Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Life and the Art of Home Remodeling

That's my house. My home.

Of course, that's not what it looks like now, but that's what it used to look like. It was built in 1916 by my wife's great grandfather. In its time it was one of the most modern homes in the Michiana area.

Today, the house looks a bit different - inside and out. The siding has changed, the porch is enclosed with windows, there are full-grown trees in the yard and it's on a street corner.

This past year, my wife and I have spent much of our time working on the inside of the house. We learned in February that we'd be moving there and immediately started working on the remodeling process. We completely gutted the entire top floor and refinished it, adding some new rooms and features along the way. We recently gave several rooms on the lower level a facelift and did a major renovation in the kitchen.

All the work has made 2010 a bit of a blur, but it also made it a very significant year in our lives.

Throughout the process of remodeling, I learned a lot. I learned skills. I learned about my abilities and limitations. I learned about other people's personalities and my own. I learned about my wife and kids. I learned a lot!

Here are some of the most significant lessons I've learned this past year:

Measure twice, cut once.
I've heard the saying many times in my life, but it became much more than a cute saying throughout this project. There are the obvious implications when it comes to the actual act of measuring and cutting, but there are other applications as well.

We did quite a bit of framing, hanging drywall and trim work. All of those tasks require very accurate measurements and cuts. If you fail to do so, you'll cost yourself a lot of time and money.

In the bigger picture, I learned the value of analyzing a situation before just jumping in. Similarly, the same lesson can be applied to thinking before you speak. It's not in my nature to be slow to act or speak, but I had to learn patience as I tried to get my house remodeled as quickly as possible.

When someone offers help, accept it.
I'm always tempted to go it alone. I don't know if it's just part of my personality or a function of being a man, but I find it much easier and less stressful to do things on my own than to try to lead someone else in helping me accomplish tasks. But, it didn't take me long to learn that this project was much too big for me to try to do by myself.

For example, it took two full weekends with 4-6 people working to clean out the upper level of our house and get it ready for the first steps toward remodeling. I could have done that job by myself, but it would have taken me at least a month of weekends and we didn't have that kind of time.

When others came to help I had to take time away from doing actual work to show them how they could help, but in the end we accomplished so much more together than I could have done alone.

And that leads me to the next lesson ...

Know your limits.
There were many parts of the remodeling process that I was able to do myself, but there were just as many that I could not have pulled off without help. Whether the help came in the form of actual assistance or in the giving of advice, I would have been stuck without input from others.

Several times I caught myself getting ready to jump into something that I was completely unprepared for. At some points I had to throw up my hands and call for help, but it was all part of the learning process.

Because of the help I received from others, I learned how to hang ceiling joists, frame walls, insulate walls and ceilings, build door jambs, build a proper header, use a table saw and many other tools.

My limits would not have allowed me to finish the project, but with help from others and a willingness to learn, I went beyond those limits to get it done.

Hug your wife and kids.
It was very tempting to pour every spare second into the work. And at times that's what I did. But that approach damaged my relationship with my wife and kids. The stress and lack of connection with the most important people in my life wore us down. We misplaced our priorities and paid dearly for it.

Fortunately, we spotted the problem early enough that we were able to change the trend and take breaks when it was needed. The work still got done, just not as quickly. But the relationships were restored and that is way more important than any project.

So, always take the time to hug your family. Spend time with the people who are most important to you. Then go back to work.

No comments: