Posts Tagged ‘Introduction’

Intro: First-time Homeowner/DIYer

2012-04-11 by Josh Maxwell. 0 comments

My wife & I purchased this house almost three years ago with enthusiasm and dreams of what it could be some day. We were wide-eyed and drunk on our dreams!

That was three years ago…

By the way, we took that tree in the foreground out after another tree fell on our fence!

It’s been an adventure and quite the learning experience ever since. You thought I was going to say “And, it’s been hell!” didn’t you? Well, I’m not going to say that (although, it has felt like it sometimes).

Buying this house has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life (besides marrying my wife, of course!).

My name is Josh and I plan on sharing my First Timer’s Experience with you as I turn this house into a home!

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Learning from Habitat

2011-11-11 by BMitch. 0 comments

Back in 2001, I entered the life of home ownership (wow, has it really been that long). While I had helped around the house while growing up, my entire tool set consisted of a small power drill, flashlight, and a tool box with a hammer, some screw drivers, and a few other odds and ends.

Knowing that I was over my head, and that every contractor around would try to overcharge for the simplest things, I figured I’d learn by doing. And rather than doing things to my own place, it seemed a lot easier to learn on someone else’s place, which is how I came to work with my local Habitat for Humanity chapter. I figured I’d learn a bit from them while giving back to the community and then I’d tackle all the projects around my own home, but Habitat quickly turned into a habit.

Since starting with them, I’ve been involved with 45 new homes and one renovation. Of the new homes, 9 were town houses that were almost done when I started, 3 single family, and thee condominium projects resulted in the bulk of the homes. I’ve seen the projects from top to bottom. Planting sod, drilling for earthquake bolts into the foundation, and painting the yellow lines for the fire lanes (apparently the big box stores sell fire lane yellow) would round out the bottom. Installing insulation in the attic and standing on a step ladder that’s on top of 3 stories of scaffolding to put the last piece of siding on the top of the gable would be the highlights of the highs. From beginning to end, I’ve seen the first walls raised to the last bit of touch up paint applied.

The experience has been unbelievably helpful for understanding what I can and can’t do on my own home. It changes how I see the walls from “that’s a nice shade of paint” to “it looks like they bumped this out to run an air return here.” In other words, it’s trained me to see the structure, to understand where the utilities are run, to know what walls are load bearing, and to understand all the layers of an outside wall. And since I’ve been there so many years, it’s also taught me how to pass this knowledge on to others quickly so we can get a fresh set of volunteers productive when they may have never swung a hammer before in their life.

There are, however, some things that this experience hasn’t taught me. We outsource the pouring of the foundation, all of the utility work (electrical, plumbing, hvac, and wiring), and we bring in the pros for the entire roof. A few detail steps are also outsourced, like mudding the drywall and installing carpeting, since they are easy to get wrong and the mistakes are very visible. For safety, we’ve also cut back on having volunteers high up on ladders. We have a professional handling the permits and dealing with the contractors. And finally, there’s a big difference from building a home vs maintaining a home. So despite how much I’ve learned from Habitat, there’s a significant amount that I’ve had to learn elsewhere, especially from Stack Exchange.

For now, I’ll leave you with a quick progression of one of our builds:

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In over my head

2011-10-28 by tester101. 0 comments

This is my first blog post EVER so it might be bad, but hopefully they will get better as we go along.

When I joined StackOverflow, I was just starting as a software tester with no formal training. I was basically learning as I went along with the help of forums, and blogs. When I found StackOverflow I looked at the situation I was in, and decided that it was similar to a fast paced introductory college class. And so I took the name Tester101.

I live in the great state of New York (USA), where about a year ago I bought my first home. As with many first homes, mine too was in need of some work. Most of the fixes at first were minor things like stripping wall paper and repainting, ripping out nasty carpet and installing laminate flooring. As I dug deeper I found that besides the structure of the house, almost everything else needed work. Since buying the house I’ve done plumbing, electrical, drywall, tile, counter tops, floors, and much more.

I was recently asked where I learned to do all the things I’ve done, and honestly, I don’t really have an answer. I’ve always had an insatiable curiosity for how things work, and an ability to see how parts fit together to make a whole.  Add to that lots of books, TV, magazines, and of course the internet, and you’ve got a guy that knows just enough to get himself into trouble. I’ve quickly learned that every “5 minute project”, turns into a week long renovation. So if I keep finding “little things that need fixing”, I should be able to provide countless “How NOT To’s” for you all to enjoy.

So hopefully you’ll follow along as I trod through projects, repairs, and renovations. If we’re lucky, we’ll both learn something along the way.

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For Sale: One Seeker of Mastery, slightly used

2011-10-11 by Steve Jackson. 0 comments

To kick off my grand Home Improvement blogging career I’d like to introduce myself.  My name’s Steve Jackson and I’m not Evil, nor particularly Good.  I live a smidge (in terms of light years) to the west of Greebo, in Houston, TX.  I’m a first-time homeowner and my wife and I like to invent projects for me to do.

