The Joy of DIY

I’m taking a brief break from blogging while I finish one last home project. More on that in a moment.

Want to retire early? One of my best tips is this:

Do it yourself!

Here are some things that I do myself:

  • Mow the lawn
  • Cut my hair
  • Change the oil and perform maintenance on the cars
  • Basic repairs around the house

Twenty dollars here and twenty dollars there add up to tens of thousands over decades.

My favorite DIY activity is home improvement. For most* projects, If I can do something, there is no way I’m paying someone for it. The advantages are many:

  • Saving loads of money: In many projects such as tile setting, electricity and plumbing, the labor costs far more than the materials. By doing these tasks and others myself, I’ve saved at least $100,000 on my own home remodel.
  • No unreliable contractors: Ever have workers not call you back, not show up or not honor the terms of their contract? For me: All. The. Time.
  • No sloppy contractors: Many times, the “pros” aren’t so professional. Take your time and you’ll do a great job.
  • It’s not hard: The best tool in the world is free and it’s called YouTube.
  • No contractors having mental breakdowns in your driveway: Yes, this happened. I hired some guys to help me with framing. Halfway through the project, one of the guys found out his wife was cheating on him. This led to some interesting screaming episodes among the workers. It was like having a live soap opera right in the driveway.
  • Tremendous sense of achievement: It is wonderful to step back after you’ve completed a big project and look at your work.

Anyway, I’m now working on my final major project! Holy crap, it feels good to type that. We’ve been at it for almost 3 years, far longer than I anticipated. But now, we’re near the end.

Our home has these ugly 4×4 posts holding the roof up around the deck:


Every time I look at them, I cringe in horror.

Anyway, I came up with a way to pretty them up. I’ll add a second false post, put stacked, slate tile around the bottom, a concrete cap halfway up and cover the remaining wood with a nicer material:

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 8.45.52 AM

I’m in the middle of this project now. Here is what it looks like as of this morning:


I enjoy the work, but it can also get monotonous at times. To amuse myself, I got out my Sharpie marker and added some easter eggs. When someone tears down my work in 50 or 100 years, there will be some surprises for them.

This is my all time favorite investing quote. It is often attributed to Warren Buffett, but was actually uttered by his mentor, Benjamin Graham:


Charlie Munger is brilliant. I hang on every word that comes out of his mouth:


Construction at the 1500 household isn’t always a bowl of cherries:


Am I evil? Maybe just a little bit**:


Who doesn’t like a little Warren Buffett wisdom?


My grandmother was a child of the Great Depression. She knew exactly what to do with money and didn’t hesitate to give me this advice every time I saw her:


I took her words to heart. Thanks Grandma!


*Some projects like rough carpentry and drywall have cheaper costs of labor. Unless the project is small, I usually outsource here.

**The only thing someone will find if they follow my treasure map is disappointment.

Join the 10s who have signed up already!

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*Only if your life is pretty bad to begin with.

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65 Responses to The Joy of DIY

  1. Treasure map! I’ll be right over.
    The Jolly Ledger recently posted…The Big Scratch – May 2016 Net Worth UpdateMy Profile

  2. I love DIYing. Looks great – can’t wait to see the end project.
    Fervent Finance recently posted…Attaining A Remote Work ArrangementMy Profile

  3. Looks like a fun project! Not to mention home improvement projects can add to your net worth. So a great way to spend your time if you can do it well.
    Brian – Rental Mindset recently posted…Inflation: The Great Mortgage DestroyerMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Yep, we’ve added loads of value to the house. It will be at least a decade before we cash out, but it’s nice to know we have the money in our back pocket when the time comes.

  4. Totally agree, I’m pretty inept when it comes to home repair and car maintenance, but YouTube does come in very handy! If I can DIY basic jobs around the home, anyone can!

    What you are doing with the posts though, that is impressive.

