The $40,000 Switchplate

Wendy Hornsby

Did I ever tell you the one about our friends’ forty-thousand dollar switch plates? 

So, over dinner one night in the dining room, the wife turns to her husband and says, “I really want to replace those switch plates.  They’re just wrong for this room.”

They head off to the home improvement store for switch plates.  The little gizmos won’t cost much, husband tells himself.  Two months and forty-thousand dollars later the entire room has been redone.  And of course there are new switch plates, which set them back less than fifty dollars out of that total.

Our house, like its owners, is of a certain age.  We have replaced bits and pieces of the house as they wore out or just looked tired, as our kitchen and bathroom faucets do now, so we decide to replace them.   We head off to see what’s available and interesting, and what the cost will be.   

I say that we should replace the kitchen sink at the same time we replace the faucet because putting new fixtures on the old sink would be like gilding a faded lily.  Paul does not disagree, except that to replace the sink would entail breaking out several rows of thirty-something-year old tile that is no longer available unless we find it in a salvage yard, and I never liked it to begin with so why would we?  That means, new countertops.    

Of course, should we put in new countertops we would also want to replace the old kitchen floor.  Because the kitchen connects to the entry, whatever floor we put in the kitchen we will need to coordinate with the entry.  Are you still with me?

When we installed hardwood throughout the rest of the house, we skipped the kitchen and the entry because of the beating those floors take.  Paul thought wood just would not hold up.  If we redo the rest of the kitchen, it wouldn’t make sense to leave the old floor.  If we have a new kitchen floor, we’d need to replace the entry floor at the same time because the two areas flow together.   I lay this faucet-counter-sink-floor dilemma at Paul’s feet.  No pun intended.

So, let’s add this up so far.  New kitchen and bathroom fixtures will require a new kitchen sink which will necessitate new countertops that will require two new floors or else the chi of the entire house will be out of balance.  Right?

I forgot.  During the last heat wave of summer, the AC pooped out.  I don’t know why.  The unit is on the roof and we haven’t gone up there to see if maybe the problem is a squirrel nest or something.  We don’t use it very often.  The great air conditioner—the Pacific Ocean—lies right outside our door, so we don’t need AC very often.  But when we want it, we want it.  More to the point, if the AC unit is dead, it would be ridiculous to replace it without at the same time replacing the heater.  So far the heater is fine.  But four of our neighbors with systems identical to and exactly the same age as ours have needed to replace theirs during this very cold winter.  Our number is probably up.

And we haven’t even begun to discuss the bathroom fixtures yet.  If the plumber comes to take care of the kitchen fixtures, he should also….  

Are we dizzy yet?  How much did those switch plates cost again?


4 Responses

  1. I truly wish I didn’t understand what you were talking about. In our family, it started when I no longer could reach the pots that were hanging overhead conveniently near the stove and knew I had to find a new place for them. The resulting kitchen remodel turned out really well, and I’m so happy to have conveniences that I didn’t used to have, not to mention hickory cabinets. From the pot filler faucet to getting rid of seven layers of vinyl and replacing the original red oak flooring with the same stuff minus all the nail holes, it came to a bundle. But one of my favorite additions this is a tool made out of $.35 worth of PVC pipe, which lets me turn an ordinary faucet on while sitting down.

  2. It seems to me that no house project has an end. One leads to another and another. So, can you reach the pots now?

  3. Oh, my, have I been here. There was the kitchen remodel that led to a bathroom remodel when I decided I wanted the same tile I’d chosen for the kitchen in the bathroom as well. And then we discovered the leak from the condo next door that led to the even more extensive bathroom repairs.

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