Man the weather here has been amazing for the last couple weeks. As I type this, it’s in the mid 70′s on the first day of March! Crazy, but I’ll take it.
This has given me a chance to get a big jump start on our planned project of screening in our carport this spring. I’ve been to the Home Depot every day but one for the last two weeks! I know the lady at the pro/lumber checkout by name! Also she has a habit of matching her eye shadow color to her blouse, which speaks of a real dedication to her look. I dig it.
Yesterday my wife had an unexpected day off of work and helped me out doing some of the construction, which really sped progress along greatly. But, for the most part, this is a project that I’ve done all by myself. That has given me a lot of time to think. And I’ve thought a lot about lessons learned (or re-learned) during a project like this. Here they are:
- Don’t Do Projects You Don’t Enjoy – I like building stuff with my hands. When we started talking about turning our carport into a screened in outdoor living space, I never considered hiring it out. It’s the kind of thing I like doing. I enjoy the challenge. And it saves a lot of money. But doing something like this if you don’t enjoy the work is just a bad idea. You’ll dread it. You’ll put it off. You’ll be miserable the whole time. You’d be MUCH better off to do more work (hopefully doing something you find meaningful and that you’re great at) and spend the money paying somebody to do it than you would to take on a project you hate. Just say NO to projects you don’t enjoy.
- Planning Pays Off – We spent weeks getting ready to do this. We talked to people who are smart about this kind of stuff (notably my father in law who is a carpentry GENIUS) and got ideas and opinions. We drew some designs and went to the hardware store multiple times to price the lumber and other materials so we’d have a reasonable cost estimate. We budgeted for this project. Even though I’m the kind of guy who has a tendency to “jump right in and get going”, planning is time well spent.
- But Then Jump Right In and Get Going – As important as planning is, sooner or later it’s time to get your hands dirty. And I was very quickly reminded that the plan doesn’t survive contact with the enemy. In this case the “enemy” was the fact that the roof of my carport is level. The ground is not. Using square timbers to frame in a not-square space requires some improvisation. That’s fine. I am good at improvising and, when doing a project that you enjoy, you will be too. As Mario Andretti says, “If you’ve got it all under control then you’re moving way too slow!”
- Use The Right Tools – I’ve really been jonesing to own a compound miter saw. Like…a lot! I’d lovingly caress them as I walked by in the Home Depot and whispered, “Someday you will be mine…” Well a project like this was a great time to invest in one so we built that into our budget. It’s made this whole process a whole lot easier. And it has a laser!
- Then Let The Saw Do The Work – Ok, different saw. But the other day I was trimming a piece of paneling with a hand saw and I was working at it like crazy. My hands hurt from gripping it too tightly and my shoulders were sore in just a couple minutes. I paused and realized that I was working WAY too hard. I had a good, sharp saw but I was forcing it through the wood like a butter knife. I told myself to relax and let the saw do its work. My day got better. If you are smart enough to get the right equipment or people around you but you don’t let them do what they’re supposed to do then you’ve gained nothing.
- Care Enough To Do It Right – There have been a number of places during this project where I’ve been tempted to cut corners. There are these little plastic support feet that keep the lumber off the concrete. I ran out of them the other day and thought to myself, “You know, this board might be ok if I only put two feet on it instead of three.” But if that board starts sagging in a couple years because I wanted to save myself $3.41 and a trip to the hardware store then it was going to be a much bigger pain in the butt to fix (and would still require a trip to the hardware store). I care enough about my work to always do right by my clients and I care enough to give myself that same consideration.
- But Done Is Better Than Perfect – Even though I care enough to do it right, trying to make it absolutely perfect is a waste of my time. Like I said, the ground slopes but the roof doesn’t. This results in a few gaps here and there that are small, but you can see them. By the time I add some caulk and paint they will be all but invisible. If I feel like I must fix every tiny imperfection then this thing will never get done. And worse, I’ll have violated my #1 tip and stopped enjoying what I do.
So there’s my collected introspection from nine days, a couple hundred nails and screws, dozens of 2×4′s and two screen doors. Thanks for reading and drop by sometime this summer for some fun (and mosquito free!) hot tubbing out in the new screen porch!