Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 486 (257) Home projects

My wife and I had just raised our first wall. We were working on an expansion of our house by building on a new dining room. We had completed the foundation work and the pillars that were to hold it up off the ground. We had set two beams that tied it to our house and we had set the floor joists and covered the floor. We were about to enter the framing stage. We  measured, cut and assembled the first wall and then hoisted it into position and nailed it down. It looked great. Then our advisor came on the scene. We had to take the wall down, take it apart and start again.

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

We had not been careful enough when joining the two-by-fours together that form the window and door posts: where you have to double the strength. I had not looked close enough and they weren't positioned just exactly parallel. They ranged off by 1/8 to 1/4 inch in some places. He told me that it would cause problems later. He also told me that I needed to keep the nails connecting these two studs towards the outside edge. "The center of studs are for pipes and wires. Nails always go toward the outside."

Brenda and I had careers that were mental not physical. We worked mostly with our minds. We were teachers. When we retired one of our delights was to build things with our hands. We wanted to be able to see the results of what we did. Household projects have filled this role to a T.

On our dinning room project we hired a good carpenter to advise us. He would stop by and point out what came next or how to do something or how to not do something. I insisted on paying him his usual hourly rate for every minute he spent with us; in person or on the phone. We are now on our fourth project.

We have learned how to mix and poor concrete, make forms, use rebar and use a transit. We have learned how to use the table saw, circular saw, radial arm saw, scroll saw, reciprocal saw and hand saw. We also purchased them all over time. We have now collected almost all the tools that are need for home construction. We never went out and bought all of these tools at once. Our rule has been to buy one new tool with each new project. It has worked pretty well and doesn't drain our bank account.

Brenda has a knack for  drawing plans and also knows how to read them. And unlike me, she knows how to follow them when a project gets under way. She is the brains and I am - alas - the brawn. I have learned to either listen to her in these matters or make mistakes. It is an easy choice.

We have bumped out our entry way. We have added the dinning room which included installing two sets of french doors. Off this dinning room addition we added a deck with two levels. It sets on pillars ten feet up in the air and has a wide stairway that descends into the yard. We have remodeled two bathrooms and are now working on our third. Brenda has become a skilled tile setter as well as our on-site electrician.

Home projects have a way of leading one into another. We have a close friend who is an expert fine furniture maker. (His website is listed on our home page.) He has helped us learn about furniture making and assisted us on several projects. Once again it was fun to use our hands and see the results of our labor and then enjoy the finished product on a daily basis. We both worked with him in his shop and learned how to use a joiner, planner, band saw, sander, workbench, and build beautiful joints. We have built a hall table, end table, stool, and a round walnut dinning table that expands to seat eight or even ten. Brenda became so adapt at this type of work that our friend always says that he would hire her. He doesn't say the same about me.

This all sounds like a lot of work but it was done over twenty odd years and at a very slow pace. We usually limit our time on projects of this nature to one to two hours per day. One project seems to always lead to another like there is no end. Therefore - no hurry. Our daily routine takes priority.  A home project a few hours a day; a few days a week; offer a perfect change of pace. They are manageable and fun.

Can anyone do these type of projects? Our experience would indicated the answer is "yes".  As long as you realize that you don't know everything and are very open to asking for advice or assistance you can do it. Today you can go online and find helpful videos on almost any task or home project. Some are very good; of course some are not. If you ask around your neighborhood you may find some one who would be very glad to advise you. They may do it for a fee or swap for something you might have: a week in your motor home, cabin or figuring their taxes.

Home projects have a way of spicing up the day. It is always fun to learn something new. We find it very rewarding to get our hands dirty a bit and then shower up and head to the coffee shop. And when you are done you can enjoy your project all the days of your life. Just sit back and look around and say, "You know, we did this. I mean it looks pretty nice". Of course we are talking to ourselves but that still counts.

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