Preserve Us From 'Simple' Home Projects


November 10, 1990|By Rob Kasper

There's no such thing as a "simple" home repair. Note my recent effort to preserve the back fence.

First off, I thought the back fence had already been preserved. It was made out of wood that had been "treated." I never asked what kind of treatment the fence had received. I just assumed that it had been treated well, and would therefore never bother me.

I was shaken from this belief by Homer Formby, who is to wood what Dr. Ruth is to sex -- a reigning therapist. As I have mentioned before, I once made the mistake of inviting Homer to my house. And during that visit Homer spotted several examples of sick wood, including the backyard fence.

When Homer saw some bowed boards he "tsked." And when you've been "tsked" by a therapist, it makes you want to change your ways. Specifically, it made me want to "treat" my fence with a preservative to keep out moisture and keep the wood from rotting.

Homer even told me how to do it. He told me to get a gallon of wood preservative (one of the few wood products he didn't have his name on). And, he said, rather than taking all day and putting the preservative on with a paintbrush, I could spray it on with my handy-dandy pump sprayer.

I didn't own a handy-dandy pump sprayer, so I began to look for one. This is a big part of most of my home repair projects, foraging for parts. I went to my neighborhood hardware store and the guys there said they had had one pump, but had sold it. And then one Saturday afternoon, when I was all set to drive out to a well-stocked hardware store in the suburbs, a neighbor called and wanted me to play tennis.

So it took me three months to get around to buying a handy-dandy pump sprayer. But once I bought one, it was fun to use. I read the instructions and looked at pictures. The folks at Black & Decker, who made the pump, showed how it could siphon gasoline from one car to another, or siphon water out of a stopped-up drain, or spray a gallon of fertilizer on a garden.

The instructions didn't mention how I could use it to give my fence therapy, but I figured out that by myself. The pump had a weighted black hose attached to the bottom of it. I put the weighted end of the black hose in the gallon can of wood preservative. Next I put a little nozzle that came with the device on the other end of the pump. Then I turned the pump handle.

The preservative was sucked up through the black hose into thpump, and propelled out the nozzle and onto the fence. The fence, which had not been treated in several years, soaked the stuffup. It was thirstier than W. C. Fields.It was good therapy for the fence, and I was enjoying myself too.

I zipped along spraying the fence, feeling like a high-tech Tom Sawyer. Suddenly I heard a gurgling noise. I looked down at the source of the sound, the black hose that had been sucking up preservative. It sucked no more. The can was empty. Only three-quarters of the fence had been sprayed.

The pump might have been faster than the paintbrush, but it drank more. I needed more preservative and it was Sunday afternoon. I raced inside and phoned the neighborhood hardware store. It had just closed. Distant hardware stores were still open. But it was a late October afternoon and that meant by the time I finished driving back and forth to the far-flung store, it would be too dark to finish the fence.

So what started out as an hour-long project became a two-day effort. A few days later on my way to work I stopped at the neighborhood hardware store and bought a couple extra cans of preservative. That afternoon, I left the office early and raced home. The kids were still in school. This was important because if they had been home, they would want to "help" work the pump. I didn't want any such help, this was my project. I was a man with a mission.

Stripping from my office garb, I put on my fence-therapy outfit. It included gloves, goggles, and thick pants and several shirts. I had read the warning label on the can of preservative, and it had scared me into wearing the get-up.

Shortly after I suited up, I was out in the backyard spraying. The portion of the fence that had once been untreated was soon bathing in preservative. The pump worked wonders, spraying the nooks, crannies, even the top of the fence.

I was finished in 10 minutes. I walked around the other side of the fence to admire my work. It was then that I saw I had pumped too much. Not only had I pump-sprayed the fence with wood preservative, I had also sprayed my car, which was parked nearby.

The trunk and roof of the car were dabbled with wood preservative. I couldn't wash it off with water because I had already put the garden hose away for the winter. So I raced inside and filled up laundry buckets with water and soap.

I got the preservative off my car before it ate the paint. It only took me about an hour.

And as the sun set in the West, the fence had been treated, the car had been washed, and another "simple" household project had taken its toll.

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