Step By Step Problem Solving

When you are at retirement age, a lot of renovating tasks can be intimidating. Digging trenches in the sunlight can wear you out fast. Running electric lines in a hot attic can drain your body fluids. Installing insulation can choke you even with a face mask. Oh, wait, that goes for most people!

I know men that were younger than me had their own issues. Bad backs, blown out knees, and problems working in the heat were just some of the problems they had. My problem has been trouble with my legs. They stiffen up easily and I can’t bend them like I used to.. I have been told that this is probably due to a compressional fracture in my spine. I got this when I crashed in a sailplane at the age of 22 (See my The Thrill Of Crashing A Sailplane).

This handicap forces me to lie down when doing jobs that are down low or near the floor. Sometimes I sit in a chair with rollers or use a bucket to sit on. I am also more diligent now about wearing eye protection, heavy-duty gloves, and a face mask. In short, I have adapted to the handling of renovations by myself. That is the first step in any project I pursue.

Taking proper steps at the start of each project is part of my routine. I even spend time doing computerized drawings to lay things out for material amounts needed, item locations, and so on. As I have aged, I have gained some patience and mellowed even more. I am no longer under the gun to finish on time. I also don’t have to make a profit. Taking my time saves me money, stress, and creates an atmosphere of job safety.

This is Part 10 in the BUDGETHOUSE RENOVATOR series that involves the search for, location of, and unique auction-style purchase of my home in the country. The series includes dealing with a foreign based auction house and escrow to help facilitate this transaction. Also, I show how I worked with a mortgage company programmed to process the “specialized” FHA 203k Program rehabilitation loans. My loan included funds to buy “and” repair my house. Part 9 is about dealing with Move in Events and first Renovation Steps. My next article in Part 11 is entitled My DIY Eurokitchen“. It will expand on kitchen cabinet building and related steps with some more trials thrown in for laughs.

Demolition Insights

The next step after planning a remodel or bringing a neglected home up to snuff is demolition. After removing unwanted items, I loaded my utility trailer with all sharp edges and nails pointing downward. I then covered the whole mess with a rubberized canvas tarp designed to protect cargoes on the back of a delivery truck. Light duty tarps found in home centers or hardware stores will rip apart on the highway. Wind pressure is really significant the faster you go.

I fasten a big long ratchet strap down the center, front to back. Then I loop 5 or 6 similar straps sideways around the center strap at key points over the tarp. Then I take bungee cords and fasten them to the tarp metal tie-down grommets and secure those to the trailer as well. It is amazing how much fuss any loose area of the tarp will make at speed. Even a heavy-duty tarp will start to tear if any part of it flaps up and down long enough. I had to learn all of this the hard way.

When I used the dump in Ft. Lauderdale, the minimum charge was $68. In Walton County, local residents can use the dump for free. This is a nice cost saving feature when making lots of trips.

You need some planning here, as well. You have to segregate your loads. Building materials go in one area, household garbage in another, and yard waste somewhere else. If it has been raining hard, you might get stuck in the sandy muck at the drop off points at the dump. I have a Chevy Tahoe with a traction control system and I still have almost bogged down once or twice.

I notice a lot of contractors, carpenters, and laborers doing demo work without gloves. This is a mistake. It is so easy to jam a nail into your hands, rip skin open on broken boards, or cut fingers with pieces of razor sharp glass. I bought a pair of leather welding gloves at Lowe’s and they have really protected my digits (when I remember to wear them).

I also use them when operating my chain saw. It is a big powerful unit and the thought of a chain breaking at high-speed scares me. I am training myself to be more careful (and patient) as I get older.

Getting Materials

Since I have a pickup truck, I can get small loads like a limited amount of drywall, framing lumber, tools, electric and plumbing supplies in the back. It has a hinged hard tonneau cover for protection against weather and theft, so I can’t put tall items in.

The utility trailer was really purchased in Louisiana doing projects there after Hurricane Katrina. I knew that scores of contractors would be clamoring for deliveries at the same time that I was, so I needed the trailer to get materials to keep jobs going.

It has been extremely useful in the past for many different functions. I now use it to simply get materials for my house or taking demo waste to the landfill. Again, the tarp comes in handy when there is need for protection against rain or to hold loose materials from flying off.

One Room At A Time

The next step before moving in was the task of getting 2 rooms ready for sleeping at night and simply hanging out when we needed a break. We had 2 bedrooms that were in decent shape as far as the overall condition of the drywall, electrical outlets, entry doors and windows were concerned. Painting the ceiling and walls were the first order of business, so we got that done. Neither room had finished floor coverings yet, but we knew we could stay in them as is while the rest of the house was being remodeled.

I did have to repair the sub floor in one because the adjacent guest bath shower head was broken and, over time, had leaked water into a corner section of the room and rotted out a small section of the plywood subfloor.

