Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Got Skills?

As I sit here in my dining room, staring out the back door at the newly fallen snow in my backyard, I am so grateful for my new window! These last 2 weeks with a new window have been noticeably less drafty. A big thanks to our friend, Ron Hjelm, of Phase II Construction  for his hard work and beautiful craftsmanship!

Usually we do these kinds of jobs on our own. My husband and I have re-plumbed bathrooms and kitchens, tiled floors and showers, built walls, run electricity, replaced fixtures and faucets, run gas lines, installed cabinets, repaired and replaced trim work, installed our own appliances and hot water heater and of course lots and lots of painting. We are not particularly professional about our work, sometimes it takes months or years to finish, but we like doing it. However, we don't do it because we like it. We do all this work to save money.

When we started out on projects we didn't have any home repair skills. He is a teacher and I am a stay at home mom/seamstress. So, we started researching on the internet and at the library. We asked around to see what other people were doing. We made a lot of mistakes and we learned from them.

One of the coolest skills I taught myself was to reglaze windows. We lived in a 1918 Craftsman Bungalow in inner-city Fresno. The house had the old style single pane, wood frame, rope and weights windows. I loved them! They were beautiful!

Well, one day, mysteriously, accidentally and unknowingly (?) someone pushed the computer monitor off the desk and through the window to land outside on a pile of leaves and debris. Hmmm, interesting.

The next day I asked a window guy to come out and give me an estimate: $200. Two hundred dollars for one small window!!! No way, there was no way. I didn't have a spare $200 and even if I did I wasn't going to spend more than a months worth of groceries on a window--I'd rather board it up until I taught myself to fix it.

And that's exactly what I did. The window was not visible from the street so I nailed up a piece of plywood just big enough to cover the hole and then covered it from the inside with the curtains already hanging at the window.

In no time I got all the information I needed online (pretty amazing that computer monitor still worked, huh!) I used the phone book to call around to different hardware stores to track down the best price on glass. I drove over to the store with the necessary dimensions on a scratch paper. The guys there helped me get the right materials (a big smile goes a long way at the hardware store!). And I already had all the tools I would need: a chisel, a hammer, a razor blade, a spackle knife, paint, etc.

For less than $20 and in under 2 weeks I had a like new window and a shocked and awed husband! I was pretty proud of me too, a savings of $180 just for doing it myself. Now, I did probably spend 15 hours working on it (a LONG time for one window) but even that slow it was like making $12 an hour--pretty good pay for a newbie. And I ended up using my skills on four more windows over the course of 2 more years at that house; I got a lot faster.

This last week I painted a wall in my front room red. If I had hired a guy to do it it would have easily cost me $100-200 plus supplies. Since I did it myself it was FREE--I already had the paint from a project last year. I have done a lot of painting over the years and have picked up a lot of tricks along the way to make it go quick and look good. It took me an afternoon, about 4 hours including drying time, to complete the wall. Like making $25-$50 an hour!

So, now I suppose you wonder, after all this bragging about home repair skills, why did I have someone else replace my window? Well, sometimes you've just gotta know when to say when. This window was a corner window and was load bearing. YES, a load bearing window. This window was HUGE, 5 ft x 10 ft + 5 ft x 3 ft. And, this window was right in the front of the house, no trees in front of it, no bushes in front of it and we live on a hill. Everyone would see our mistakes-- if we made any! But most of all we were concerned about getting it done quick. We didn't want a big hole in the front of the house for weeks while we were trying to figure out what to do.

This time we knew, we couldn't do it ourselves. We had 4 different window companies come out and give us quotes ranging from $2500-$4000. That is several months of mortgage payments! Or a whole months paycheck!! We knew we needed to replace the cracked for a year window but didn't know how we were ever going to afford it. So, thanks again Ron for letting Dave be your assistant and letting us buy the materials in an attempt to cut costs. And, by the way Ron any sewing you ever need done is on the house!

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