As a thirty-year-old newlywed, I took on the arduous task of designing, ordering supplies, buying tools, and building together from the ground up a custom redwood deck off the back of our first home. This was while we both worked full time and only had the weekends. The hardest task was drilling the ledger board into the stucco home and getting it level with just two people. We built this with no other help.
My husband had never hammered a nail before or used an electric saw but was a willing participant. I went to the library to get books on building a deck to code; and as a former draftsman and designer, I designed and ordered the proper amount of lumber to be delivered by a local lumber store. I think the lumber cost $800 back then. The nails, bolts, tools, and concrete foundation blocks we picked up ourselves. This deck also had a custom railing and steps down to the lawn. In today’s market, the deck would cost about $20,000+ to hire someone to build.
At the time, I didn’t realize how ambitious that project was. Years later we’d always hire a contractor for any project that large. But this home was built in the 50s and the kitchen, bathroom, hardwood floors needed updating for which we did all on our own. We tiled, refinished cabinets, wallpapered, painted, and refinished hardwood flooring. We did hire professionals to install a pedestal sink, vinyl flooring, a window, and French doors.
After that we concentrated on having children in this home and soon outgrew it. So, we sold and purchased a larger fixer upper, the hardest task being removing asphalt concrete tiles to expose the hardwood flooring with two little boys running around the house and another on the way. Remodeling became my thing while my husband worked. We bought, fixed up, and sold throughout our marriage until we got the home of our dreams five homes later. I guess we’d be called flippers these days. But back then, we called it moving on up. Average time in each home was 4.7 years.
Now on our ninth property, just finished a bathroom remodel designed by DIY. Once the flipping gets in your bloodstream and you make money doing it, why not? I have become very good a packing and moving. And we put our kids through college with real estate equity.
The redwood deck was without a doubt the most ambitious DIY project we ever took on and that was before they called it DIY. It was also something women typically didn’t do back then, hammering and sawing. Thinking back, it was the best, yet poorest, year of our marriage; but DIY brought us closer together.