In terms of my DIY skills I’d say I’m in the Conscious Incompetence stage.  I know I’m not great at it and I have a long way to go.  I spent many summers as a kid working in my grandpa’s woodshop, following around my master electrician/engineer/all-world-handyman dad, or doing random construction crew work.  I’ve dabbled at everything except plumbing, and I’d say I’m an expert at holding.  Holding the flashlight, holding the dumb end of the tape measure, and holding heavy things above my head while someone digs in a toolbox.  I’m enthusiastic about Home Improvement StackExchange and this blog – it gives me yet another avenue to humble myself and learn more.  There are two things in life I love and am barely passable at – home improvement projects and basketball.  I’ll try to spare you the details of my jump shot.

I see myself as primarily a consumer of this blog, but when I do have content I hope to bring you some narrowly avoided mistakes and hopefully some accomplishments!  It seems whenever I start a project it takes longer than I thought and doesn’t quite follow the script.  I had the opportunity to pick up many of the basics, but I didn’t follow through to learn what to do when things go wrong.  Funny how things never seem to go wrong when you’re watching an expert at work…  I plan on doing plenty of things that can be corrected – I hope you’ll join the dialog and help me out.

I’ll kick things off soon with the many ways a simple drywall patch can go wrong, and how one DIY project always seems to cause another.

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DIY Nightmares – an Introduction to Home Owner Hell

2011-10-04 by The Evil Greebo. 12 comments

It’s a bit daunting submitting the first blog post (that I know of, aside from test blogs) to DIY StackExchange – well, to any new blog, really, but especially to a community blog site that’s just getting off the ground.  Not only are you setting the tone for your own blogs to come, but you’re also kind of doing it for the entire community, which in my case is a particularly precarious position to be in, since I’m kind of naturally a smart-ass (kind of is, in this case, not so much an understatement as it is a supreme understatement to end all understatements…).

So anyway – this is me.  I’m known as Greebo – which for non Fantasy readers is a quasi-magical cat from Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” series.  “The Evil” comes from my reputation as an “evil overlord” on the various forums I’ve administered over the years.  None of the previous paragraph (save my name) has any bearing on DIY projects except to tell you a bit about myself and clue you in to my writing style, which is something akin to rambling prose with a healthy dash of stream of consciousness thrown in.

I hail from the Baltimore, Maryland region which lies on the eastern coast of The United States of America (for our foreign readers) on the continent of North America (for our foreign readers who don’t know where the USA is), on the planet Earth (for our REALLY foreign readers).  The climate is humid all the time except when it’s cold.  I’m not a fan, but there you are, this is where I live.


If you want any more detail on where I live, you’ll have to buy me dinner. 🙂

So – a bit more about me and why I’m blogging on a DIY site.  In addition to my own house, which was built in 1940 and pretty much needs to be gutted inside and out and top to bottom, my wife and I also manage three other properties (1 ours, 2 my mother in laws) which are rental properties.  We end up needing to do a LOT of work on these properties at time, and financially its just more economical to do a lot of it ourselves.

To give you a real idea what my own house needs – the plumbing is galvanized, the electrical ISN’T knob and tube but IS the old armored/cable with fabric/cloth insulation that’s now so deteriorated that it’s all black (hot line? what’s a hot line?) and if you touch it, it crumbles, there’s no insulation in the walls (except in our office which we gutted a few years back), and our HVAC is really just HV and there’s no air return on the 2nd floor, so the AC does nothing up there, plus the AC died 2 days before Hurricane Irene came through.

So in fact, for a few months, this blog will be historical in nature, as I look over photos and see what projects were well enough documented to post about, because right now we’re in a major “save money” mode in order to upgrade the electrical panel to 200A and add a new HVAC system in the attic before late spring of 2012.

So to start, I thought I’d show you my basement.  Here it is:

Our basement

(Dog not included)

Bit of a mess, isn’t it?

Actually, it’s an improvement over what used to be there, but you don’t know me well enough yet to see that.

The goal in this basement is rather involved – because before we finish it, we really want to upgrade ALL the electrical (many non grounded outlets in my house) and the plumbing (galvanized, did I mention?) really needs replacing as well.

To give you an idea of what I’m facing, have a look at this wall:

The previous owners built that wall (and several others which are now gone).  As you can see, there’s a washer fixture there – so you can guess that our washer and dryer are back there.  What you probably can’t guess is what it looks like back there.

So here it is:

Yes.  That’s a basement door behind the dryer.  And no, those aren’t dirty undies, they’re curtains or something…

See, the previous owner was SO smart, they decided to turn this:

into this:

Brilliant – right?  And yes, I know, I used it as storage too, but only until I built the new shed (pics not on this computer).  Now it looks like this again:

But in addition to putting the w/d where they did, they also walled up the area they were in AFTER putting them in place.  How do I know this?  Because one day our washer died, and in order to remove it, I had to do this!

Yep – had to literally cut the door frame out to remove the washer and bring in the new one.

So, eventually we need to get through that door again, which means the w/d need to move, so the plan is to move them over under that window that you saw in the first picture of our basement.  But then we have a lot of plans, and we have a lot of nightmares in this house – and this?  This is just the teaser to get you interested.  😉

(Did I mention… evil?)

So – hopefully you’ll enjoy walking with me, through the past first, but eventually (once we have $$ for it) in the future as well, as we continue to explore and discover the hell that is our (my wife’s and I, not yours and my, obviously) home , and the steps we (my wife and I… ok you got it, good…) take to turn Hell into Heaven.

Hammer safely!


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