Outlet cover plates, a new fanlight fixture, and an infrared heater took care of our immediate needs. These 2 rooms would be the only ones to receive carpet later on, so we went ahead and used them until the installation date was upon us. Since the beds and furniture would need to be removed by the installers anyways, the temporary setup did not become an issue. So, for the time being, we had a place to spend idle time or get a good nights rest.

During this early phase, we had Dish TV and Century Link Internet installed. One-wire connections to routers were all that was needed. WIFI capability for both replaced the need for individual outlets in each room. Nice!

First Big Renovation Project

The master bedroom had been stripped of the 1/4 inch plywood panels loosely applied to the framing. There was no insulation in the ceiling and heat escaped directly into the attic. On top of that, the wiring was a complete mess.

There was no door on the closet or master bathroom and the layout on one wall was poorly done. The utility room (water heater and breaker panel location) on the other side of the dresser wall had no drywall covering as well, so the bare studs created an open view into the hallway.

My first task involved wall framing repairs where necessary. Next was cleaning up hodgepodge wiring and installing new lines dedicated for recessed mood lighting and two ceiling fans. I then configured same for installation of 3 way switches and a dimmer for the lights.

Side Note: Recessed lights surrounded by insulation is a fire hazard because of the searing heat produced by standard concealed light bulbs. Many newer fixture cans are rated for safe contact with insulation, especially those with LED bulbs ($$$). Still, the idea of accepting that rating still bothers me. So, what I did for an economical solution was purchase inexpensive fixtures and set them inside 6″ diameter sections of metal duct work. I scribed and cut pieces of 1/2″ plywood to screw to the inside of each piece of 18″ tall duct piece flush with the bottom. Then I drilled a 3″ hole in the center of the plywood, which said fixture required for installation. to hold the recessed light can. This kept the fixture away from the insulation and provided an escape route through the opening on top for the heat generated.

Next item on the agenda was the placement of the insulation between the ceiling joists, and for this, I used R-30 batts with the paper side facing the room. However, even this straightforward task became an adventurous undertaking. 

When I found time running thin, I got careless with my procedural antics. I was using a very hot halogen light for this work and had it sitting on the bed in the middle of the room. When I had a strung out piece of insulation cross over the light for a moment, the paper backing caught fire. Since my back was turned, my helpmate (who doubles as my wife) noticed the mishap immediately and I was able to extinguish the flames without further damage.

DIY Heavy Lifting

With the electric work and insulation done, the wall coverings were the next step. Drywall comes in 2 basic lengths – 8′ and 12′. It takes 2 people for the longer length, so I chose the 4′ x 8′ x 1/2″ panels. 5/8″ thick panels have an acceptable fire rating, but who really cares in a framed house.

The ceiling goes in first. What I did for assistance was rent a drywall lift for the task. Mine came in a 3 piece breakdown format. It rolls on wheels and has a safety crank to lift drywall uptight against the ceiling joists. I still had to lift the sheets over my head and onto the lift arms. But holding a panel tight against the framing right where you want it while you screw it in place was a great since I was working alone. No balancing on your head or dropped panels landing on the floor.

After finishing the ceiling panels I returned the lift to the rental yard. Cost was about $50 for the day and was well worth it. Strained back muscles and a stiff neck are no fun, and that goes for any age.

The Pergo flooring was already in so we moved into that bedroom after I reinstalled the bedroom door. We had a family reunion planned (believe it or not) and our son needed to use the guest bedroom we were presently in.

Shortly afterwards, our daughter and her husband (Stephanie and Shaun) came from Nevada but were late for the reunion. They had serious breakdowns in route and could not make it in time. It did work to our advantage though.

Shaun was quite adept at drywall finishing, so I gave the task to him. We moved out of the master bedroom after the initial reunion, and he went to work. He did an excellent job, and we were able to paint the room within a week with the help of Stephanie. After Shaun installed the baseboard, we moved back in. Awesome!

Also, prior to everyone’s arrival for the reunion, I did the kitchen. It was not mentioned in this blog because that project is a whole topic unto itself. That article in Part 11 is entitled My DIY Eurokitchen“.  I will tell you what that type of kitchen is and how I built it. Till then!

I am requesting that my readers click on the links provided and download a sample read of each book and give a review on Amazon. You will have free access to the first four chapters of each book. My hope is that you will like the story lines enough to obtain either an eBook version or a paperback copy that you can put on your bookshelf as a masterpiece when you are done. FATE STALKS A HERO I: RESURGENCE, FATE STALKS A HERO II:THE FIJI FULCRUM, and THE SAGA OF HERACLES PENOIT. I will be giving excerpts on these works in upcoming blogs to familiarize you the reader with exciting details about the contents of each one. Thank you!


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