November 15, 2019

Spackling? It Makes My Eye Twitch

Illustration by George Danby

Illustration by George Danby

• By John F. Chisholm •

For me to be any good at a job, I have to enjoy the process.

For example, I enjoy writing.  Don’t misunderstand.  That’s not saying that I’m any good at it, only that the sole path leading me there is enjoyment.

Unfortunately, spackling isn’t one of those processes.  That being the case, there’s no hope of improvement.  The end result?  I’m no good at it, either.  These facts create a self-feeding, downward spiral.  It’s all because the only thing I like about spackling is when it’s over.

Alas!  Living in a 150-plus-year-old home with lath and plaster walls, there’s no escaping it.  Even the kitchen, which has maple wainscoting, has plaster above the wood.  You can look at the walls, admire the gorgeous and refinished maple and cringe at the plaster above it.  I know I do.

Because all that plaster ― and this is a big house ― sooner rather than later, needs repair.

Regrettably, like any contagion, this disease has spread to the garage.

I told you that we recently replaced the roof.  Hallelujah and three cheers.  It needed it.  Desperately.  But before we got to it, all those leaks destroyed the ceiling.  Worse still, it’s gypsum board.  Several of those massive 4×16 foot rectangles sagged.  Joints came undone.  One corner collapsed completely.  It all means one thing.  I can’t avoid it however much I try.  You know what it entails as well as me.  That’s right.


I stare at the trowel and putty knife, dread making one eye twitch.

“We’re b-a-a-ack!” they taunt.

Perhaps a list of everything I dislike about spackling will help.  Well, probably not, but it’s worth a try.  First, I use five to six times the amount a professional would.  I know.  That’s part of the problem.  But a professional would empty the garage ― and there are lots of machines, materials and tools in there ― pull down the lights, tear out the existing ceiling and start over.  All that blown-in insulation above it would be lost.  Worse, it would make a terrible mess.  Cleaning up afterwards would be a nightmare only to face insulation re-installation when we finished.  The entire process would cost a fortune.  On top of that, I’d be without my garage for at least a month.

Incredibly, the vast majority of that comes before the splats of spackle coat me and everything else, the stepladders, stilts, staging, sanding and the spackle dust covering my universe.

Notice that I didn’t say anything about painting it all afterwards.  But the job’s certainly not done until the paint is on so I’m more than justified including that as well.  Throw in thinner, paint trays, rollers, brushes and mixing sticks.  Observe the runs, drips, paint blobs, splatter and bad masking.

I don’t mean to brag but I can make a terrific mess painting, too.

Did I mention my aching joints?

But as tempting as this list has made it sound, hiring a professional for the job is out of the question.  Absolutely.  It was a feat of diplomacy, a marital miracle that the roof was replaced.  Convincing my wife to hire out the ceiling repair, too, is beyond impossible, it’s unthinkable.

I’m on the hook.  There is no escape.

Lamentably, all these good, solid and irrefutable reasons I have to dislike spackling has made my facial tic worse.  Now I’ll have to repair that ceiling with one eye closed.  You think that will help?

I doubt it, too.

But I told you that I wasn’t any good at spackling.  So at least I have excuse.  When you read this or see my garage afterwards remember, for me to be any good at a job, I have to enjoy the process.