I may run a construction company, but today I’m going to sing the praises of doing it yourself.
Not too long after buying our first (and only) house, we embarked on our first “major” do it yourself project. The toilet paper holder had ripped out of the wall. That wouldn’t have been too bad, but the walls were wallpapered, so patching the sheetrock and painting wasn’t really an option. That was ok, as we were not exactly fans of the wallpaper anyways. Then one thing led to another. If we were stripping the wallpaper, we should replace the tile floor and if we’re replacing the tile floor we should tear out the all in one fiberglass tub/shower, and if we’re doing that, we should replace the countertop and sink and if we’re doing that, we should add a bath fan, and if we’re doing that, we should add beadboard to the ceiling and crown molding. It’s funny how these things start.
While we were both working in the industry, we were still very young (early 20’s) and really didn’t know what we were doing. All the tiles we used were leftovers from homes being built by the homebuilder I was working as a warranty manager for at the time. I had no tile saw, so I made all my cuts with a borrowed angle grinder. I thought grout would hide the chipped edges or not so straight free hand cuts. It didn’t. While I understood the concept of how to sweat copper pipe, I was not very good at it. I taught Stephanie and she proved a much better plumber than I. Needless to say, our bathroom remodel was not an award-winning project, but we did it ourselves (with a little help from my Dad) and the results were better than what we started with.
Now 20 plus years later, for a variety of reasons, we’ve decided it’s time to tackle this bathroom once again. I used to have a tile installer who left business cards inside his shower walls, because if someone ever tore out one of his showers, he wanted to know why. I knew why I was tearing out this shower I did over 2 decades ago, but I did find an unexpected calling card. As I was removing tile from the walls, I found notes in red and green marker on the studs. “I love you this much” (with a stick figure with arms stretched out wide) and “won’t it look great when it’s done”. I had long forgotten about the little love notes Stephanie left me all those years ago and it brought a smile to my face. I paused for a moment to appreciate all that we’ve been through together, from our DIY projects, to raising a family, to starting a business. Then I went back to ripping out the tile. Despite all the ups and downs, I’m pretty sure she still loves me “this much” and hopefully this time around the bathroom truly will look great when it’s done.
20+ years later we both have a lot more knowledge, I have better tools at my disposal, and I’m not afraid to tear things out and move them around. I’m not going to pretend my DIY work is as good as the professionals we use on our client’s houses (we employ the services of some true artists), but I feel confident that to the causal observer it will look great, even though I’ll always know all the little things I messed up on that everyone else overlooks. Regardless, it will be better than it was before, and we’ll have the satisfaction of knowing we did it ourselves and saved some money through sweat equity. I hope she leaves me some more fun messages, but the next time it gets torn out, it will be someone else’s surprise to find.