The Education of a Non-Builder

Design and construction, no matter your role in the process, is an education. Don’t think you are going to be an innocent bystander, sitting on the sofa, penning checks, happily awaiting the completion of the renovation. You are going to be forced to make decisions, and those decisions will require a deeper understanding than you likely currently possess. You are right to be worried about it. You will be in the deep end of the pool more than the shallow end, where the water is warm, and the livin’ is easy. The good news is, no one learns to swim in three inches of water, but you could still drown in it, so learn to swim you will little grasshopper.

Recycle . Reuse . old door . new home.

I still have difficulty understanding why some doors can be removed and replaced, reusing the existing casings, and others can’t, or simply end up looking like a hot mess. Gaps, hinge locations where no Dutchman patch was crafted to disguise the damaged area, a stripe of paint from a previous job revealed, are all aspects of a door replacement project gone wrong. If you are asking why not just replace the casing too, let me remind you that the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone. Once you start ripping that out, you mine as well gut the place.

There are questions of sequencing, should the floors be refinished before you paint the walls, or paint the walls before you refinish the floors. Unless you have the most fastidious subcontractors you are going to get stain on your freshly painted baseboards, or speckles of paint on your varnished floor. A white cloth and some linseed oil will take that up if you move swiftly.

There are rabbet and dado joints, which are really quite nice, and miter joints – I wouldn’t want any other kind, but you do you. You’ll want to know when your house is going to be buttoned up, particularly if you are building during the rainy season, or snow is on the way. You’ll definitely want to pay attention if your builder announces he’s going to “hog” something out. This rough and tumble approach isn’t something you’ll want to be able to see later, or suffer the consequences of a structural failure as a result of their reckless ripping.

When I slide my bar height stool back and forth across the wood floor in my sister’s house I wish the previous owners had been educated on the wood’s Janka Rating. The pine they selected is so soft that even my feather light frame leaves an indentation. They should have selected Hemlock, Douglas Fir, or Chestnut, those are some seriously hard woods, a bullet might leave a mark, but not much else.

Some people like their learning to happen over the course of a semester, building slowly, others prefer a crash course, wherever you fall in the spectrum, you are sure to come away with cocktail conversation fodder.

Pretty as a picture. Ripping and tearing hidden from view.

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