    My father-in-law would always do things like hiding the Easter eggs and writing messages…cracks me up!
    The Green Swan recently posted…Four Frugal Life LessonsMy Profile

  5. Believe Fire says:

    Love your hidden messages Mr. 1500. Especially the hidden treasure map, haha! Looks like the project is coming along nicely.
    Believe Fire recently posted…5 Reasons Why Cuenca May Not Be the Ideal Retirement Destination for YouMy Profile

  6. All. The. Time.

    I hear you Mr. 1500. Contractors suck! I can do a better job in the same amount of time and I pay myself far less.

    Also, those easter eggs are awesome. You should leave something in the ‘X’ location of the treasure map. Maybe a plastic dinosaur.
    Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes recently posted…Tools For TemptationMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Nothing is at the ‘X’ except for disappointment if someone actually goes looking!

  7. You know…thinking about it further. Those old 4×4 don’t look so bad. What’s wrong with them?
    Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes recently posted…Tools For TemptationMy Profile

  8. I like it! YouTube really is the best invention for DIY. I live in an apartment where it’d be FREE to have the super come and fix the problem, but more often than not I want to take the opportunity to learn about the problem and see if I can fix it myself (without buying any extra tools of course).

    I’m getting pretty good and it’s going to come in handy once I own my own place. For now, if I mess something up – I can always call in the calvary.

  9. J. Money says:

    OMG that is hilarious, haha… not because I just paid someone $25 to mow my lawn (though I probably shouldn’t admit that out loud, eh?) but because you’re hiding easter eggs!!! And they’re financial!!! So damn awesome!
    J. Money recently posted… A Case Study of an Awful HustleMy Profile

  10. Hahaha — that treasure map is pure EVIL! >:-D

    We love DIYing and can’t wait until we quit our jobs and can dedicate ourselves to some major projects we want to take on in our house — we know if we did them now, they would take way too long, and we don’t want to live in a construction zone for the foreseeable future. You get major high fives for enduring it all for 3 years! I don’t think I could take it. 🙂

    Good luck finishing your last project! Those new columns look great!
    Our Next Life recently posted…Optimizing Our Retirement Income // ACA and Taxes Vs Actual CashflowMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      The three years have been tough. Without kids, I could have knocked this thing out in 6 months. If I had sense, I would have waited until I was done with work. Oh well, you know what they say about hindsight…

  11. Mr. 1500,
    These easter eggs made me laugh because I came across one in my own laundry room. The house was built in the early 1960’s. I took out a portion of a wall and found the following scribbled with a blue pen:

    “EDDIE IS FAT. His brain rolled on the edge of a razor blade… is like a B.B. rolled down a super highway?”

    Yours make a lot more sense!
    Retire Before Dad recently posted…Spinning Off A New Website – AccessIPOs.comMy Profile

  12. I posted about DIY today, too!

    Love the quotes from Benjamin and Charlie.

    My Dad is a master of DIY. I’m a lowly apprenctice at best. But I do enjoy mowing my own lawn (shame on you, J$!), doing simple electric and plumbing (like replacing faucets and fixtures). My biggest project to date was enclosing an under deck patio. I built walls, bought and installed Eze breeze vinyl windows, put up siding, and painted everything. I love that space now.
    Physician on FIRE recently posted…20 Steps to Effective DIY InvestingMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      I love that you’re an anesthesiologist and do stuff like this yourself. That is completely awesome!

  13. jlcollinsnh says:

    Well looky der…

    You writin’ posts on the posts!


    Road trip.

    To the 1500’s house.

    To tear down that deck and dig up that treasure!!

    Who’s with me??!!
    jlcollinsnh recently posted…Cool things to check out while I’m goneMy Profile

  14. Our toilet in ones of our bathrooms just started running the other day and I’m about to leave to head out of town for a business trip. I said, “I’ll shut it off for now and fix it when I get back.”

    Then my wife said, “I’ll just call a plumber.”

