The Endurance of Old House Renovations

By: Mark Clement , Contributing Writer
In: Old House Musings

So when I’m not remodeling, playing with the kids, or on a date with my wife (rare these days!) I like to read. A fave is South and (among other things more notable) it’s about a ship called The Endurance and its 1914 voyage to Antarctica. It was so named for its captain, Ernest Shackleton. The Anglo-Irishman’s family motto was Fortitudine Vincimus, Latin for “By Endurance We Conquer.”

The punchline–and this doesn’t give away the book–is that Endurance gets caught in the ice, crushed and sunk. It takes a while so everybody climbs off. And that’s where the story of actual endurance begins.

Ships and Fixing Old Houses

What does Endurance have to do with fixing our old house? Well, I’ve needed extra helpings lately. I’m no explorer, but I’ve found that I’m tying knot after knot in the end of my rope. I’m not even done one project and I have to start another to meet various magazine and tradeshow deadlines for articles and appearances.

In other words, I’m busy like everyone else.

And the holidays are upon us. It’s time to reflect and to look forward. And to live for today. And get the kids to bed and school and…and…and…oh, right, and the sill plate in my mud room’s wood framed wall is powder. So instead of moving forward with drywall and cabinets, I’m reframing the walls and engineering new-found storage options. In other words, I’m doing what I call the Old House Shuffle: going backwards to gain ground.

And I know you are too. Your bathroom is blown out. You have flooring acclimatizing under your menorah, paint cans haloing your Christmas tree.

Stay the Course in Your Old Home Projects

Whether your New Year’s Resolution is to dive into that big new project or to finish whatever is left over from last year, you’ll need demo bars, a table saw, and a finish nailer. And you’ll need that X-Factor–endurance to see whatever it is through.

So here’s wishing you good Fortiudine in the New Year.


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  1. 4 Responses  to “The Endurance of Old House Renovations”

  2. Aug 29, 2011
    Mark--You've opened up a topic dear to my old house improvement heart. We recently "recycled" an old entry door by moving it to the basement entrance, among other things. This is great advice__
  3. Aug 29, 2011
    These are some great ideas. Old homes can always use renovations, and using things that are already the house is a great way to save money. Or you can always try and get a contractor to install them if you do not have the time and you have the money.
  4. Aug 29, 2011
    That's a great thought. Upgrades to what you've already got are a great idea too: cordless drill>impact driver. Hand nails>framing gun. Good tools make life so much easier, more productive--and fun! Good luck. Let me know how you fare over the holidays!
  5. Jeremy
    Aug 29, 2011
    Ask for all the tools and gadgets you need for Christmas, that way you will be forced (by those who bought you the gift) to use them! I need every sort of motivation I can these days to get going on the DIY projects.