I have been meeting with financial advisors this spring and two weeks ago they gave me a dollar figure that I could safely spend to build a house. I always thought I would build our house myself, but after last year’s struggle with depression I’ve realized I am feeling a little too fragile and battered to take on such a project. So, in late winter I’d requested and received a pair of estimates from a house panelizing company and a local builder who would erect it. Now, comparing the two figures (money to spend vs. cost to build), I see I need to cut a large chunk from the total.
I’ve been looking at the estimates, mulling over which pieces of the work I can do myself to save money. I know I could save money on the excavation. However, excavating for a foundation is an exact science that requires patience. Allen, my dear friend and excavator operator with endless patience, is no longer with us. I am not sure I want to get involved with the excavation if there is a chance I might make a mistake and cause an even more expensive delay.
So I have been looking at other potential savings areas: finished floors, kitchen cabinetry — plus, my nemesis, interior and exterior painting.
It would be hard to overstate how much I loathe painting. No matter how hard I try, I am inevitably splashed and sticky with paint long before the task is done. However, by doing this job myself I could save thousands of dollars. I had been considering re-painting the barn this summer, and already planned to strip and repaint the garage (the stain that I purchased in 2009 so that I would never have to scrape is, mysteriously, peeling and chipping). I am now thinking that I might buy an airless paint sprayer and learn to use it first on the barn, then on the garage, and then I might be ready to take on the house. At least I would know by then if the job were within my capabilities.
I have also been looking at floor plans. I have an old floor plan that was drawn for me in 2006. [Double-click to enlarge.] My life was different ten years ago. Our needs have changed. I no longer need a giant pantry, and probably don’t need a full bath and potential bedroom on the main floor.
On Saturday I spent 2.5 hours with a team from the panelizing company: the manager of the company, the builder, and a plan designer. I listened and tried to learn — and tried not to panic at the various suggestions. Move the kitchen so the front door opens into it?
After two hours around the table we drove down to the farm. The men kindly tried to hide their contempt with the work already done, but could not help pointing out the many errors and poor craftsmanship: the sloppy siding job, the foolish placement of a mudroom door directly under a roof valley, and more. As I began to feel sick (the ultimate responsibility is all mine), I reminded myself sternly that I have the same reaction when I scan prose. My proofreader’s eye is relentless. I made myself breathe in and out and keep listening.
Meanwhile, DH has zero interest in houses or plans, and probably would be happiest if we sold the farm and bought a condo in a city. Before the men arrived on Saturday, he left for a long workout. So the decisions are all mine. This is freeing on the one hand but a heavy responsibility on the other.
Yesterday I sat down with my friends Alison and Tom. They are both cheerful and kind and endlessly practical. “Why even have a formal front door?” Alison asked. “It wastes so much space. In this climate no one ever uses a front door. You come in through the mudroom so you can drop your boots and coat.” I am having trouble imagining a farmhouse without a front door, but I’m doing my best to be open to all new ideas.
Luckily or unluckily, the next ten days are so overstuffed with work that I won’t have a lot of time to think about it.