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The plans for the barn have been submitted to the county and I just had the excavation dug.  Now the entire project is starting to feel very real.  Building a barn is simpler than building a house but there's certainly nothing simple about it.  I worry that I've taken on too large of a project all by myself.  In our front yard there's a hole for the foundation that resembles a giant mud pit and it laughs at me every time I see it.  It says I don't know how to build a barn.  I've been trying to reassure myself that it's wrong.

The barn is the largest construction project I've ever undertaken but it's not the first.  I've always been fairly handy with fixing and building things.  In addition to the window blind installation, I've done some handyman work here in town.  It's impossible to be a homeowner without being able to either fix things yourself or hire somebody to do it for you.  Most home improvement projects are small but some can get quite complicated.

Plumbing Sewer My first large home improvement project was a deck I built for our home in Morgan Hill.  It turned out great.  That deck is so sturdy that it will probably still be there even after the house is gone.

The next big project in that house was replacing the plumbing.  The contractor that built the subdivision had used sub-standard galvanized plumbing and it was starting to rust through.  Most of the neighbors had already replaced their plumbing and ours was starting to leak too.  I knew better than to try to replace all the plumbing myself.  I might have tried it if I had the time and we weren't living there but it would be unreasonable to ask the family to go without plumbing for several weeks while I had the house torn apart.  Especially when a professional plumber could do the entire job in two days.

To help save money, I tore all the walls open before the plumber arrived and had to put up new walls after the plumber left.  Most of the plumbing went through the downstairs office room.  When I opened up the walls we discovered that the previous owner had drilled a hole through the sewer line.  "So that's where the funny smell was coming from!"  It looked like the previous owner had been trying to install a new cable outlet box and drilled through the sewer line by accident.  Easy to fix now that we had the walls opened up.

Ceiling A couple months later, after getting the room all put back together, it turned out that we were going to move to New Hampshire.  We were working around the house getting it ready to sell when we heard a dripping noise inside the ceiling of the newly remodeled office room with all the new plumbing.  It started slow but quickly grew stronger.  I thought for sure that it was a broken pipe.  I ran upstairs to see if I could find the problem.  Sarah and Emily had found a cardboard box and decided to make it into a swimming pool for their stuffed animals.  Well, the cardboard held out longer than their attention spans but after they left it finally gave way.  A couple gallons of water had run across the floor and was pouring into the room below. 

The ceiling was holding up but I knew it couldn't last.  With visions of the entire new ceiling coming crashing down in a goopy mess onto the new carpet, I grabbed a drill and started making holes where I thought I heard the dripping.  I managed to drain most of the water and the roof held.  In the end, there was only a small water stain that was easily repainted.  We had a very long talk with the girls about playing with water in the house.

Eyecicles We had another water leak in our New Hampshire house.  That one was my fault.  We had three feet of snow that winter and I was worried about the ice dams that were accumulating on the roof.  Someone had suggested putting rock salt in pantyhose then throwing it up on the roof in order to melt a spot through the ice damn.  I tried it but all it did is make a little lake behind the ice damn.  During the spring thaw the lake grew large enough that it worked it's way under the shingles, across the upstairs bathroom ceiling, down the walls, across the floor and into the garage below.  The entire bathroom ceiling needed to be replaced.  I had visions of all our native New Hamphire neighbors laughing and saying "You silly Californian, everybody knows that you shouldn't put salt in pantyhose and threw it on your roof!"

Our home in Santa Clarita received it's fair share of remodeling too.  The caulking in the master bathroom shower was getting old and cracked.  If enough water was splashed, it would leak through the cracks and out the floor below.  I sat down one day to replace all the old caulking but the project quickly grew.  I ended up tearing the entire bathroom down to the studs and rebuilding it.  It took awhile but I think it came out nicely.  New bathtub, new tile, new counter, everything.

Bathtub Shelf New Bathtub My only real mistake was with the bathtub filler spout.  We had purchased a large soaking tub.  I had carefully measured everything to make sure it would fit.  I built up the tub deck, got everything installed and redid the plumbing then realized that the bathtub filler spout wasn't long enough to reach over the edge of the tub.  Most tub filler spouts are about 6" long but we needed one that was 9" or longer.  I shopped all over town but couldn't find any extra long filler spouts for under $500.  I considered making my own out of a fancy brushed nickel lamp shade.  It might have worked.  But I made the much more reasonable decision of building a little shelf.  It was an unplanned fix but it looks like it was designed that way.  I'm proud of how well it turned out.

In that same house I also made some built-in shelves in one of the bedrooms.  There was an odd triangular wall behind the bedroom door.  A little investigation in the attic revealed that there was no ductwork or anything else going through that little triangular space.  So I got out my sledgehammer and opened it up.  A few weekends later Sarah had some nice built-in shelves for storing all her dolls and stuffed animals.  No cardboard swimming pools this time.

Here in Hawaii, I haven't had to do any large home repairs yet.  I replaced the kitchen faucet, a few electrical outlets and a leaky toilet, built a bunny hutch and did a few other miscellaneous jobs but the barn will be the first large project.  Building shelves and installing drywall doesn't compare to pouring a foundation or welding steel beams but with a little help from friends and neighbors I'm confident I'll be able to get the job done.  Even if the giant mud-pit foundation is currently taunting me, eventually I'll show it who's boss.

Kitchen Bedroom Shelves
Master Bathroom Master Bathtub




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