Top 10 home renovation time sucks

Week 45 – Joe

We are smack dab in the middle of winter in Indiana.  We never see the light, it’s always cold, and our winter this year is just full of moderately cold days with barely any snow.  Just bleak, chilly, wet, and depressing.  Not exactly the type of weather that inspires working on a house. Especially when that house is equally bleak and chilly.

A rare "scenic" day
A rare “scenic” day

The weeks of Christmas break, when we were able to work on the house everyday for hours and hours, now seem so long ago.  We are so close to being able to insulate and drywall the house, but it seems to be taking us forever to get there.  Amy has been busting her butt to get the wiring done, but it is a slow process for one person…  especially if that person is doing it for the first time.  We have been doing our best to finally make some difficult lighting decisions, but I lose sleep at night trying to make sure we have thought through every detail before we reach the point of no return.  In order to get more time at the house to make these decisions together we have once again resorted to occasionally bringing the kids.  On those days we quickly change clothes when we get home from school, get the kids into warmer gear, and then head over to the house at about 5:00.  The house gets dark around 6:15 and unless we are working in one spot with a light it becomes difficult to get anything done.  We only do this maybe once or twice a week.  On the other days one of us just goes by ourselves and tries to chip away at the marathon.

In honor of our current frustrations I have created a top 10 list of home renovation “time sucks.”  These are things, as you probably figured out, that suck up all your time when you are renovating a home.  They are all necessary parts of the job, but never things you think about when guesstimating how long a job is going to take.

10.  That stubborn nail, or screw, or stud, or…

This happens all the time.  Just when you think you are almost done or when there is a job that shouldn’t take very long…  there is something lurking just waiting to make your life miserable.  It’s always something small, like a screw that has to come out but just will not budge.  Or maybe it’s a stud that you didn’t anticipate, just waiting to appear behind the plaster right in the spot that you need to drill.  Frequently these small obstacles are made more difficult because of location.  They always seem to be at an impossible angle or involve a precarious stance on top of a ladder.  Taking care of these seemingly minor obstacle begins with trying to use the normal tool for the job, but then progresses to larger tools until finally arriving at a tool that is way overkill – but it gets the job done! nuclear Obviously this will usually result in way more damage to surrounding area, but at least it’s over, right?!

9.  Moving stuff out of the way It is inevitable that tools, scrap wood, or salvaged materials are going to have to find a place to reside inside the house while we are working on it.  It is also inevitable that those same items will be in your way at some point very soon despite your attempt to find the most out-of-way place imaginable.  Of course, moving these items sucks up the limited time we have at the house, but it has to be done.  There are days when it feels like all I do is move stuff.

Stuff.  In the way.
Stuff. In the way.

We did eventually clear out most of the house by putting all of our salvaged woodwork, tub, and sinks in the garage, but now we find ourselves moving electrical supplies and tools everywhere because our current project involves the whole house, not just one room.

8.  Cleaning up

This is closely related to #9.  It is tempting to just make a mess on top of a mess.  I mean, why does it matter, right?  It’s not like we have guests to impress.  The reality is that if you move from one job to another without cleaning up after the first job you will be stepping over piles of debris, tangled nests of extension cords, and probably spending all your time looking for lost tools (see #7).  In addition, I’m not a neat freak or anything, but I do believe that having a clean work space helps you think more clearly and generally be more productive.  Plus, in a construction zone not cleaning up after yourself can easily result in someone getting hurt.  Oh, and adding to the clean up time is the trip to the south side landfill.  Add another hour or two for that endeavor.

