Work Your Ass Off & Never Give Up

I happened to pin a picture with the phrase “Work your ass off an never give up” a few days ago, and throughout the weekend when I would start making noises that could only be classified as extreme frustration and/or a cow being swung around by its tail, my mom (who follows my pins) would shout from the other room where she was determinedly scrubbing out my cabinets, “Remember… work your ass off and never give up!”

After seven years of documenting my home renovations, I’m beyond the point where I expect any project I work on to come off as easy as the ones you see on TV. I expect a few bumps in the road, and the last few days have given me plenty. (And I’m not saying I don’t swear a little and throw my tools around, but that doesn’t mean I’m not loving every minute of working my ass off.)

Here are some of the projects this weekend that did not go as planned:

1.) Opening the french doors to the patio. The company that auctioned this house of screwed the doors shut, which, fine, whatever, I’ll just remove the screws, except…

Yeah. Broken screw through the bottom of the door. Which meant hours of this:

I mean, literally hours. I wore through two $15 blades (this one being the incorrect type of blade, by the way, but it was all I had left and I was determined.)

Apparently this screw was made of adamantium, except for the part that snapped in half. I didn’t think I was making any progress at all, so I finally called my dad up and was like, “I’m about to throw a pry-bar through a very expensive door, suggest an alternate course of action please.” And then he came up to the house and five minutes later I had to stop him from throwing a pry-bar through a very expensive door. We have similar temperaments. In the end he managed to pop the door open by prying between the door and metal weatherstripping on the outside. Turns out all that sawing was working and there was just the tiniest bit of metal holding the door in place.

It did require taking the door off the hinges once it was open and sanding down the threshold. It still sticks but at least it opens.

2.) Removal of the improperly winterized sink faucet. This was yet another project that seemed like it should have been relatively straightforward (I can’t tell you how many faucets I’ve switched out at this point) but instead it took two days of me periodically doing this…


And sometimes this…


Not to mention $40 in new tools, and letting both a young guy and an old guy take a turn under the sink before we ended up with this. (Protip: Seriously, just hit it with a hammer.)

3.) Carpet removal. I’ve never removed carpet from stairs before, but holy staples, just getting the bottom two stairs off was a better quad workout than doing squats at the gym.


(This was prior to heat and global warming, obviously, which is why I’m wearing 50 layers.) Apparently there’s a very easy way to get carpet off of your stairs and it consists of bribery in the form of six pints of Ben & Jerry’s. Who knew?

4.) Refinishing the hardwood floor. This was actually what I spent most of my time on over the last four days, which is why I’m grateful for everyone who came up to the house and helped with the myriad of other little projects that I didn’t have time to tackle because I was too busy getting six new blisters on my hands.

Based on my other refinishing experiences, using the drum sander I expected to have to make maybe two passes over each section of the floor per sandpaper grit. So maybe six passes total. Ha.


This is what the floor looked like after maybe ten passes of the coarsest grit sandpaper I had. Because the wood floors sat in sub-freezing temps for the winter, the boards began to cup at the edges, and that added to the 15 layers of shellac on these things made sanding a less-than-efficient process.

About 5 hours into this process I realized there was no way I was going to be able to get all of the floors done over the weekend, so I readjusted my plan to just finish the floors in the “study” which is going to be my temporary bedroom.

After 10 hours I thought I may not be able to even get that done.

After 15 hours, I decided that I would be dammed if I didn’t get this room done, but that it was definitely going to be more cost effective for me to hire out the other two rooms instead of renting the sander for another two weeks and taking all of my vacation days from work just to sand down the floors. I have a house to paint and a barn to side, after all.

Even simple tasks like removing the quarter-round were difficult because of the thirteen coats of poly someone put over them, effectively gluing them to the floor.

And of course the edger couldn’t reach under the radiators, and did a rather ineffectual job (again, thanks to those warped boards.)

So… you can say that didn’t go quite like I planned, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. And, even though my muscles are so sore that it hurts to type this, it’s all worth it because this room is now officially ready for stain.

It may not be all the way dry by move-in day, but I’ll just park my mattress in the world’s biggest hallway for a few days if necessary. We all know it won’t be my first time sleeping in the middle of a construction zone.

There are still a lot more little projects to tackle, not to mention a lot of things to move, in the next couple of days. I’ve been flopping onto my bed covered in sawdust and passing out from sheer physical exhaustion each night, which, let me tell you, feels fantastic after a month of not being able to sleep because of the house-buying anxiety.

I wouldn’t trade this work for anything, and I can’t wait to be living smack in the middle of all this chaos awesomeness. It’s just where I’m meant to be.

17 Responses

    1. How could I forget you have that pickup? (After hauling our awesome Junk Hunt finds around in it!) I am absolutely going to call you if I need help (and by help I obviously mean “help drinking beer by the bonfire”) but I totally hired movers for the heavy lifting this time.

  1. Well, at one point over the weekend, my daughter plopped her head down on the kitchen table in weariness. She just wanted one thing to go as planned. When her dad showed up and fixed two things pretty quickly, I realized something. He is her hero.

  2. You know, it actually looks like you’ve gotten a TON done. Working your ass off, indeed. Nice feeling, isn’t it? 🙂

  3. Your mom’s made me smile because my dad rescues me all the time when my projects go wonky. My dad can do anything. Seriously. He’s totally Superman. Sounds like you’re lucky to have your very own hero too 🙂 And when I pulled the carpet off our stairs I’m pretty sure we discovered 150 staples per stair. Took me a freaking week of evenings to get all those little suckers out.

  4. And I was complaining about raking leaves this weekend! Glad to hear you’re going to hire out for the other floors, but you did a fantastic job!

  5. Here I was bitching because I battled a single clump of ornamental grass for three or four hours this weekend. You obviously are the warrior here! Fantastic!

  6. Wow, way to go on the old shellacked floor! Your weekend = my year. 😉 I’ve been sporadically following your blog and I love it! Congrats on a new house it looks like!

  7. The floors are going to look great! I’m just wondering, though, if after the heat’s been on a few weeks if the cupping isn’t going to reverse somewhat?
    You’re obviously exhausted, but thank you for keeping us DIY voyeurs up to date!

  8. This is a link to a site that talks about a tool for extracting broken screws. I have one of these and am very happy to say that I have never had to use it. But it’s nice to keep on hand, just in case. Here’s the link:

    The other thing I have found helpful, if I can expose enough of the screw, is to fasten on to it with pliers and gradually work it out. That’s the method I’ve used for a long time, and it does work. A bit cumbersome, though, which is why I got the screw extractor.

  9. i’m not familiar with the variable speed adjustability of the rockwell oscillating tool, but the fein has 5 or 6 levels with the higher number being the fastest. for cutting/drilling metal you should always be at a lower speed (like a 2 or 3 on the fein) and it looks like you were at a higher speed. that and using a wood blade probably screwed you, no pun intended.
    also, this is a good opportunity to buy a milwaukee reciprocating saw if you don’t already have one. it would have cut through those in a few seconds.

  10. 1 million internet points to you for a correctly used reference to adamantium!!!

    I need to get out more…

  11. Your mom pwn’d you, what a fantastic moment (and quote!!!)

    So well put – sleeping in sawdust is going to feel fantastic after your last month!

    Glad I saw your experience with sanding the floors – convinced to hire it out now! Just found original 1890 hardwood beneath pergo in the 2nd floor!

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I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.