Construction Zone

Our living room has been in disarray for a couple of months as we’ve been working on our latest home improvement project: removing our old fireplace, reframing the wall, installing a new fireplace, tiling the surround, and installing new cabinets. While working on this project, we have completely reconfigured our living room and dining room furniture to get it out of the way of the mess and allow room to work. We hope to be done with everything before the end of the year.

The toilet in our master bathroom is currently sitting on its side in the middle of the floor. Also, all of the items that usually reside under our kitchen sink are now out of the cabinet and in the garage.

Lovely, huh?
Lovely, huh?

Although the living room project was planned, the toilet and kitchen sink were a complete surprise. When we returned home after being away for several weeks, we discovered water where it shouldn’t be; first around the toilet, then under the sink… totally independent, totally unexpected, and totally not what we need right now. Although there wasn’t a lot of water, any water where it shouldn’t be can’t be ignored.

It seems like my husband and I have at least one home project in the works almost continually. Sometimes big, sometimes small, but almost always it (or they) becomes a focus in our lives for far too much time. After the living room is done, there are at least two more good-sized projects I can think of waiting in the wings. This doesn’t include the normal house maintenance projects everyone has (our water heater should be replaced, the living room needs repainting, bushes need trimming, etc.).

We claim that we don’t want to keep taking on these projects, yet, for some reason, we do. We say that our idea of a fulfilling retirement includes more focus on fun, travel and hobbies, and less on construction, dust, and upheaval, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

One of the problems is that we (and by “we” I mean my husband) are pretty skilled at do-it-yourself projects. And, because we (my husband) know how to do these things, we like them to be done a certain way. In addition, we (that would be both of us) are relatively frugal and have a hard time justifying paying someone else to do what we can do ourselves.

Upon returning home from our latest trip, we walked into the living room we left. The one wall was still just bare studs; the brown craft paper was still taped to the floor; the furniture was still topsy-turvy. We didn’t expect HGTV to visit our home and finish everything while we were gone, but the contrast of where we just were (on vacation: pure leisure for three weeks) and what was in front of us was striking. It was good to be home – we love our home – but we had a hard time facing the work we still have to do.

We’ve recently talked about our habit of taking on too much and agree that we need to make some changes in our approach to large household projects. We want to be more realistic about what REALLY needs to be done and, if we decide the outcome is worth the effort and expense, be more open to paying someone else to do the work. Then, after receiving a tradesperson’s bid, the (usually shockingly high) estimate needs to be evaluated against the physical and psychological costs of doing the work ourselves. Are we willing to have our retirement filled with days (weeks, months) of labor? How about the little quarrels that often occur when we are tired and stressed? And then, of course, there are the aches and pains we most likely will suffer because we are no longer 30… or 40.

When we take everything into consideration as we compare one cost to the other, I expect that often the value of freeing up our time will be worth the expense.

Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

10 thoughts on “Construction Zone”

  1. : ) It will be beautiful when you finish.
    My husband and I struggle with paying someone else to do the work too especially since we’re in our 60’s. So far though, when we see what it costs, we opt for DIY. We also realize that we will find fault with work done by someone else.

  2. I don’t like either of the choices!! Neither of us is a willing or capable DIYer so the only choice is hiring someone. If it’s a must-do, we do that. If it’s a purely cosmetic or modernizing or upgrade ‘wouldn’t that be nice’ , we dream about it for an evening or two – maybe even walk through a store or two – then we go back to playtime.

    Sometimes I wish we had a nicely remodeled kitchen, bsth and new light fuxtures, but not enough to give up my hobby time to achieve it. We have a lot more fun together without all those kinds of things to ‘negotiate’.

    But I will envy you your fancy digs and your skill in all the things I’m no good at!

    1. I think having fun should win out every time! We don’t have really fancy digs but for some reason my husband and I can always think of something we “should” change. You are right about the other option of just living with what we have… I think that might be the choice we’ll make more and more often as time goes on.

  3. We just got a bid to add on the master bedroom (although in this case, a mistress bedroom because it is so small, hence need to add on). Very high and my husband is not retired for a few more years. He could totally do this work–he is a master carpenter! Good luck on getting this done. Oh and if you need help, my husband has a twin who is also a carpenter and lives in your area.

  4. Timely post. Our master toilet started leaking over the weekend. We just finished the massive prep for winter outdoor project and I’m thinking we should paint the kitchen next spring. We are a lot like you. We (mostly my husband) are very good DIY-ers and have trouble parting with money for things we can do. We redid our master bath a few years back — just the shower and I couldn’t believe what it cost to do just the shower. The fixtures, tile and tiler (we don’t do tile unless it’s on the floor) were expensive and we have the same bathroom (except for a fabulous shower). My husband talked about redoing the main bath (which no one uses). I gave him some hairy eyeballs.

    1. Although I really dislike the upheaval of a construction project, I’m always happy with the outcome. So, is it worth it? Sometimes yes, sometimes not so much. I remember an older HGTV series about fixing up homes to sell. I was always struck by how many home owners had put off doing the things they had always wanted done to their home until they were ready to sell. By then it was too late and they never got to enjoy the changes.

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