Ready for another trip
Ready for another trip


7.  Rounding up the tools for the job

No matter how good you do with #8 it seems to take forever to get everything you need ready to go.  Inevitably you will think you have everything, climb up a ladder to the loft, only to discover that you need your tape measure…  and it’s in the basement.  This is made even worse when you just plain can’t find the tool you need.  I can’t imagine how many total hours we have spent just walking in circles around our house looking for a hammer, screw driver, or drill.  It makes me want to buy a tool box for every single room in our house.  I think I need five of everything.  Except pencils.  I need a hundred of those, spread out all over the house.  Maybe two of them near every wall.  That might cover it.  To make matters worse, there are two of us working on the house and we rarely work on the house together.  This means that the first thing I have to do upon arrival is locate where Amy has moved all the tools.  This also means I can just blame Amy for the fact that I can’t find the tools I need.  [Edit from Amy: This means that the first thing I have to do upon arrival is locate where Joe has moved all the tools.  This also means I can just blame Joe for the fact that I can’t find the tools I need.]

These items have never been this organized since time of this photo
Don’t let this organization fool you.  This was before any electrical work actually took place.


6.  Waiting for other people

Amy and I are acting as the general contractor.  That means we are the ones that line up subcontractors for the jobs we aren’t doing ourselves.  There are many times when we have to wait around for returned phone calls or even for that person to be at the house when they say they are going to be there.  I believe we have expressed our opinions of contractors in previous posts so I won’t go into that again.   We are actually very lucky to have an honest and trustworthy carpenter and also an architect who is available for advice on how to not mess up our future home.  Our carpenter and architect are also really understanding of that fact that Amy and I sometimes change our minds (see #5).  Or maybe that is mostly me changing my mind?  [Edit from Amy: Yep, just you.]

5.  Changing your mind

Time and materials cost money.  We certainly try to make sure our “A plan” for each job is well thought out, but unfortunately sometimes something occurs that means we have to change our plan.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a new idea or that we changed our mind.  It’s a blessing and a curse to know that you have the rare opportunity to get everything just right.  We have already rebuilt doorways, moved light fixtures (numerous times), redesigned our kitchen (numerous times), and even still, there are small things we have done that I wish I could go back and alter just a little bit.  At some point I guess I just have to let it go.  [Edit from Amy: Let it go!]

Aiden's pocket door
Aiden’s pocket door.  Originally framed out as a normal door…  then we had a better idea.

4.  Mistakes

Once again, time and materials cost money.  Mistakes mean more time and more money.  Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, mistakes happen.  They tend to happen right when you feel like you finally have a firm grasp of your job.  You’ll just be cruising along feeling like a pro, when crack, you break a piece of 100 year-old glass.

The glass graveyard
The glass graveyard

Or maybe you cut a piece of plywood before realizing that you measured incorrectly…  and that means an additional trip to the hardware store (see #2).  Or maybe you have the perfect location for a wall receptacle only to discover that there is a stud. Unfortunately this means you have now drilled a hole in the wall that will later need to be repaired.  Or maybe you are cruising along on a wiring job and accidentally drill a hole right into the side of a very expensive cable that happens to be one of the most important cables in the house.  It happens.

The fix for the mistake.  Thanks, Jim.
The fix for the mistake. Thanks, Jim.

We just have to remember that most mistakes can be fixed.  It just takes time.

3.  Kids

Hey, don’t get me wrong, we love our kids tremendously.  Including them on a list of “time sucks” just seems wrong, but in the context of home renovation…  it’s accurate.  Amy and I are VERY confident that we would already be done with the renovation if we didn’t have kids.  We seriously daydream of what it would be like to spend an entire weekend on the house, stopping only for food, bathroom breaks, and sleep.  What if we could actually work together on the house?  Just imagine the tasks we could tackle in half the time!   We do actually work to be good parents, so that means usually the kids are at home with one us doing our parental duties.  Occasionally, as mentioned earlier, we do bring them to the house and set them up with a movie to watch, but this lasts maybe 60-75 minutes.

A movie in Lucy's room
A movie in Lucy’s room

And sometimes kids suck away your time just because they are so darn cute.

