A while ago my wife and I decided its time to sell our house. Wanting to get top dollar, we have been renovating what we can and hiring out the rest.
Over the years, we have personally tackled roofing, plumbing, running new electrical lines, installing windows, baseboards, repairing sheetrock, painting, laying tile… it has been pretty intense.
It all started when my wife, not liking the compartmentalized layout of the house, began to tear out the sheetrock between the kitchen and living room to make the area more open. At first, I was dismayed due to having holes in the walls and dust everywhere. Having worked all day, I was not interested in coming home to more projects at night.
I would clean all the dust and debris from the living room but come home to more the next day.
My wife was upset at my lack of enthusiasm, but after work and a long commute, I didn’t have much energy left. Also being forced to work is extremely demotivating.
Looking back, in full transparency, I had considered manual labor beneath me. I would not have admitted that back then or maybe even realized it at the time, but I think that was one of the things that held me back from really wanting to do more with our house at the time.
One handyman we worked with described it best when he said to my wife, “Sam is a brain”, and I always thought that being smart and using your body as a laborer as two distinct things, not to be mixed. Mutually exclusive.
But I would help, if begrudgingly.
After our son was born, the ceiling fell in because it had been sitting on a wall that we had removed. I was completely in charge of the cleanup of all the old insulation and sheetrock. During that time period, demo work and cleanup was my task.
Projects left in a half-finished state for years had to be put in some kind of order when our son was born so I hired some help to create a kitchen. Which was really more of a Kitchen Beta. Version 1.0 if you will.
There was an add-on to the back of our house that was rotted and moldy that we needed to remove and then replace the roofing where it had previously joined the house. The wall on the other side lacked sheetrock and we had a waterfall flowing in the middle of the night that my wife and I had to get on the roof and tarp. We had a laugh about the whole situation once we were finished.
My wife Delilah is amazing, I have never seen someone so determined. She moved a door a few feet over to make our kitchen larger by herself, while pregnant, with only the aid of Youtube videos.
When we needed a trench to run power to our island, she rented a jackhammer, made a little plastic tent to keep in the dust, and got to it.
After realizing we had to solder pipes and a brief demo by our neighbor William, she was ready to blowtorch.
For the jobs that are outside of my experience and comfort level, she always says we can do it and figures out how. And when I see her doing it I get the confidence to say, “Hand me the blowtorch, I’ll solder the next one.”
Delilah is also the best at saving money and would try to persuade me to do the work ourselves rather than hire it out. Last weekend I had wanted to pay someone for a small tile job in the bathroom, but we ended up working together to get it done in a few hours.
She has been glad for some of the jobs we have hired out like large sheetrock jobs and really dirty stuff. Our kitchen backsplash was done many times faster and better than we could have pulled off ourselves.
After we decided to sell, the desire to make the most on the sale inspired me to become more of a handyman. Me being me, I made a spreadsheet of all our tasks and have been checking them off with gusto! When I redid the electrical in the garage, I would work all weekend long stopping only to eat, shower, sleep and wake up and start again.
In my head, I see myself as an intern to a junior Apprentice Electrician.
My brother lived with us for a few months and I was glad to have someone help me replace the siding and trim before we had the house painted. He also helped Delilah to install the windows in our garage.
Our neighbor William mentioned earlier, has been a huge help as far as advising and sharing his tools. When we installed our tankless water heater I would have been lost without him to show me how to connect cables to the breaker.
Becoming a handier person and having conquered so many things around the house has made me much more courageous with every new project we face. Having done so many things, I know no matter what the task, we will be able to face it and do good work without cutting corners. It’s easy to see that it has helped me grow as a person and I love the fact that each project we do increases the value of our house.
When we come home from a vacation and see our kitchen/dining/living room area with the large window and french doors overlooking our backyard (another upcoming project) it is pretty nice. Our neighbors with similar floorplans tell their overworked husbands they should build the same thing for them.
I say all that, BUT, for the past twelve years, we have been living between projects with our house in various states of disarray. When the project you have, doubles as the place where you live, life is more than a little daunting and it really wears you down. It is very draining coming home from work, to know you have more work that has to be done. It is an endless cycle. Even if you take a break for a few months, you can feel the project sitting and waiting for you.
As grateful as I am for what I have learned and for how I have grown as a person, I am going to be glad to put the remodeling work behind me as we go into the next phase of our life.