If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the saying goes.  The corollary is, “Without home destruction, there’s no home improvement.”  Through years of home ownership, I’ve learned to search and destroy.

For instance, our stairs leading to the second floor had the cheapest-looking, wood-grain wall-covering. So, I grabbed a loose corner and ripped. Because of the torn wall blocking the stairs, my wife agreed to some home improvement.

Destruction had been the fun part of the project but, now that the wall was exposed, we found it wasn’t plaster. The builder had used a material known as “shirt cardboard.” This required us to put up drywall, thus proving it’s cheaper to leave ugly alone.

Home destruction also occurred when I bought a crowbar at a garage sale for 50 cents. I took one look at my rotten, peeling front stairs (my mail carrier had already picketed my house, protesting unsafe working conditions) and reduced them to a pile of boards.

After warning the family not to use the front door, I drove to Home Depot. There were no floor-model staircases, so some assembly was required. This didn’t discourage me. I got to push one of those big orange carts, just like a seasoned construction worker.

I maneuvered the cart into the lumber section. The treated wood was green and had obviously gone bad. I bought the lowest grade, instead. I saved a few bucks but it was going to be a challenge to nail those wavy boards straight. But, first, I had to get this tall timber into my subcompact car. I squeezed the boards in, but there was no room to sit. So, I called my neighbor’s wife, who arrived in her pickup. I offered to help load the wood but she was afraid I’d get a splinter.

After she dropped off the pile, I decided to call in a favor. I reminded my brother-in-law that I had helped him move his piano. He sighed and came right over. He had never attempted stairs before and wondered how we would make the stringers. That was simple, I told him. Just lay the old stringer on a fresh board and trace it with a pencil.

We borrowed a power saw from another neighbor but it kept stopping every time I cut through the cord. When we returned it, my neighbor was polite enough not to notice the electrical tape tourniquets. At last, we got to the hammering phase, which lasted well into the night and only ended when a woman threatened to call the cops if we didn’t knock it off.

Now, as I look around my house, I’m planning my next search-and-destroy mission. There must be some way I can yank that hideous chandelier down without getting hurt.


John Rice is on vacation. This is a reworked version of a column that ran on Feb. 16, 1994.


John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.