She seems so concerned about something… Probably trying to determine the best location for the wall sconce.
Lucy checking out the mysterious hanging tape measure
Double checking Daddy’s work
Aiden doing his best to humor us
Aiden doing his best to humor us

Amy and I are now a part of a small community of home rehabbers.  Many of those rehabbers have blogs that we like to read.  I have yet to come across any blogging rehabbers that have kids.  Not one.  Is there anyone out there?

2.  Going to the hardware store

Going to the hardware store is SUCH a time killer.  First, you have to factor in the amount of time it takes to get there.  Then you have to navigate the seemingly endless number of aisles to find the exact item you need.  At this point there is often something to complicate the issue.  Maybe an extra helpful employee that assumes you don’t know anything about wiring?  Or maybe an unexpected decision to be made because there are just too many options?

Forever pondering the endless options for recessed lighting
Forever pondering the endless options of recessed lighting

[Edit from Amy:  This picture is actually me pretending to be Joe…forever pondering the endless options of recessed lighting.  I don’t do that.  I just wait patiently, time out my nodding and mmhm’ing at appropriate and realistic intervals, shuffle my feet to pass the time and wait for him to drift into an unconscious state of paralyses. At which point, we go home in hopes that the next trip to Home Depot will produce a decision.]

[Response from Joe:  Actually, that’s a pretty accurate statement of what happens.  I can’t argue with that. But in my defense… the lighting options are mind-boggling!]

Then, of course, while you are there you will remember other things you need.  All of this means that a trip that started out as “just running to the hardware store” becomes a loss of 2 hours.  Sometimes we try to be proactive and hit the hardware store on the way home from work the day before we are going to have time on the house.  Unfortunately these trips take even longer because of items #3, #5, and #1.

1.  Thinking

Have you ever heard the expression, “measure twice, cut once?”  I learned this valuable lesson way back in high school when I worked at a local pipe organ shop.  As a side note:  When I was working on a particularly unpleasant job at the shop my boss liked to encourage me by telling me that I was “building character.”  I can be found repeating that to myself over and over again when I’m in the crawlspace or knocking down plaster over my head.  Anyway, that “measure twice, cut once” expression probably accurately reflects that ratio of “thinking” time to “doing” time.   For instance, Amy and I spent our entire allotted time at the house the other day….  just thinking.  Didn’t even lift a hammer.  Just a lot of standing, thinking, and occasional words of agreement or disagreement.  Thinking does take up valuable time and I know my over-thinking drives Amy crazy, BUT I would like to point out that thinking ahead can also prevent unnecessary time moving-stuff-around time (#9) and time spent tracking down tools (#7).  It also results in fewer mistakes (#4) which results in less additional time going to the hardware store (#2).  Finally, thinking long and hard the first time means less of a chance we will change our mind later (#5), which means less time worrying about what to do with the kids (#3) and hopefully results in a final product that we can be proud of.  So, in reality, by my reasoning, I’m actually SAVING us time!        

5 Comments Add yours

  1. amyheavilin says:

    This is so perfectly on point. My #11 is “Fixing Problems You Uncovered From Previous Owners.” Like doing a “simple” lighting fixture switch out, and realizing the previous owners hung the old fixture not with an electrical box, but by wrapping a coat hanger around a radiator pipe in the ceiling. And then, a thirty-minute project takes a full day.


    1. Amy and Joe says:

      So true. I frequently wonder if 100 years from now some future home owner will curse my name or wonders what the heck I was thinking. Hopefully not.


  2. I’ve never experienced ‘snow’ before.
    It’s on my ‘to do’ list. Love my children to see it!!!


    1. Amy and Joe says:

      It’s cool, for like half a day.


  3. Terry Riley says:

    This is a hoot. I love it. My entertainment for the night. I’ve done a little remodeling in my day so I can relate. I carry a light weight tool box with what I hope is everything I might need around with me when doing stuff. I hate walking back 500 feet to the garage or barn to get something.

    Liked by 1 person

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