Is There a 12-Step Program for This?

You wanted a skylight... where?
by Patti Wigington

I’m in my forties, and I have an addiction. It’s not even really my fault. I know, I know, you’re saying that I’m failing to take responsibility for my own shortcomings. I get that. But much like any other hopelessly enabled junkie, I place the blame strictly with someone else.

Ty Pennington.

Yep, the guy from “Extreme Home Makeover”. He’s responsible for my addiction to home improvement projects.

It all started years ago, when I bought a 1930’s two-story frame house in one of our city’s oldest neighborhoods. It was the first home I’d ever owned, and so I promptly began looking at the possibilities.

Ugly carpet begging to be replaced?


Plain white walls and a hideous yellow kitchen countertop with green linoleum?

Check, check, check.

So I spent the first year or so looking at all the things that were wrong with the house, and making notes, and pondering.

And then I discovered “Trading Spaces.” You remember that show, right? Back in the 1990s, host Paige Davis perkily encouraged neighbors to swap rooms for a weekend, and couples who started out as friends began remodeling and renovating rooms on each other’s behalf.

Some of the results were hideous – plastic sheeting stapled to a ceiling, for example. Others were scary, such as the genius idea of cementing shards of broken glass into a fireplace in a home with toddlers.

But through it all, Ty Pennington was there, toolbelt slung low, cracking jokes, and showing suburban housewives that they too could wield a circular saw. He showed us that we could use nail guns, and take apart a cabinet and refinish it ourselves. Who doesn’t love a guy that’s cute, funny, and can build stuff? When I met him in person at a home improvement expo, it was like meeting the President – you know, if the President was young, hot, and smelled really good.

I remodeled my house with reckless abandon. Texturing walls, wiring lights, demolition – oh, god, how I love swinging a sledgehammer – laying tile… you name it, I did it. Build a deck? Done it. Split two tons of rocks – by hand -- into edging for a garden? Child’s play, baby.

And then, when I ran out of things to remodel, I did what any other addict would do. I bought another house. It was built in 1972, and last decorated around 1973.

Now the cycle has continued – I’ve painted everything there is to paint. I’ve tiled every room I could put tile in. I’ve replaced every light fixture, sanded every cabinet, and renovated every bathroom. I built a sunroom and a patio, a fence, a kitchen counter and more. And after nearly eight years in my second house, I see the end of the process. The high has worn off.

There’s nothing left to improve.

I know the smart thing to do would be to quit. After all, I’ve acknowledged my addiction, and that’s the first step, right?

But I can’t. I have to take something that’s hideous and awful and turn into something beautiful, something that tells people that this is my space. Something that marks it as my own.

There’s only one solution, and I know Ty would understand.

Anyone want to buy a nice house in the suburbs, completely updated?

Image credit: crestwoodla.com


  1. Sweet! :knucklebump: I, for one, refuse to see this as an unhealthy addiction.

  2. I'm with Carole--completely healthy addiction (particularly for the economy)! ;) Hubby and I are HI Junkies, having remodeled a 1920's Tudor Revival in the city and a 1950's Ranchburger in the burbs. We then took on the ultimate challenge...creating something from nothing (building a home on a 1.25 acre lot of limestone covered with a scant layer of topsoil and a thick layer of assorted thistles and weeds). The result is Home, and we're here till the cows come in.

    Your next junkie project, maybe? :)

  3. Totally healthy... sure, says the girl who sold the brand new construction because it was "boring."

  4. New construction, when it is someone else's plans, is totally boring.
    I had new construction in Virginia Beach. Upside, it's great for people who like things orderly. Downside, I could pull into someone else's driveway and not realize it until I was in their bathroom and saw someone else's bath robe!

  5. If you're bored, I have a hideously ugly house that could use remodeling. It was a fixer upper when I bought it and I never had the time or money to fix it so now it's a faller down er.

  6. Ooh! I want to smell Ty Pennington. You've done it all, baby!


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