I Hear Admitting It Is The First Step

Conversation I had with my new plumber today:

Me: So how big do I need to dig that hole?

Plumber: Big enough for my ass to fit in it.

Me: [Reaching for tape measure] Well, hold still a minute then.

On the list of qualifications I expect in my subs “sense of humor” falls just under “knows better than to clog the one working toilet in my house and leave it for me to find out the hard way,” Clearly it’s been hit or miss so far on the people I’ve had working at the Liberty House, but I have high hopes for a guy that let me measure the size of his ass before 8:00 on a Tuesday morning.

The fact that I was having a conversation with a plumber at all tells you that I finally had to sit myself down and have a little come-to-jesus talk about progress on the house and how many projects I can take on at the moment. I’ve got three months left to tackle the rest of the “repairs” mandated by the bank so that I can get my money out of escrow. Here’s the list I made back in march, with a few updates:

Bank mandated repairs:

  1. Scape and paint interior (specifically upstairs full bath ceiling, master bedroom walls)
  2. Repair exterior wood, scrape and paint
  3. Repair or replace cracked window in bedroom*
  4. Replace missing windows in basement*
  5. Install missing outlet covers
  6. Repair missing guardrail on rear deck
  7. Restain front porch and rear deck
  8. Replace roof on home
  9. Replace roof on outbuilding (aka Future Donkey Barn)
  10. Re-side garage
  11. Remove debris – In progress

Must-do repairs the bank didn’t know about:

  1. Repair radiator pipes
  2. Replace all improperly winterized (and now broken) faucets
  3. Install new locks on all doors
  4. Remove skylights
  5. Replace window in master bath*
  6. Install new garage door on back of garage*

New repairs that have cropped up in the last three months:

  1. Install flooring in downstairs bedroom
  2. Cap off broken spigot in debris pile*
  3. Patch skylight holes and other holes in ceilings*
  4. Replace gaskets in about-to-explode boiler*
  5. Fix leaking drain in downstairs shower
  6. Remove broken elbow from upstairs shower plumbing

I just looked at that list and wondered what the hell I’ve been doing for the last ten weeks. Then I calculated how many hours I’ve spent chasing a chipmunk around my basement (he’s still down there, laughing at me) and added it to the 10 hours of working time I’ve lost each week to my new extra-long daily commute plus all the hours I spend careening white-knuckled around my property on the mower these days and all of the sudden everything made sense again. And, yes, I had a little project ADD going on there for a minute, but this list just up and drop-kicked the little devil that’s been whispering in my ear about that dresser that needs refinishing right off my shoulder.

It also inspired me to do what my dad has been telling me to do for the last seven years of my life, and call in professional help. In the last two days I’ve talked to a drywaller, plumber, glass block installer, historic window restoration specialist, and a guy that installs garage doors. Plus my HVAC guy who—bless his heart—is in the #2 spot on my speed dial because I have to call him almost weekly to come and talk my temperamental boiler down off the ledge.

Asking for help, even when I’m paying for it? It’s not what I do. The part I love about DIY (other than using power tools, obviously, and being self-reliant, and the smell of sawdust) is figuring things out as I go. The downside is that for a lot of projects it still takes me at least twice as long as it would take a (good) professional to do the same job. Of course, getting stuck with a bad professional—and I’ve been down that road a time or two–means it will cost twice as much for a guy to do a job half as good as I would, and may result in me going to jail if anyone ever finds his body buried in the back yard.

But right now I’m at the point where it’s either time to call in the troops, or I’m going to have to take a leave of absence from my day job for the next few months, and hey… mortgage to pay. So I spent a lot of time with Angie’s List and the BBB last weekend, and there is going to be a veritable parade of subs in and out of my house over the next couple of weeks hopefully tackling the asterisked projects above.

The projects left for me include quite a bit of scraping, staining, painting, and general miscellany, plus the two biggies—roofing the donkey barn and siding the garage. So plenty of opportunities for me to a.) capture my ineptitude on video, 2.) fall from a great height, and 3.) learn a few new things that I can write about. That last one is awesome because I kind of felt I didn’t have enough going on at the moment and also just signed up for a few new writing gigs. More details on that bit of fun coming soon.

15 Responses

  1. “my dad has been telling me to do for the last seven years of my life, and call in professional help.”

    Your Dad sounds like my brother.

    It’s amazing that the bank is holding onto your money until you paint an interior room. What happens if you miss the three month deadline?

    1. I do not know, actually. It’s quite a chunk of change so I’m hoping not to test it!

  2. So, I’m just wondering – we have a program here in MD where companies are hired by the state/feds to come in and provide an energy audit. A friends house “failed” the audit and they are now getting new insulation blown into their walls and ceiling and having their oil furnace pulled out and replaced with a new heat pump after their duct work gets cleaned. All of this is costing them absolutely nothing. I don’t know if its completely income based or not, but maybe you have a similar program in your neck of the woods that could help with some of your boiler/bank issues? That’s a mighty big list but I’m sure you’ll kick ass and get it done 🙂

  3. Your list sounds a lot like mine. I do a lot of fix it jobs myself and when I cant figure something out I surf youtube for some how-to’s its a grea place to get a free lesson.

  4. Problem is, sometimes in an old house, figuring it out takes twice as long as actually doing it. It takes some real self-talk to convince yourself to call someone in. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve hired someone the last five years. Usually just can’t bring myself to do it.

    But I do ask for help from friends all the time. Because some things just require more than two hands. So kick out the small things, like replacing outlet covers, and once you cross a few more things off it won’t seem quite as overwhelming. And a couple more bonfire parties should get the debris pile, siding and roofing done with lots of help. Would certainly come help if I could!

  5. I feel you. I never call in reinforcements. But I’m reaching that point where I’ve framed about 70% of my basement project *months* later than I was hoping {first trimester pregnancy exhaustion while chasing a toddler did me in} and I want to be completely done before I get too fat to move easily. So I’m looking for a plumber, HVAC, electrical, and drywall guy to get me roughed and drywalled so I can do all the finishes. I’m in the Ann Arbor area so if you have good names please, please share. It kills me because the rough plumb and HVAC are literally teeny tiny jobs, but I know a professional can bang it out quick.

  6. It’s hard to ask for help but sometimes you just have to. And in the end? It’s usually totally worth it because it’s simply DONE (quickly). Plus then you can focus on fun things; like not falling off the roof.

  7. I say hire it out. There’s a good chance – maybe 40%, oh probably more like 30% – that the contractor will be hot. And keep his crack tucked in.

  8. Not sure what to day because can’t stop laughing over Michele’s comment! Wish I were a few states closer to help you out!

  9. There’s no shame for calling in contractors when you’re on a tight deadline. Especially with the amount of property you have to care for and the size of your list! be careful on that roof!

  10. One of the best parts to professional help is that you have someone else to blame.

  11. My sister and her husband just bought a house just like your Liberty House, but in Michigan, just north of Port Huron. I think theirs is in worse condition than yours.

    They are so happy to move out of the city (I totally understand that) that they are making major repairs while living in the house.

    I’ll send them a link to your blog so they can gain from your wisdom!

    Love your blog. Thanks!

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