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Rewarding work on the weekend

From remodeling to gardening, many homeowners enjoy the special feeling they get from handling a project themselves.

© St. Petersburg Times
published November 1, 2002

They are weekend warriors.

They are homeowners who, weekdays, live normal lives, working in offices, hospitals, restaurants and stores.

Come Saturday and Sunday, they arm themselves with hammers, paintbrushes, saws and shovels to do battle with the peeling paint, faulty plumbing, weeds and general disrepair that have befallen their homes.

They return again and again to armories better known as Home Depot and Lowe's.

They walk slowly among the hinges, screws, paint and lumber, looking for the right size, the perfect hue. Rarely do they smile. But that's not necessarily because they're unhappy about the task.

"It's more rewarding than tortuous," said David Barnes, visiting the Home Depot south of Gandy Boulevard on a recent Saturday. "You dread doing the project, but once it's done you can stand back and say, 'I did this.' "

David and his wife, Deborah, have lived for nearly six years in a South Tampa home built in 1952. They're finishing the bathroom after "months of research and buying and returning things," Deborah Barnes said.

They'll tackle the kitchen next, she said, as she clutched the book Kitchen and Baths 1-2-3 to her chest.

Ken and Melanie Walsh have lived in their 1940s South Tampa home for a little over two years.

"It's an older house, so it always needs some type of work," Ken Walsh said.

In recent weekends, the two have been putting a fence around the yard.

"I do things like point and say, 'That hole needs to be bigger,' " Melanie Walsh said.

Ashley Purdy made the trip to Home Depot on a relatively cool afternoon accompanied by a small army: her young son, Kenny, and daughter, Maribeth.

"We're going to plant some flowers so they'll look pretty at Christmas," Purdy said. "And we're going to clean the patio and furniture out there. The weather's nice so it's time to get it all cleaned."

Her plan was to get it all done on Saturday so she could kick back and watch the Bucs on television the next day.

"What color do you want?" she asked her kids. "Pink, purple, orange or red?"

The chorus of responses pointed her to pink.

The enthusiasm of weekend warriors has catapulted do-it-yourself home improvement chains Home Depot and Lowe's to the uppermost spots of top retail store lists. In March, Fortune magazine ranked Home Depot first and Lowe's second in its list of top specialty retail stores, based on a survey of 10,000 corporate executives. And Triversity, a retail industry consultant, placed Home Depot in the No. 2 spot in its list of all retail stores.

BusinessWeek magazine ranked Lowe's No. 8 and Home Depot No. 13 in its annual BusinessWeek 50 edition. The listings are based on corporate sales growth, earnings growth and total shareholder return.

Regular shoppers Norma and Josue Santiago figure they spend money at Home Depot every weekend. They've lived in their South Tampa home for 14 years, and there's always something that needs to be done. They recently put up a vinyl fence, replaced tiles in their kitchen and pondered window replacement.

Farther north in Hillsborough County, the Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse on Waters Avenue is equally busy.

Manny Alicea cruised the aisles with a drawing of a work bench in his hand, a project that would invite more projects. He visits Lowe's at least once every few weeks, often with a to-do list supplied by his wife.

"It's a little hobby of mine," he said.

In the light fixture section, Major Bloom pushed a cart for his mother, Joyce. Bloom was about to install a vanity mirror and recessed hallway lighting in his mother's home of 24 years. He tackles such tasks for her every few months and loves every minute of it, he said.

"Coming here is like coming to the toy store," he said.

Teresa Diaz, with paint spattered on her arms, legs, hands and clothes, was patiently waiting for several gallons of paint in a shade called orchid petal.

Diaz, who bought her house just last month, is a new recruit to the weekend warriors.

"It's fun," she decided, seemingly surprised by her own response. "When you're doing something for yourself, you do it the way you want it done."

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