathroom project.  I carefully measured for the cut out in the back to accommodate the plumbing.  Remembering something my Engineer Platoon Sergeant always preached to his troops whenever we were in the field, "measure twice, cut once", I measured again to be sure.  I then marked the horizontal guideline along the back of the vanity and measured again before marking the vertical lines for the cut out.  My brother then demonstrated for me how to make a plunge cut with the jigsaw to start the cut.  As he began cutting on the horizontal line I was distracted for a moment.  I looked back just in time to let out a Homer Simpson scream and stop him just short of sawing the vanity in half.  He was concentrating so hard on following the guideline that he continued to go east when he should have been going north.  Occasionally you have to stop and check your azimuth to make sure you're headed in the right direction.  Going headlong without taking time to think could cause the destruction of a whole unit.


For the women who read this, let me apologize for speaking to the men.  Men, there are two words that call for drastic measures if you ever hear them come from the mouth your wife.  Go fishing, golfing, hunting, run away or anything else that takes you out of the house long enough for your wife to become a little less hysterical.  What two words you ask?  Wallpaper.  Ok, so it's one compound word.


My wife, bless her heart as they say over here in the hills, picked out an interesting pattern.  It had every flower known to the botanical world on it. It also had a 20.5-inch drop.  That means that every 20.5 inches the pattern repeats.  The problem is there is no piece of wall anywhere that measures in 20.5-inch increments.  It was also pre-pasted and vinyl. 


In my way of thinking, you only have to be smarter than the wallpaper, which brings another aged soldierly principle to mind, never underestimate your enemy.  Especially if he's known to be treacherous and tricky.


I carefully measured my first section of wall and cut a piece of paper to fit it.  Soaked it as I was supposed to, folded it the right way, then let it set for the prescribed time until the paste fully activated.  I then took it to the wall, matched my plum line so it would be straight, slapped it on, brushed out the wrinkles, smoothed it and trimmed it.  That's when my wife leaning her head awkwardly to one side, asked me why the flowers were pointing towards the floor.  Wallpaper one, JD zero.


I was often frustrated with the wallpaper hanging.  At one point, with my beard full of wallpaper paste and a destroyed long cut of paper in my hands I told my wife I was going to the paint store.  That's when she put me at parade rest and reminded me that the only time you've lost is when you give up.


I told her it was taking entirely too long to paper such a small space.  She then asked me which was most important, doing it well or doing it fast.  My wife, Household 6, reminded me that meeting the standard is more important than how long it takes to meet it. 


Principles are unchanging, always present and always at work.  The question to resolve for yourself and those you are leading is whether you are working with those principles or against them.  Principles are much like values.  You have to consciously apply them to make a difference.  Doing that is usually the difference between success and failure.


My bathroom experience reinforced the value of applying the sound principles modeled to me over the years by many leaders.  I remembered that they apply to such simple things as leading yourself through a bathroom project to the most complex of leading, developing and caring for others.  It also reminded me that reliance on unchanging principles for direction will enable you to meet any challenge.  Here's a set of principles with which you may be familiar.  It's a good set to start with and add to.