    BZZZZZZZZZTTTT!! Wrong answer. I had to tell her that we don’t call a plumber for trivial issues. I’m not the biggest DIY guy, but fixing a running toilet is something my 5-year daughter can handle. 🙂

    — Jim
    Route To Retire recently posted…It’s All About the Geese, Not the EggsMy Profile

  15. Kyle says:

    I just need to stop overthinking projects and get them done. I also think getting more experience on doing basic home maintenance would help me get on projects quicker. I don’t have a lot of faith in my work. I got some plumbing experience down so far.

    When I hear people convince themselves spending the money was a good investment “Well at least I know it’s done right by a professional” I laugh every time, there’s more amateurs doing “professional” work than most realize. When YOU do the work, YOU are likely to make sure it’s done right because it’s YOUR house!

    I once found out I was being pretty much cheated on at Walmart, I kept my cool for the most part, but I wanted to blow up, anxiety shot through the roof, I remember I suddenly felt like I was on drugs. I didn’t even abandon the girl, who was with me at the Walmart, drove her back. Public places are a horrible place to figure out crap like that. And I might keep my cool for the most part, but I’d doubt I’d continue with any work at a job site. I’d probably walk off the job. I don’t understand what’s so complex or hard about being monogamous for so many. I’ve had cute girls ask me for some “fun” when I was younger, I just said.. no, I’m sorry, I’m dating someone right now.. not hard.
    Anyway, I bet the finished project will look sweet, show us the pics when your done.

    Question: I know you got your Honda Element, how do you deal with getting larger materials like 4×8 sheets of plywood or drywall.
    Kyle recently posted…Slave to the SystemMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Hey Kyle-

      If you make the move out here, you and I can swing some hammers together. Your job is infinitely harder and more challenging than any home improvement.

      “I once found out I was being pretty much cheated on at Walmart … I remember I suddenly felt like I was on drugs.”

      That hits home cause I know the feeling exactly. Not fun.

      The Element can’t hold 4×8 sheets flat, but it will hold them diagonally. It is a bit of a pain, but it works. If I need more than 6 or so, I borrow my neighbor’s cheapo Harbor Freight trailer which does the job nicely.

      Unless I buy another property to flip, my days of hauling stuff like that may be over.

      • Kyle says:

        Just found out my one bathroom is out of commission unusable, massive leaks from the drain lines. Probably take off tomorrow and try to figure out how I’ll try to fix it. Multiple issues.
        Working on home improvement projects together or general wood working sounds fun.
        Other note: I brewed a beer I’m calling “hyper weiss” yesterday. it’s a coffee wheat with a Guatemalan coffee I roasted. Tests say it should be a delicious classic southern German wheat beer with smooth coffee flavor in the background.
        Kyle recently posted…Slave to the SystemMy Profile

        • 1500 says:

          Sorry about the bathroom issues. Tear out the old stuff and replace with ABS or PVC. Super fast and easy.

          Hyper weiss! Awesome! You sure you don’t want to move to Colorado next week?

          I’m still enjoying your 6 pack. Thanks again for that.

  16. ARBM says:

    I would love to be more confident in my DIY abilities to be able to do more projects around my house, but I’m afraid that I’ll make things worse and then we’ll have to pay more to get my mistakes fixed…

    Love the look of the posts though. And love the Easter eggs! My parents found a newspaper from the 40s when they renovated their kitchen, so they replaced it with a current newspaper when the buttoned everything up on the new kitchen.
    ARBM recently posted…Minimalist Honeymoon PackingMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Don’t be scared! 15 years ago, I didn’t know how to do anything. Now, I’m confident that I could build a house from scratch if I wanted to. YouTune and the local library are your friends.

      Newspaper, great idea! I left a beer bottle in a bathroom wall, but isn’t quite the same…

  17. ZJ Thorne says:

    I have little vision when it comes to home projects, but my girlfriend knows what would look best and what I would be delighted to learn how to do. It’s a great system. I really love my “bookshelves” now. Perfect project makes my home look like me.
    ZJ Thorne recently posted…My IRA Does Not Understand My Heart’s GoalMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      I have no vision or creativity either. I just walk around the neighborhood and “borrow” the ideas of others. Google Image Search is also a great source of inspiration.

