When to DIY

While i’m honeymooning with H on the other side of the world, I’ve got a few posts lined up.  Some serious, and some not.  I hope you enjoy, and I’ll respond to comments, etc when I get back!

As you all know, recently H and I bought a house and have begun extensive renovations, which basically went like this:

  1. Tear some stuff we dont like down
  2. Find huge problem that prevents us from refinishing the way we want
  3. Completely gut said room
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 in a different room
  5. Repeat step 4
  6. Rebuild portions of said rooms, concurrently

It was basically like taking all of your projects in your hands and tossing everything up into the air – needless to say, I have now realized that we took on way too much at 1 time, and should have gone room by room, which would have allowed us to focus on 1 room until it was completed, instead of bouncing around to whatever room (or project) we felt like working on that weekend.  We are now just 2 days away from the first project being finished: rewiring of the upstairs portion of the house.  This is a huge deal and something that I knew that I wouldnt be able to do myself in its entirety.

Knowing that, H and I decided that we would do as much ourselves as possible (which, after talking with the guy that came out to bid on the project, said would have cost me $12,000!!! to have them do it), and then call an electrician to finish the rest.  I’ve finally gotten to a point where I could call the electrician, after doing as much as possible myself and leaving the last of the things that I didnt want to screw with because they were outside my comfort zone or were just going to be exponentially more difficult than what I’ve done so far, so I figured I’d pay them to do it (also, I didnt have the tools).  So, I had an electrician come out and give me a bid for a service upgrade (where they replace the circuit breaker box with a larger one) and to run wires from the attic to 2 outlets, one in the kitchen that I tried to run, and one in the bedroom where I couldnt even get into the spot where the hole needed to be drilled.

We got his estimate back, and it would have cost 320 for him to run wire to both of those outlets.  Not too bad I thought, and after spending almost 2+ hours on just 1 of them a few weeks ago, I figured I’d go ahead and let them do it.  On a trip to lowes though, I saw a 54″ flexible drill bit (which would have been exactly what I needed to do the job) for about 30 bucks.  Immediately, the wheels started turning.  Think of how much money I could save – I’d spend 30 bucks now, and I could not pay 320 later!  I know I’d probably only use this just this 1 time (or maybe if I helped some friends) but still, that’s worth it, right?  It’s at least worth a shot!  So, I bought it.

I had already started writing this post in my head- it went something like “I spent 30 bucks, 2 hours and saved 300 bucks”.  Of course, my daydreams and reality rarely are in sync, and this time was no different.  I started out drilling a hole really quickly before H started painting from the outlet hole up into the ceiling.  I had to move on to floor stuff right after that, and didnt have a chance to check until later, so I went to the attic, had H shine the flashlight up the hole and went looking for the beam of light that was passing through – I couldnt find it.  I let it go for a night, and the next night I went into the attic with the long drill bit and started to drill a hole towards the outlet from the top, hoping I could just drop the wire down that way (which is how I did all of the others).

This is where things started to go sideways on me.  All of the sudden, the drill starts turning and turning and I realized that the drill bit is stuck – somewhere– in the wall.  I dont exactly know, but I even though this wall was covered up, I knew that there was a stack of 2×4’s about 18″ below where I was drilling from, so I figured that it was somewhere in that area.  I tried for about 30 minutes to get it unstuck, and then realized that it wasn’t happening.  My quick tactic to save a few bucks was going downhill in a hurry.  So, to get my drill bit out, I needed to find the drill bit – and to do this, I used the simple tactic of knocking a hole in the wall where I thought it was, and then sticking my hand in there.  I eventually found it, but then realized how stuck it actually was.

Long story short, it took me 4 hours to get that drill bit unstuck, and in the process, I broke about an inch off the drill bit, put a hole in 2 separate walls (including a wall in the “room from hell“), burned my forearm with the drill bit 3 different times, and carried on a monologue that would have made a sailor blush.

After finally getting the drill unstuck about 1030 pm, I wondered if, even after wasting 4 hours on that, it was still worth my time – though it was much more of a wash than it would have been had everything gone smoothly.  Had this taken 30 min like I expected it would, I would have come out of this smelling like a rose.

Readers: do you ever try your hand at DIY tasks?  If you do, what is your cut-off limit for when you just call a professional?  Have you been in a situation where you’ve gotten a bid from a pro, then decided to do it yourself anyway?

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5 thoughts on “When to DIY

  1. I did this with a pipe leak in my crawlspace. I did everything right, turned the pump off and drained the water. Then I started to put the new pipe on but couldn’t get it soldered completely (I knew almost nothing about plumbing) I tried for almost 3 hours and got really frustrated. I ended up buying a plumbing book but still called a plumber to come out and fix it. It only cost me $90 but I was still frustrated that I couldn’t fix it myself.

  2. I’ve been doing some DIY tasks but if it has to do with electricity I call my dad and if he doesn’t feel comfortable the electrician is next. My projects have been small and cosmetic so far though, replacing lights, painting walls, redoing the lawn etc.

  3. My husband was reading your drill bit saga over my shoulder – he wants you to know that he sympathizes for you.

    Years ago – before we had kids – we ripped up our old linoleum to put in tile in our kitchen. We managed to do the whole project ourselves for, from start to finish, under $700. It took us just about an entire weekend, but I thought it was worth our time.

  4. Your house sounds a lot like our house when we first moved in. We spent well over two weeks painting, tearing off old wallpaper, and the like. We’ve since taken on some of those remodel projects from hell too. DIY is an adventure, if nothing else!

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