Home Renovation Blues

By: Steve Manes , Contributing Writer
In: Old House Musings

Three years ago I was struggling to get traction to begin a large renovation project in my house: the master bedroom and upstairs hall.  It was my last major project in the place so naturally I had been looking forward to it for seven years.  But I couldn’t get the energy together to even make a lumber order.

I knew why because it’s not the first time I’ve been through it.  It’s called Home Stretch Complacency. If an affliction like Restless Leg Syndrome can have an acronym, then so should HSC!  The symptom of HSC is that after spending months or even years on a time-consuming renovation project, you crash on the last lap. That final room doesn’t get done, the baseboard trim doesn’t go up, the primer doesn’t get painted. You sink into lethargy and self-loathing and just live with it.

Some HSC victims crash early; some only a few feet from the finish line. Perhaps it’s a mutation of the (DI)Y-chromosome or perhaps it’s because having slacked off from the construction you’ve begun to appreciate some semblance of a normal life again, despite the absence of door knobs.  We won’t know until more research is done.  Maybe we need a telethon.

After ten months of grueling work, I completed that master bedroom renovation two years ago. I decided to take a month off before working on the final touch: two pairs of stained glass panels, one for the built-in bureau and one for a redundant doorway I’d converted into a window.  I’ve done minor projects around the place since then.  But not the stained glass.

Don’t get me wrong. I like building stained glass.  It’s fun, relaxing and even therapeutic in a strange way.  But for some reason, I couldn’t drag myself down to the shop to get started on it.

One thing that’s always worked to break me out of a construction doldrum is to buy myself a sexy new tool to play with.  So I did.  I bought a glass bandsaw.  That was 18 months ago.  The thing is out of warranty now and I haven’t turned it on even once.

Okay, so maybe a glass bandsaw wasn’t the right incentive.  After all, the first step was to design those stained glass pieces. Since I can’t seem to drag myself away from the computer, maybe what I needed was some stained glass design software.  That way I could still sit at the computer and get started on this project.  That would make me eager to see them completed, right?

Window panel

Window panel

So I bought design software from Dragonfly, Glass Eye 2000, and that did the trick!

The software is so cool that I spent a week designing those panels. But when I finalized the designs, I just kept going, creating designs for stuff I had no intention of ever building. The only thing I’ve done with them is post to them to my blog, Brooklyn Row House, for comments. I still haven’t constructed any of them.

If that’s not mortifying enough, the president of Dragonfly saw one of those online designs and asked if I would mind submitting it for an upcoming Design of the Month. I haven’t had the nerve to tell him that I never actually built it.

Maybe that’s the kick in the pants I need.


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  1. 8 Responses  to “Home Renovation Blues”

  2. John
    Aug 29, 2011
    I'm with the Drywall contractor to a certain extent. My latest project (in Australia) is 400km from where I live. The last 2 prior to this were in NZ (a 4hr flight) so at least with this one I can drive to it. I found a local painter/handyman. So far I've made 3 x 1000km (625 mile trips) taking up some of the fitting bought in a large city off Ebay and the like. I've done a day or two's painting preparation but left the bulk of it to the painter. I've learnt a few tricks of the trade from him. But early in the piece I worked out with motel accommodation and food I was working for about $100 day compared to paying him. So a lot of the stuff I did was cleaning, washing down walls, running up and back to the hardware shop. So the painter has been on this since Aug 1 2009. It's now mid Sep. He's finished inside, painted the galvnanized roof and a quarter of the way around the outside painting the weatherboards... some of which need sanding. When I started this project I wasn't sure how the 1000km round trips would go. The road up to this place on the edge of the desert is a bit like an Aussie Route 66 passing through old gold mining towns in Victoria and then through wheatfields to the edge of the desert. My Nissan sports car has loved this and yes an urbanite can drive 4 or 5 hrs each way. I wasn't sure if I could physically paint the place myself. What I've found is an experienced handyman hits a nail once for example. An "apprentice" like me has to hit it four times due to our lack of experience. So while I've enjoyed the process I'm keen to know see it done. A new tenant moved in last week and the handyman is continuing to work outside around them. I've worked out that my best plan is colour, hues and some of the item purchasing to save money. To do this house myself would lonely, very time consuming and ultimately possibly depressing. The transformation by my handyman has been nothing short of miraculous. So it's his practicality combined with my thinking the reno through... a combination of talents. I guess like most some of the issues lead to sleepless nights but if you can push on it does cost money for labour but the trade off is the project doesn't hang over you.
  3. Aug 29, 2011
    I see many home owners go through what you described - sometimes its soo bad they don't finish their renovation require a contractor like me to come in and finish the job. It's sometimes a huge relief for them. Sometimes, the money you save from doing a DIY can cause you to pay for in other ways like stress. Sometimes its better to hire out. I do it for my home - hire on projects I'm not the expert, just keep my life stress free.
  4. Mike Parker
    Aug 29, 2011
    I keep asking myself, Why the heck did I buy this old house?". I'm the same way and I'm glad to see others face the same HSC, except mine is more like second inning complacency syndrome. It's a farm house built in 1908. I was just looking up web sites for wood floor paint schemes. I stripped 3 rooms to the bare wood and applied natural finish. That was 3 years ago and I just got the gumption to rent a sander yesterday and stip the upstairs hallways. I've become less and less of a perfectionist, and hopefully this will help me get more work done. Instead of stripping ALL the pain off, I stripped most of it off, knocked the high spots down, and now I'll paint it. Much less work.
  5. Jackie Larson
    Aug 29, 2011
    Does anyone have any experience with Estate Millwork, Inc.? I am ordering exterior wood shutters for my 175 year old catalog house and found on line a company called Estate Millwork out of Pittsburg, PA. So I wonder if they are a viable company or if anyone has any experience with them.
  6. Julia P
    Aug 29, 2011
    I feel ya, Steve and Greg! Been remodeling a two story farm house, built in 1914, since 07/05. Whole place, inside and out. Got lot's done, but still lot's left to do. Running outta steam. Hubby and I both work full time and then some, plus family time, his and mine, church, mowing, house cleaning, errands.........makes me tired just dicussing it!
  7. Greg B
    Aug 29, 2011
    I'm glad to read that someone else has these problems. I've been on a master bath and bedroom for about 18 months now. I know we could hire out and just get it done, but I love the satisfaction of saying "Yeah, I did that" in response to the oohs and ahhs. The reality of balancing an 8-6 job and a home renno is so much harder than it seems. My advice is to set milestone dates. It's what I've resorted to and is actually working for me!
  8. Aug 29, 2011
    I forgot about that design. I like it too but I'd probably need to do it as a copper foil job.
  9. Lucy
    Aug 29, 2011
    I like the stained glass panel you have posted here, but when I checked out your site I found this one, I like it even more: http://www.brooklynrowhouse.com/node/117 Especially the little green and white flourish in the middle. I took a stained glass making class years ago and made a few simple windows, but they all had right angles because I didn't have any fancy tools (or a steady hand). In fact, I had to continuously re-tool my design to accommodate all of the glass I'd broken, the pieces of glass got smaller and smaller. Good luck, hope you can find the steam to start constructing! I find that a glass of Petit Sirah can help get the ball rolling. Or, in more extreme cases of HSC, a bottle of Oban or Talisker :)