  18. The Roamer says:

    Aww poor fool who finds your treasure map. I feel sorry for them already.

    So how long are you taking a break from blogging for?

    Also I noticed your net worth tally. Are you going to keep updating it monthly or is that no more since you’ve reached your goal.
    The Roamer recently posted…Big Savings & Happiness, Can you have both?My Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Oh yeah, I have to update that. Just no time. I’ll be back next week for a performance update, but not sure after that. I love to write, but just don’t have the time. Fall should be better.

  19. TinaP says:

    For years I’ve been fighting extremely high indoor temps in the hot summer months late afternoon – evening. While the AC isn’t the latest and greatest, it’s been checked and filled and all that good stuff. The heater can keep up in the winter just fine and the windows are solid so I’m sure there aren’t any ginormous leaks anywhere I’m missing. My last thought is insulation (the house is nearly 30 years old) and am planning on attacking that this year. From what I have read, attic insulation, or lack of, is likely the culprit and the heat is coming from the top down. I’m totally winging this so if you have any hints or lessons learned from your work, I’d appreciate any thoughts you have on this DIY!

    • 1500 says:

      Hey TinaP-

      What part of the country do you reside and what direction does your roof face? If you have a lot of south facing roof, this could be part of the problem.

      The very first thing I do when I buy a home is buy a bunch of blow-in insulation from Home Depot for the attic. Home Depot will rent you the machine for free if you buy a certain number of bags and it is an easy, two person job.

      Is the house old? Maybe the design of the ductwork isn’t up to snuff? This was the case in an old home we once lived in that had only one small return on the second floor.

      In any case, reply back or send me an email if you’d like to discuss more…

      • TinaP says:

        I am in Idaho and it’s a East/West roof, slightly SW/NE but not drastically south. The more west part has a covered patio the length of the house and plenty of shade as the sun makes it’s way down. The house is pushing 30 years old so it’s not a young pup, but not terribly out of date. It’s a 1 story, pretty small (1050 sq ft) house though so I’m not sure ductwork would make too big of a difference (but I’m 100% non qualified to make that statement at the same time). I did some time in the attic while my brother squeezed in wiring for a ceiling fan and I don’t recall having to swim through insulation at all, so I’m pretty sure there is none – minimal amount that exists. Sounds like I need to find a new friend at Home Depot for sure!

  20. It was a blast to read this post – I was literally smiling all the time!

    > No contractors having mental breakdowns in your driveway:
    Brought smile on my face imagining the scene 🙂

    > We’ve been at it for almost 3 years
    Imagining the pace at which you must be working again brought smile on my face 🙂 I started visualizing myself doing it at a snail speed !

    Vivek @ LifeAfterFI recently posted…After 60 hours of research, this is the itinerary that we came up for our Bhutan tripMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Thanks Vivek! That fight wasn’t funny at the time, but it’s amusing now that they are out of my life!

  21. Mrs PoP says:

    Your easter eggs are much more inspirational than ours, which tend to just be hearts with our initials and the year written inside. =)
    Mrs PoP recently posted…PoP Balance Sheet – April 2016My Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Ha ha, except for that treasure map. That may be de-inspiration for some unlucky soul…

  22. I love DIY!
    Reading about your projects is part of the reason I decided to give plumbing my own bathroom a go. Thanks for that!

    It’s telling you write that you mow your own lawn like that’s a really uncommon thing to do.

    I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t do their own lawns, but I would guess the average lawn in the UK is a lot smaller than the US.
    theFIREstarter recently posted…self build your way out of the housing crisis and a free pdf about money creation!My Profile

    • 1500 says:

      “Reading about your projects is part of the reason I decided to give plumbing my own bathroom a go. Thanks for that!”

      You’re welcome and that is awesome!

      I like mowing the lawn! I consider it a workout. No self-propelled mower for me!

      I’d say that about 25% of our neighbors use a lawn service, so it’s not the majority. However, if you have time to watch TV for 10 hours a week, you have time to mow your damn lawn!

