Monday, June 30, 2014

Resourcefulness Across Generations

We are just back from our trip down south (more on that soon!) and I noticed an interesting difference among the generations in my family.

My grandfather built the house that he and my grandmother live in, some 50+ years ago. He and some friends dug out a foundation, framed the house, and built it, each nail, each brick, each shingle. He was not a carpenter or builder by trade (he was a bus driver), but he had the skills and knowledge to build an entire house.

My parents bought a house that need a lot of work - it was dated and had some weird architectural features. They did the majority of the work themselves. My mother built in bookshelves, removed popcorn ceiling texture, handled painting and wallpapering. My step-father built a floor to raise a sunken room up to the level of the rest of the house.

Peanut and I have some problems with the popcorn ceiling in our bedroom, as I mentioned. Before we went on our trip, I had a professional come out to give me an estimate on what it would cost to fix. Peanut and I had discussed doing the work ourselves, but we were intimidated by the project - it's messy, difficult, and unpleasant work, and we don't know whether there's asbestos in the building materials. For Reasons, only Peanut would physically be able to do the work, which means it would take a longer time than with two of us working. We learned from doing the drywall in the basement that we Do Not Like that kind of DIY work, and we're concerned that we wouldn't wind up doing a good job on the ceiling. So our default assumption was to call in a professional.

I'm a little disappointed at this. I mean, my grandfather BUILT A HOUSE. Which is still standing. And it wouldn't surprise me to learn that he built it for close to the price that this contractor would charge us simply to remove popcorn ceiling texture. And just two generations on, we are so wimpy that we are calling out the professionals for what's not even a renovation, but little more than a repair.

On the other hand, we have a better, more consistent standard of living than my grandparents enjoyed. Paying for a professional to do this would not break the bank, or even touch our emergency fund. It appears that there is water damage causing the crack in our ceiling, and we are well out of our depth in terms of fixing that. The building materials that were used at the time when the ceiling was originally done are now known to be toxic, and we don't know the proper way to deal with disposal and protecting our health while dealing with it. And perhaps we are spoiled, but we don't like the idea of our house being a project zone for weeks on end while Peanut works full time and then comes home to work some more on the house.

I would like to have more DIY skills than I do, but realistically, after working on our basement, I've got a pretty good idea of where my own limitations are, and an appreciation for getting a job done right the first time, even if it costs more than doing it myself. I would like to be as self-sufficient as my grandparents, and someday I hope to have the time to do the kind of work my parents have done on their house, but for now, I think I have to be okay with paying to fix the kinds of things that are "need to fix" like a ceiling leak.


  1. I feel the same way when we have to hire in things as simple as putting in a new lock, when my surrogate parents routinely do things like replace their entire doors or rebuild cars and refinish furniture, etc. But it's true that we can afford it now, and the conditions under which we are working are different from even one generation before us. Like you, someday I'd like to be in a position to mostly DIY but while we have physical/medical/other limitations, at least we have the monetary resources to make up the difference!

  2. We bought a multi-level condo last year that had popcorn ceiling in the bedrooms, but the ceiling on the main floor living area was already re-done. However, whoever removed the popcorn ceiling on the main floor did a terrible job. When we got an estimate to get the ceilings done in the bedrooms the guy initially thought we wanted him to redo the main floor too because it's so noticeably bad. So.....if you really care about the end result and you're not too confident going the DIY route, definitely hire a pro if you can comfortably afford it because it will look sooooooo much better. Also, keep in mind that if you do have asbestos in the "popcorn" it could double the cost estimate for removal.


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