Do It Myself Renovating

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.

I know men that were younger than me had their own issues. Bad backs, blown out knees, and issues with 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 properly. 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 Crashing A Sailplane blog).

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 handle renovations by myself. That is the first step in any project.

Taking proper steps in doing 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 is demolition. After removing unwanted items, I would load my utility trailer with all sharp edges and nails pointing downward. I 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 would fasten a big long ratchet strap down the center, front to back. Then I would fasten 5 or 6 similar straps sideways at key points over the tarp. Then I would take bungee chords 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. And even a heavy-duty tarp will start to tear if any part 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, 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. 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 broken 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 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 to ready 2 rooms for sleeping and hanging out. We had 2 bedrooms that were in decent shape as far as condition of drywall, electrical outlets, and had doors and windows installed. Painting the ceiling and walls were the first priority. No flooring yet, but we could stay in them while the house was being remodeled.

I had to repair the sub floor in one because the adjacent guest bath shower head was broken. It had leaked water into a corner section of one bedroom and rotted out the plywood.

Outlet cover plates, light fixtures and ceiling fans took care of our immediate needs. These 2 rooms would be the only ones to receive carpet later on. We used them ahead of that installation, anyways, knowing beds and furniture would come out. But for now, we had a place to hang out.

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 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. The wiring was a complete mess.

There was no door on the closet or master bathroom. The layout on one wall was poorly done. The utility room (water heater and breaker panel) on the other side had no wall covering so the framed walls were wide open.

My first task was to fix the framing where necessary. Next was to repair the wiring. I had to configure 3″ recessed lights in the ceiling and create 2 outlets for future ceiling fans. I installed 3 way switches and a dimmer for the lights.

Side Note: Recessed lights surrounded by insulation is a fire hazard. Many newer fixture cans are rated for insulation contact, but still scare me. What I did was purchase inexpensive fixtures and protected them inside 6″ sections of metal duct work. I scribed and cut pieces of 1/2″ plywood to screw to the bottom inside of each piece of duct. Then I drilled a 3″ hole in the center of the plywood to hold the recessed light can. This kept the fixture away from the insulation and provided an escape for the heat generated. LED replacement bulbs are now available and produce almost no heat at all.

Next was the insulation. I used R-30 batts in the ceiling. Being impatient to finish (I cough and itch when doing this work) almost cost me. I needed to use 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, the insulation caught fire. My wife caught it in time 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 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 drywall up over my head and onto the lift arms. But holding a panel tight against the framing while you screw it in was great. No balancing on your head.

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 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. I did not mention the work 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 when you are done.  




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