Let's get this out of the way first, so that this story makes much more sense to anyone who is reading. I'm a terrifically terrible handyman... if there is a level BELOW novice or completely untalented, there I am... several rungs LOWER than the lowest of the low ranks of handyman ability! I'm pretty okay with abstract concepts, but when the real world starts to make it's presence known... well, I'm a bit at sea!
Thankfully, I'm a quick learner... but it does mean that I end up making some pretty noob mistakes when I'm trying to do some handy-work around the house, despite watching a million and one YouTube videos and researching as much as I can about a particular thing that I'm trying to do (and not break...). I have a neighbour who is really good at this sort of thing, but I sometimes hesitate to ask him... he's really nice about it, and I learn a lot from just watching and learning so that I can do the task... but, I start to feel like I'm using him to do simple jobs that I should be able to figure out by myself!
Anyway, today's task is the removal of the anchors on the walls where the toddler gates used to guard the stairs. Our little one stopped needing the gates about two or three years ago... and I removed the gates around that time. However, I've left the anchoring parts still in the wall... no reason, just never got around to it and they aren't things that you notice every day (well... my wife notices them... but I think she got sick of mentioning it...).
I would say that it was a combination of lack of time and the fact that even a simple handy-man task like this felt a little overwhelming for my meagre skills ended up in the procrastination. However, this past year has given me lots of time as musicians have found themselves without work... so, that part of the excuse has gone. Which leaves, the lack of ability excuse...
I decided to give it a crack yesterday... and my first attempt to remove the anchors was a complete disaster! The screw came out easily enough (I'm not quite that bad...), but when I pulled at the anchor, it was stuck to the wall with a really strong adhesive as well (I had forgotten about that...). Well, our house is pretty old, and the plaster is relatively weak... and so the plug and anchor came off... along with a nice piece of plastering as well!
Okay... so, the damage could have been much much worse... oddly enough, my mother-in-law did something similar in one of the top rooms and she was really worried about it. When she told me, I told her that it was no problem at all! After all, it was more than likely that I would have done exactly the same thing!
... but when you do it yourself... I told my wife, and I was kicking myself over how I had first started in a location at the front of the house where the damage is really obvious... rather than starting and testing the technique for removing in a less obvious location. My wife was more forgiving... I guess you always harder on yourself when you cause the damage!
Sigh... I guess I will be learning about how to patch this plaster. Shouldn't be toooooooo difficult (famous last words...), except that the plaster around is a bit weak... and textured... and painted! I think I will patch first as a normal flat plaster first... and then try to learn how to make a texture (on a wood board or some other test bed...), when the hardware stores are open again (we have a lockdown at the moment....) I will find colour swatches to try and match up a paint for the affected area.
So, this is what I should have done... and if I could travel back in time by a day or two, then I would have told myself to try this instead. Using an old credit card (or a current one if that is what tickles your fancy...), I could gently cut the adhesive and pry the anchor loose without using too much force. Going around the whole back area meant that the anchor would come off the wall quite easily and I wouldn't need to pull hard on it...
... of course, I had learnt my lesson and first tested this on a wood area (where the wood behind wouldn't rip apart.... or shouldn't, I don't know... can that happen?) in a part of the house where it isn't easily visible!
In case you are wondering, I have a stash of old plastic cards on hand for electronics... scraping of thermal paste, and to use as gentle spudgers. I'm more capable with electronics than with real-man hardware tools, which is why I was so surprised that the plaster wall was so fragile!
... ta da! and it works wonders on the plaster wall as well! Thank goodness, as it would be really demoralising if I ended up with more broken plaster areas to patch over!
So... note to future self. It's okay to screw up these things... just learn and don't make the same mistake again! Test things out on a test-bed or a place where it won't be so obvious if you break something... be gentler than you think (I thought electronics were fragile....), and don't expect that real-world objects are indestructible!
In fact, those are lessons that I can immediately apply to the plaster patching job... I will go slowly, and test the texturing elsewhere... the painting I will test the colours out in a location near the attic before painting over the patched area. Let's see if I can level up my handyman skills from "happy I didn't knock the wall down" to "slightly less incompetent!".