Some years back, encouraged by being able to build shelves in numerous closets, I tackled another home remodeling job that I hoped would be easy.
After all, I had learned to use a jig saw, a skill saw, a sander, and an electric drill and screwdriver combo. I had made my own set of sawhorses. I had built a couple of wood gates and hung them, and I had done a variety of other small jobs. Painting and caulking were second nature to me now.
This all came about because one day when I moved a chair out of a corner in the living room to vacuum, I could see that having the chair rest up against the wall had worn a couple of spots on the wall. In one place, it had left a significant indentation on the drywall. I hate such imperfections, so I thought, schemed, and plotted. I decided would fix this problem myself.
The next day, I went to my local lumberyard and bought one eight foot section of chair rail. That was my solution to protect the wall. The wood was unfinished, but I had plans to paint it glossy white. I loaded it into my car, fitting it in by sliding it all the way back, resting it on the ledge under the rear window of the car. It stuck out through the open front passenger window. I tossed my bag of finishing nails on the front seat.
I had borrowed a miter box from a friend. I had her nail punch, too. I knew how to use the nail punch, and I had bought some wood putty to fill in the holes made after recessing the nails. I was ready to rock and roll.
I was ready except for one small thing. I had no idea how to use the miter box. I had a handsaw, but the blade was somewhat rusted and dull. I tried cutting the boards so they would fit together in the corner. I cut and tried to push them together, but nothing I was doing worked very well. I did the best I could.
I used the jig saw to cut them to the right length. No problem there. I decided to use the wood putty to fill in the gaps, and smooth it out, but before I did that, I had to nail them to the wall. I had marked the wall for the right height. I used my level. The only problem was that the wood was hard, and the nails were harder to hammer into the board than I had imagined.
This was turning into a total disaster. I hammered, and the wood slipped. I hammered and the nails bent. I hammered, and the drywall got chipped up. After more time than I care to disclose, I got this 3′ X 3′ section of chair rail up in that corner. It looked hideous where it met in the corner. I hid the uneven cut in the corner with the wood putty. Most of the rest was hidden behind the chair, which was a blessing.
I never painted it. A few months later, I had some windfall money, and I hired professionals to come in and remove the bad job I had done. They put up chair rail in the entire living room, and later, I painted it, and I caulked it: two things I knew I could do well. It looks lovely and perfect.
Part of my problem was not having a table saw. It would have made my job easier. I still don’t have one. I used the money I would have spent on a table saw to hire the same guys to come back and put chair rail in the dining room. I had learned my lesson: some jobs just really require a professional to do them.