I come from a long line of DIYers. My grandfather and his siblings came to the United State in the 1800’s because they were carpenters. There were actually advertisements for carpenters in European countries. So he came here. My Dad was a mechanical engineer who loved to get his hands dirty. He did two additions to the house where we lived. He mixed and poured his own concrete. He knew how to do block work for foundations. And he had excellent woodworking skills. There was a period of time when he built redwood picnic tables on the side to make extra money. It was a lot harder to have good carpentry skills in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He did not have those radial arm saws or a flooring nailer that was run by the air compressor. When he laid flooring, he sat on the floor and nailed each board by hand. When you missed, you hit your thumb. For months, Dad had a blue thumb. It was a hazard of the job.
I am not a fabulous carpenter but my Dad taught me the basics. When I was a child, you helped out with chores. And if that meant being the “holder” while Dad cut wood, you did it. I can measure twice and use a variety of tools. I DO have one of those radial arm saws in my garage right now. I cut some trim yesterday. I can use a drill, a circular saw and so on. My husband has some carpentry skills, too. So when we built our house, we did some of the work ourselves. Let me tell you right now that there is a huge difference in cutting some trim and putting it up AND building a house. A HUGE difference. We had a builder but we could save a bunch by doing some work ourselves. Boy- that sounds like one of those programs on television right now. The hardest thing we did was to roof our house.
My Dad was excited that we were building a house. So he said he would help us out on the weekends. Great! Somehow that translated to roofing the house. Well, the shingles were delivered and a friend used his tractor to lift them to the roof for us. Whew! That would have been hard alone. Those things are heavy! So then all Dad, my husband, our 5th grade daughter, our 7th grade son and I had to do now was to get busy. We put down the tar paper and started on the shingles. One side of our house was two stories. It looked a long way down. Dad just sat down and started on the shingles and so did we. After a few hours, we had a lot down. I was just glad we were away from the edge. I just scooted along on my sitter and nailed between my legs. I made sure that my sitter had contact with the roof at all times. I don’t think I ever got the tar stains out of the seat of those jeans!
We-yes, all of us-ran wiring, put in insulation, and put up sheetrock. We did plumbing. Every weekend was an experience in what seemed like the longest house build ever. I will say one thing about this experience. It was tiring but one of the most fulfilling things we have done as a family. We all learned a lot. We laughed at our mistakes and sometimes we grumped around our mistakes. But we did it TOGETHER. And we were stronger for it.