We are doing all kinds of crazy projects to the home we recently bought. I call it Uglyhouse because it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wrong. The renovations on Uglyhouse have temporarily turned our lives upside down. I’m not sure if things have ever been so chaotic. We spent Saturday tearing off part of the roof and loading a 20 yard dumpster to capacity.
My body is sore. My lower back hurts, my right quadriceps has a big bruise from dropping a pile of wood and I am friggin’ exhausted. As I’m carrying heavy piles of junk around, I look west and see the Rocky Mountains taunting me: “Come on, stop all of that construction nonsense and come up for a hike.” Sorry mountains, no=can-do right at this moment.
The siren call of the Rockies is tempting, but I think the self inflected torture has all been worth it. We’ve saved thousands of dollars by doing many of these tasks ourselves. Today, I’ll talk about a couple of them.
Uglyhouse has a massive garage of about 700 square feet. Great, I love it! Any man who doesn’t appreciate a large garage isn’t right in the head. What isn’t so great is that the rest of the home is just 1400 square feet and has only 1 bathroom (not fun for a family of 4). We did some research and found that we could legally expand the living space into the garage! Woo! The only thing stopping us was a concrete wall. We researched the attic trusses and discovered that we could eliminate the wall without compromising the structural integrity of the home. Another woo!
We found someone to cut the wall out for a couple hundred bucks. Unfortunately, that couple hundred didn’t involve taking the concrete away. How much could that cost I said to myself? Turns out a lot.
As is typical with contractors, the first couple guys we called didn’t call back. When someone did call back, he let us know that the cost would be $125/square foot plus mileage fees to get to our place. I confirmed with him that the price was “one-hundred-and-twenty-five-dollars-per-square-foot” (it was) and told him I’d get back to him. I did some calculations and discovered that it would cost $3,000 to have this guy cart the wall away. Whoah, no way.
But what to do now? The Internet told me a 60 pound jackhammer would probably break up the concrete. I called the tool rental place and found that we could rent one for $44. I wondered if scrawny me would be able to operate it? To my surprise, it was easy and it only took 2 hours to demolish the whole thing. We had to get a dumpster to throw out other building materials and the trash people let us know we could put concrete in it. Great! So, we went from $3,000 down to $44. It was pretty miserable loading all of that concrete into the dumpster, but it only took a couple hours. Score one for me! (Mrs. 1500 note: Apparently, all this construction has produced a time warp in Mr. 1500’s brain. He is forgetting about the approximately 5 hours it took to pick up all that broken up concrete and put it into used grain bags from the brewery down the street. We still saved a ton of money, but it took more than a couple hours to dispose of it.)
Hellish Hot Hole Digging
We’re also building a deck and changing the roof-line of our place. This required that we dig 11 post holes. Again, it was nearly impossible to get a contractor on the phone, but when I finally got someone, he wanted $500. Hmmmmm, I’ll get back to you.
I grabbed a shovel, my work gloves and headed out to the yard. It was hot and miserable, but in about an hour, I had my first 3 holes dug. Success! Also, I got a great shoulder workout! As of this writing, I have about 7 holes dug. I hope to complete the other 4 in the next day or so. I admit that it is pretty miserable work, but I’ve got $500 more dollars in my pocket as a result. (Mrs. 1500 note: I dug half of one of the holes.)
Try it Yourself
With the exception of Mr. Money Mustache who seems to know how to do just about anything, most folks seem to stay within narrow comfort zones. Toilet leaks? Call the plumber. Car won’t start? Call the mechanic.
I challenge you to think about problems differently. The awesome thing is that you have the most powerful research tool the world has ever known. It’s free and called Google.com. If your faucet leaks or your toilet runs, I’ll bet someone else has had the exact same problem. I am always pleasantly surprised when I can often find an accurate fix for my issue on YouTube, right down to the same make and model. This past year, I fixed a leaky faucet and a busted washing machine by following videos on YouTube.
Back to Uglyhouse
Some day, in the not too distant future, Uglyhouse will be complete. I’ll have a ton of sweat and blood into the project by the time it’s done, but I’ll have saved loads of money too. The sense of gratitude you get when you step back and look at a newly remodeled kitchen or bathroom is just fantastic. Sometimes, especially with a big project, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is where I’m at now. However, gradually, and in very small steps, Uglyhouse will become beautiful*.
*Mrs. 1500 note: I cannot wait. We removed the gutters over the weekend. As Murphy’s Law dictates, a huge thunderstorm rolled into the area on Monday. We hastily put a bunch of plastic totes on the ground to catch the runoff. As I bailed water out of the plastic totes in the middle of a downpour, I thought ugly and evil thoughts about this house. Giant thanks to Colin Hay for Beautiful World, which I sung – rather loudly and probably to the dismay of my neighbor – to keep my sanity. I had to bail water 4 times…
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