A 2x4 that’s really 2x4


Over the years, I have worked on several projects around our home. (Check that… homes… plural.) And as any homeowner will confirm, the list of items and projects and more that need attention is always growing, never completed, and occasionally a bit strange.

The strange part falls into an endless run of possibilities. One of the most fun for me is the curveballs that appear. Those unexpected twists that make you wonder about what happened. Those unexpected twists that make you wonder what someone might have been thinking. Those unexpected twists that… well…

I was fortunate to have some great friends come over to work on stuff around our first house. We built a tremendous deck. Added a shed from the ground up to a barn-style loft and roof. Renovated a bathroom. Fun projects. And those were just the start.

One of the fun things we bumped into occasionally were 2x4s that were so old they actually measured 2-inches by 4-inches. But that’s a fun twist. It’s not an unexpected twist.

An unexpected twist would be the electrical in that house.

I am not kidding you when I say that we used to trip the circuit breaker that was involved in power heading to the living room when we used one of the outlets in the kitchen. Those two rooms were on opposite sides of the house, in diagonally opposed corners.

I would occasionally be working in the garage, using power tools like a circular saw, and the power would go out… in the garage… in the mud room… in the dining room… and you get the idea.

Many outlets and wiring paths were strung in interesting runs and connections.

Here we are in our current house, and these days I often find myself wondering about things like the framing of a closet door in the main bathroom.

It’s not equal. One side is thinner than the other.

In general, it’s a very interesting effort in carpentry. At first glance, the lines are so straight that I thought a thinner piece of molding had been used. It was only on inspecting it more closely that it became apparent that the entire strip of molding had been cut to thin it from 2-1/4” to 1-7/8”.

Here’s the kicker… I discovered that it had been cut when I was painting the bathroom and got a really good look at the molding while attempting to paint the barely accessible but still exposed strip of wall between the edge of the molding the corner of the room. Guess what? That amazingly tiny strip of exposed wall was only exposed because the molding had been thinned out. The amount of the gap? About 3/8”.

(Go ahead… do the math… I’ll wait.)

Another full-sized strip of 2-1/4” molding would have fit. Perfectly. And it would have covered that segment of wall that I needed to paint… a segment so close to inaccessible that it took me almost as much time to paint it and clean up my mistakes from painting it than it did to paint the rest of the bathroom.

Cutting the molding down was a great and intense-effort solution for a problem that didn’t exist.

I’ve given it some thought… just as you might give thought to the adventures and discoveries in your home. For instance: Did they measure something else wrong, would have needed to head to the store to get more of the 2-1/4” stock, but had a 6-foot-whatever length of leftover 1-7/8”? Probably not… as I haven’t come across the thinner molding in any other room of the house.

The weird part is that these types of things are all over the place. In every room of a house. And not just mine. Yours as well.

Wall plates for outlets and switches hide uneven cuts in drywall that had been made for electrical boxes. Baseboard molding hides gaps where the wall and floor don’t meet. (Ditto the result of crown molding.) And let’s not even begin wading down the possible items being used to shim something here and level something there.

As long as something works, it doesn’t earn our attention. If something looks good, it must be. Often times, that actually is the reality of the situation. Items are sturdy and placed properly… the work was (and is) structurally sound… everything is good. But when something needs repair… something leaks… or you break out the prybars… welcome to the unexpected twists.

They are often head-scratchers to behold and joys to correct. Especially when the craftmanship offered was from generations ago, when the measurements truly were from a different age.

Interesting to notice. Usually fun to consider. And now, I need to grab my tape measure. I just remember a cabinet in the second bathroom. I wonder if the molding around that…


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com