  23. Loved the Easter Eggs. I’m mostly on board with this post. But a couple years ago, I decided I was FIRE and paying someone to take care of my lawn would be a glorious luxury. And the grass looks better than ever. It’s all about being conscious on where you spend and why.
    Financial Velociraptor recently posted…Written Put Disney (DIS)My Profile

    • 1500 says:

      “It’s all about being conscious on where you spend and why.”

      Yep, agree. I’ve spent $14 on one bottle of beer and I’m sure a lot of folks think that is ridiculous. To each, his own…

  24. Eric Bowlin says:

    Interesting post!

    I love getting stuff done on my own when I have time. It’s really great to build something and look back and see what I’ve accomplished.

    One opinion about contractors… A lot of people just pick the cheapest contractor and expect to get the best work out of them. If you are doing projects on your own residence, never go with the lowest cost contractor. Just my .02
    Eric Bowlin recently posted…The 50% Rule – Why It’s No Good But You Should Still Use ItMy Profile

  25. First off, I love the color of your house and the wrap-around porch. Secondly, that’s an incredible idea on sprucing up the ugly posts. Lastly, I couldn’t agree more with your mentioning of the sense of achievement that you feel when you’re done with a project. Last summer, we had a company come in and give us an quote on replacing the carpet and linoleum in the house we rent and, like you said, the labor costs were nearly double what the materials were going to cost…no thanks! Instead, 99 cents/sqft snap-together laminate flooring was ordered from Lowe’s and shipped to our house for FREE; following some room-by-room work over the next few weeks after several YouTube lessons, and VOILA! The project was completed for about 1/5 of the cost and I now have a new skill set for future projects on our eventual forever home.

    While I didn’t use any pearls of financial wisdom, I wrote our family’s name and a little hello to whoever eventually removes and replaces the flooring once we are long gone. Also, I hope you’ll be posting some additional photos of those posts once you’re finished!
    Brandon @ Nurse on Fire recently posted…The Clarity That Comes With Delayed GratificationMy Profile

  26. DIYs are great and your lawn looks fantastic! I spent the last couple of weekends cleaning up the front and back yard, pulling weeds, mowing and general cleaning. Coworkers and friends keeps telling me to just hire someone, but I love the sense of accomplishment looking at our yard after the work is completed. The first couple of weekends are usually the hardest, but it’s really easy maintenance after that. I also like getting to know our neighbors as they say hi to us as we clean up and we get to socialize our furry baby with a lot of things from the street, from bikes, to strollers, and people all ages, gender and size. Triple win!

  27. Kurt says:

    I had to get a DIY friend on Skype to help, but together we managed yesterday to identify the problem with an electrical circuit in our house–the breaker would instantly trip when a certain light switch was flipped on. Very satisfying, and I saved probably $100 in an electrician’s bill.
    Kurt recently posted…$400My Profile

  28. Ms. Montana says:

    We LOVE You tube also! We learned how to hang cabinets that way. We have done a ton of work ourselves and paid others for a fair share of it. We now have a saying around our place. “If it’s going to be done wrong, we would rather screw it up ourselves for free!” We have paid so much money for other people to mess things up.

  29. DIY projects around the house can be very relaxing, almost therapeutic. Like you, I love mowing the lawn and have developed quite the green thumb with my landscaping.

    Two summers ago, I built a paver patio in our backyard using tumbled Belgian pavers. It was a ton of back-breaking labor, and when I was finished, I lounged around on the couch for a couple days out of exhaustion. But nothing compares to the pride, enjoyment, and savings of a well-done DIY job.

  30. Morgan says:

    DIY projects certainly are exciting and fun to tackle on your own! Taking on home improvement projects without professional help can be a little risky, but it can be done if you have guidance. It looks like you’ve gotten the hang of it! Nice work! Thanks for sharing!

  31. Michelle @ TheseTwoThings says:

    I just cut my own hair! Totally on board with you 🙂

  32. Lisa Moore says:

    are wonderful tips, need to reform my house too, and you helped me with their tips, thanks

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