"This Old Mold House" #4: Confession: I am the Idiot for which your village is looking!

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Blog entry by Dusty posted 11-17-2007 01:59 PM 2179 reads 0 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Lets make a deal....on this "old Mold House", was her wish Part 4 of "This Old Mold House" series Part 5: Hind sight is genius ! My crystal ball... »

If there is one thing that I have learned well about home remodeling it is that the initial planning stage of the project is the most important. This includes detailed estimates, budgets, schedules, scope of work, financing, and cost-overrun contingency plans.

So many projects fail because this step is either done incorrectly or is done in denial; what I call “the dream state”. So often, once you decide to do a remodeling project and move on to the next stage, the brain goes into a hypnotic, almost paralyzed, state. That’s when normal functioning folk seem to turn into village idiots.

I raise my hand under this scathing indictment. In fact I could be there leader.

I have learned the hard way. For several years there were several villages looking for their idiot. I am the missing idiot these folks were looking for. I admit that I am ready to take my well earned position as chief idiot.

Let me explain why I say this.

It is very easy to become so excited, enthused or consumed with a remodeling project that one almost immediately begins to display some of the initial signs. A few of these signs are as follows:

• Denial
• Overachievement
• Unrealistic expectations
• Illusions of grandeur
• False pride
• Ignorance
• Wish full thinking
• Self absorption

This by no means is a complete list. Feel free to add any others you may have experienced. Again, it is only a sampling of some of the initial symptoms.

I learned quickly that just because I could see in my minds-eye a thing or a project, there was little connection between what I envisioned and its actual completion. This was especially true if it included the project being fully completed on time, and within budget.

I can’t count the number of times I have started or seen a project in the past and got to a ‘near completion stage’, or the famous stage called, ‘it’s good enough’ or, the ‘it will have to do for now stage’.

I am convinced this is the reason so many projects have been killed before they even start. I can hear the words loud and clear. They go something like this, “No, you’re not going to start another project. You have not finished the last three!” Then, going right for the juggler vain, “A garden hose is not plumbing for a dish washer.”

Then the look follows; it’s the one that’s not only impossible to misunderstand but like slow poison. It stays with you like body odor.

Of course, there’s the, “You have 500 projects on your honey-do-list that have you haven’t even looked at for eight months.”

I have often wondered why these people seem so black and white. Don’t they understand we are “artists, craftsman extraordinaire in training? Well, in our minds, anyway.

These ‘creative blockers’, as I call them, usually are also wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, family members, who seem to delight in derailing our grand remodeling projects. Oh, the torture we endure on our way to becoming the next Norm Abrams.

I have always wondered what they don’t understand about my philosophy that consists of: trust me, be reasonable, see it and do it my way. Anyone who understands what is like to be a gifted want-to-be woodworker or carpenter understands this. No explanation is necessary. And for those who don’t understand this line of thinking, no explanation will ever suffice.

Now, back to the story.

As a result of being guilty of every sin possible in remodeling and a few not even invented yet, I have had an equivalent of a “spiritual awakening”.

I now have a ridged outline that I follow like a well-worn path to the refrigerator when hungry.

The rules are simple; I don’t deviate from them, period. They follow.

Every job or remodeling project will include the following.

1. Detail plans and an outline the scope of the project. It’s unimportant whether the plans are hand drawn or done by a professional. At bare minimum, any project needs a rough plan with the overall dimensions.

2. A material list with current and realistic costs verified. (Not based on wishful thinking or prices that you paid ten years ago.)

3. Scope of work. This is an outline of the steps broken down by each room or part of the project.

4. A realistic time schedule.

5. Budget.

6. A list of all subcontractors or suppliers with all the necessary contact details and relevant information.

7. A ‘Who’s Responsible’ list, with names assigned to who will complete the task and when.

8. Brief backup plans or descriptions of alternatives.

9. A tool-list needed to complete the project.

10. Expected delivery dates of materials and products.

11. Permits and inspections needed for project.

12. Digital camera or video along with an notebook for daily notes and journal entries.

I have learned to do all this and more, not because I like lists, but because I have made every mistake possible and more. I have extensive experience being the village idiot. This list is a good start and will cover most of the things needed to complete any project.

