Making improvements: A house or a town

Randy Riley - Contributing Columnist

I got to know John because of a leak in the kitchen. It was a very annoying leak. Oddly enough for a kitchen leak, the water was coming from the ceiling. The water dripped down from shelf to shelf through the cabinet that held our good dishes, before it eventually puddled on the kitchen counter.

Based on the location, I was afraid the water might be coming from the shower in the master bathroom. It was not a pleasant thought that the water leaking over our dishes was coming from the base of our shower. We washed the dishes and moved them to the kitchen table. There could be no waiting. The leak had to be fixed as soon as possible.

So, I called John Stanforth. At that time, about seven years ago, John specialized in home remodeling and repair. It was my understanding that kitchens and bathrooms were John’s specialty.

We made the call. We scheduled the appointment. We waited for John.

He parked his Volvo station wagon in our driveway and came in armed with only a flashlight, measuring tape and a hammer. I showed John the small discolored spot in the kitchen ceiling near the cabinet where I thought the leak started. I told him that there was a shower just above that discolored spot.

Without hesitation, he took his hammer and attacked the kitchen ceiling. Plaster, wallboard, paint chips and insulation rained down from the ever growing hole in the ceiling. As the hole grew larger, so did the mess. I was shocked. I thought I was going to get a consultation — an estimate of what the job would cost. I ended up with a big chunk of the kitchen ceiling scattered over the kitchen counter and the floor.

John must have noticed the expression on my face. He said, “You can’t fix the problem if you don’t know where it is.” He said that as chunks of the ceiling continued to rain down and the hole grew ever bigger.

“There it is,” he said as he aimed his flashlight into the gaping hole. Even I could see that the water was coming from the base of the shower in the master bathroom. John told me to talk with Debbie and decide what we wanted to do. He would call again the next day. Yuck … I knew it had to be fixed.

When Debbie came home and saw the mess, her eyes widened in shock, then the wheels started turning. “This might be a good time to remodel the kitchen,” she said. Her eyes brightened.

Well, a complete kitchen remodeling job did make sense. Our kitchen was an old 1970s style layout. It combined a kitchen and a laundry room. That made things tight and awkward.

So, we invited John Stanforth over to discuss our thoughts and ideas for our kitchen remodeling project.

At the time we had three spare bedrooms upstairs. Our first thought was to make more room in the kitchen by moving the washer and dryer upstairs. John said, “Sure, I can do that, but you won’t like it.”

He went on to explain that most people like to bring the laundry downstairs where they can watch a little TV or work in the kitchen while the laundry is being done. Otherwise, we would have to run up and down the stairs every time the washer or dryer beeped or buzzed. He was right. It made sense.

Okay. Let’s talk about building a small Florida-room off the back of the house. We could keep it just above freezing to keep the pipes from bursting and move the washer and dryer into the new, enclosed porch. We could also use it as a mud room or totally screened-in porch for summer relaxation.

John said, “Sure, I can do that, but you won’t like it.”

“What? Why not?” I asked. He explained that many of his clients had done the same thing and that they all regretted not finishing off the room. A screened-in porch seemed like a good idea, but a finished room always worked out better. He was right. It made sense.

After more planning and discussion, we decided on a full room addition. It has worked out great, one of the best decisions we’ve made. We use the “new room” all the time. It worked out better than we could have imagined. I’m glad we took John’s advice.

John Stanforth has made a lot of improvements to homes throughout this community. Now, John gets the opportunity to make improvements to the whole community.

He may get our attention; he may surprise us by knocking a few holes in things. He may make us a little nervous by stirring things up, but that’s his job. He’s going to be our new mayor.

We need to give him a chance to fix things and make the changes that he thinks will make things better.

He’s made a long, good living in the home improvement business. Let’s give him a chance to make some improvements to this great little city we all call home.

Randy Riley is Mayor of Wilmington.

Randy Riley

Contributing Columnist