If you DIY (Do It Yourself) long enough, you will probably run into a project which will beat you down. One of those projects that turned out to be far more than you had ever contemplated. One that you didn’t see yourself being able to complete because of either the sheer size or complexity it entails. Usually when you finally come to the realization that it’s time to call in the professionals, the project may be at a point that professionals are reluctant to tackle it for any of a number of reasons.
Some professionals may refuse to finish a job that others have started. Others may look at a particular unfinished job and decide like you did, that it is going to be very complex. Knowing that, they would rather have nothing to do with it. Still other professionals hold the whole DIY concept in contempt and refuse to do work for those they know embrace the do it your self work ethic.
For what ever reason, sometimes it is hard, if not impossible to find a contractor who can effectively take on or complete a job the way you wish it to be done, in a satisfactory manner and in a price range with which you can live.
So what do you do when this happens? Do you pull out the stops and take out a loan, if you can get one? Do you try to sell the darn house to get out from under the burden, or do you run screaming into the night? No, what you do is get smart. You get smart and get ready for your family and friends to abandon you because, trust me, no one will want to know you, no one will admit to being your friend during one of these types of DIY projects.
What I mean by getting smart is this: 1. you need to find a way to either complete the project yourself, or, 2. find others you can hire to do specific portions of the project then, 3. tie the whole thing together yourself. In essence, you become a general contractor. But I have to add, not even this approach can guarantee success.
A friend of mine took on one of these nightmare do-it-yourself projects which needed some masonry work. He hired a capable local mason who has been in the business as long as I can remember. The project turned out to be such a burden that the sub contractor ran screaming into the night, so to speak. He left the job incomplete, leaving my friend with open holes in his home with winter coming on. The brick layer was owed over $1500 for work completed. He never bothered to pick up his tools, never even bothered to collect the money he had coming. He just left. His tools and equipment are still there, in my friend’s back yard, over a year later. The job remains incomplete.
Recently, I had such a project that before I knew it became a monster which I though would never be tamed. Because of a water main problem, I had water damage in my basement. As I started to remove the damaged material, there just seemed to be no stopping point. Not one that would lend itself to any conscionable way to match old to new any way. Before I realized it, I was in for a complete remodel of my basement which went way beyond what a normal remodel usually would encompass.
The wiring was substandard, almost scary. The wall studs had mold problems from previously unknown water damage. The main floor support beam had some issues that required new supports to be put in place. Some of the floor joists needed to be replaced because of a previous owner’s poor attempt to affect a repair. When we pulled the carpet up we found that sometime in the past someone had attempted to scrape up old asbestos tile and found the job too difficult. Then they did a quick mask and covered it with padding and carpet to hide it. Asbestos abatement isn’t easy, but it can be done. You need to be smart, find out what is required and deal with it in a professional manner.
There were issues also with the windows that only replacement was going to solve. Of course, there was no way to come even close to matching what existed. It was going to be necessary to do a lot of masonry work before new windows could be installed.
Basically everything had to go. A new electrical service panel had to be installed. Luckily, I have experience in electrical, as I used to work as an electrician. But of course the trick was to relocate the service panel without having to rewire the upstairs portion of the house as well. Not easy, but I was able to do it and get it to pass code.
The next thing was to jack up the entire house and put in some support columns for the main support beam then jack it up again and replace two full span floor joists. Next was to find a way to frame in new walls, as all the old were either done improperly or previously damaged by the undetected water problem. Adding to that was making it work with a mixed match direction of over head floor joisting. Oh, I forgot, the stair case had to be replaced as well. I found building stairs that go in two directions from a common landing a bit of a challenge.
I bricked in two windows and bricked and framed for three others on one half of the basement, while framing the walls to match the windows framing. Because of time constraints I was unable to complete the job before cold weather set in. With winter coming on I had to get the walls completed without finishing my window replacement. The house is heated by boiler and hot water base board registers, of which all needed to be replaced. To do so required that the drywall be in place to mount the heaters.
I hate drywall! Of all the things I can do, I do it least well. I tried and tried to get a contractor to show up and give me a bid for the job. Only one ever showed up, and after looking over the situation, and seeing that there were some problems to be over come to do a good job, he never showed up again. He never even gave a bid. My wife and I were so tired from all the work, and working our jobs as well, we were willing to pay double the normal rate, but none would take the job on because it wasn’t easy, it was going to require some work to accomplish.
So I knuckled down and did the best job I could. Unfortunately, I was unable to finish clear up the wall were the new windows will have to be replaced when the weather permits. As really cold weather set in, I finally got the boiler going. We recorded temperatures as low as 48 inside the house before I did. This part of the job caused some head aches for sure. The original zones for the heating system were not well defined, and hard to follow which made bleeding the system a mountain of a task. I finally gave up and re-plumbed the pressure and return lines at the boiler to allow for forced pressure bleeding.
Now keep in mind that in all the different areas of construction, reconstruction, electrical and plumbing which I undertook, none of it was easy. When I first looked at the project I didn’t feel I was going to be able to do. Much of it took study, a lot of looking on the internet for suggestions and help guides. Mostly it took a lot of willingness to learn, and some rethinking about my own ability.
The project isn’t yet complete, but the toughest parts are now over. The finish work continues. I have one more section of windows to install. They will be only slightly different from the last set, some minor differences in masonry work will be the only real difference.
I ended up buying a quality miter saw on a portable stand, a concrete mixer to mix mortar and concrete and a few other specialty tools that I didn’t have. Even if I don’t feel like keeping these tools, I should be able to recoup most of my money. Since they are pre-assembled, well cared for moderately used tools some DYI engineer will be in need of, I can almost guarantee to not have a problem selling them.
So now its time for me to quit writing about how bad things can get, buckle down, dive in and finish my little DIY nightmare project before my family disowns me. I haven’t told them, but I am almost certain they are aware, that again soon; my nightmare will be theirs to share in as well.
The moral of this story is I think, “Never give up,” or maybe “You can do it, if you try.” Then again, it might be “You’re better than you think you are.” So the next time one of those DIY projects starts to get out of hand and it looks like rough sailing ahead, just remember my famous last words: “Smile, it’s not that bad…its worse, you just don’t know it yet!