I use simple yellow and white legal pages and spiral notebooks.

I use yellow for estimates and white for the final draft. I use the spiral notebook for all my contacts, daily job notes and journal.

When I began my comprehensive overview of the scope of work that needed to be done for “This Old Mold House’, it was an eye opener.

I didn’t like the conclusion.

Long ago, I learned to trust the process.

With two days to complete the planning phase, and armed with my tape measure, several notebooks, and pencils I started the comprehensive scope of work and estimate process.

I would deliver the message on Tuesday as to the outcome.

What would it be?

-- Dusty

23 comments so far

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 4048 days

#1 posted 11-17-2007 02:47 PM

This is a great guide for some one that wants to getinto a major reno.
You are very organised.
I find getting people to commit to time, dates and prices the most difficult part of any job.
I look forward to the next entries.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3989 days

#2 posted 11-17-2007 03:07 PM

Great information for first time remodelers or carpenters who have always worked for someone else. If you haven’t done the administration work, it can be a real eye opener. My father was one for never completeing anything. His saying was,”That’ll do for the time being.” I have no idea what that meant except that it would never be finished .

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4187 days

#3 posted 11-17-2007 03:34 PM

a great “life” strategy—think ahead, plan, prepare for the unexpected, plan some more..

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4182 days

#4 posted 11-17-2007 03:43 PM


Thank you for the kind comments.

I can assure you only after my share of pain, failures, bone headed mistakes, money losing projects, not to mention frustration and sleepless nights I have come to the conclusion that something had to change.

That was simple part realizing it was me that had to change about the way I had approached my work.

In spite of my self, I had to get organized and find a better way or I realized I wouldn’t be in business long.

This was a fact.

I have always been convinced that the actual work was the easiest part to learn or figure out.

I find woodworkers, carpenters any craftsmen, or woman for that matter are very smart, innovative, and learn easy. They are extraordinary talents as artists and craftspeople .

I also have noticed that they much prefer the actual work and detest all the other parts of the jobs such as the paper work , bigind. planing, designing, decorating and so on.

I am no different.

I hope that passing on a few of my hard leaned tips may benefit some one because I certainly could of used a few tips.

This project I think as I get into it more and more will be helpful in a number of ways for those who maybe are considering taking on a project like this or simply would like to learn.

I guess we will only know this after the blog series is done.

Every craft and trade will be represented in this blog series .

I am hoping others who are much more knowledgeable than I ,will also jump in and offer their tips and experiences and correct me when they see I have gone astray.

I hope others find it helpful.

-- Dusty

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4182 days

#5 posted 11-17-2007 03:53 PM

Thos Angle,

When I teach woodworking one of the points I drive home is how important it is to maintain momentum and how to work effectively so the project can be completed on a timely basis and on budget. So many projects seem to never get done because of loss of interest, over budget, or an problem arises that they get stuck on and can’t seem to solve or get around.

Then frustration sets in and they quit.

I have always said “woodworking or carpentry work is really just problem solving”.

You just have to picture the end work or result and be able to work backwards to the beginning solving all the hurtles and challenges as they are presented to you to finish the project.

Quite simple.

We make it so hard on ourselves.

Skills are acquired over time and from experience doing things.

Wisdom comes from finding better ways of doing those things that didn’t work out for us as well as we wanted or liked.

-- Dusty

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3989 days

#6 posted 11-17-2007 04:49 PM

So true, Dusty.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4427 days

#7 posted 11-17-2007 05:15 PM

Thanks Dusty. A great start on a long process.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4024 posts in 4090 days

#8 posted 11-17-2007 05:44 PM

I like #9. Usually there is a new tool in there somewhere.

As I am Captain Chaos, I’m very lucky that my wife is a major planner, list maker, sketch maker. Now all I have to do is listen.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3922 days

#9 posted 11-17-2007 07:53 PM

Great blog! I could have used this when I bought my first 11-room farm house—- a little remodeling needed. Yeah right. By the time it was “done” not only had I learned to hang drywall, tape, mud it. But I figured out how to hang it on the celing of a 10 foot stairwell——after having been told that “no way can a woman do it” (I kid you not);
I learned to rewire a house after I “learned” how much electricians have to charge to make a living;
I learned to plumb a house after I “learned” that plumbers really do have plumbers butt – and charge a lot in order to make a living;
I learned to paint a house after I “learned” that painters are expensive because they have to make a living;
I learned how to rebuild a wall and repair built in cabinets;
I learned how to hang trim and make it look good without caulking.
I learned that a sledge hammer works well taking out a cast iron tub;
I learned that drywall gets heavy carrying it up a stairway by yourself;
I learned that if you are not good measuring for electrical boxes – use mustard instead.
I learned that getting a cast iron tub up a stairway by yourself – can be done if you think hard enough about it.
I learned that drywall dust never really goes away and does not really do much for the taste of pasta;
I learned that a nail puller really works well, but to save trim it’s best to pull the nail through the back;
I learned that fiberglass insulation should be installed wearing long sleeves;
I learned that I’m a bit anal—all my insulation had to be hung with the writing right side up;
I learned that if you are working in a crawl space that someone should know you are there in case you get hurt (learned that the hard way);
I learned that I had no idea how much anything costs or how much it was really worth;
I learned rough carpentry was not all that difficult;
I learned that if you start a conversation of “if I do this” at the contractors desk with a contractor standing next to you—- you’ll probably get some good advice.
I learned that if you are a single woman, remodeling a house, in a small town, that you often become the talk of the town and become amusing entertainment.

I’m sure I learned more, but one thing I did not learn was – DONT buy another fixer upper. I’m on my fourth!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1809 posts in 4112 days

#10 posted 11-17-2007 07:53 PM

Awesome Dusty….My daughter graduates this spring. We are then planning on selling our current home and spending the next 10 years buying and remodelling homes. Hopefully my marriage will survive the ordeal.

I’ll be following along paying close attention…..where is that legal pad?

-- Bob

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4182 days

#11 posted 11-18-2007 02:10 PM



I like number nine also. Unfortunately I learned this one the hard way.
Several times.

For example, one of the very first small remodel jobs I did I had some dry wall that needed to be hung in a small basement bedroom I was building.

No problem, I figured. Dry wall looked easy enough to do.

I figured all you need to do is throw it up, nail it, then slap a little mud on it.

Yea about that, not so much!

Lessons learned. There is a reason that trade is a trade.

There are reasons they have different several tools such as different with mud blades, banjos, hawks, drywall screw guns with clutches, so on and so fort, just to list a few. These tools not only make the job much easier they make the job look like it was done professionally. Just remember most of the tools we all take for granted today that we use were invented by someone in a trade that used them ever day in there craft.

For the record I suggest you not use a two inch putty knife to mud seams.

You wonder why a village is looking for there idiot somewhere.

I don’t, I know why they were.

Oh how I know. I still have the blister scars from sanding that two inch seam with the huge center bulge.

One other reason I learned it is so important to make a tool list is if you come to that part of the job and you have not made arrangements and you don’t have the proper tools to do the job not only is it very hard to do the job right it usually ends up looking like it was done by a child who was playing.

Often times your remodeling budget is very tight and there is no room for a extra say 500 dollars for a table saw.

It is hard to build and install a complete kitchen with just a nineteen dollar skill saw from Lowe’s.

Oh the lessons I have learned.

If that village is still looking here I am. I am the one with the stupid shirt on over here.

Come take your idiot home please.

I’m tired.

-- Dusty

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4182 days

#12 posted 11-18-2007 02:32 PM


Bravo, Bravo, Bravo,

My hats off to you. I applaud you, good for you!

Like you, I am self taught also. Ever one of your comments I could relate to or have experienced.

Your list speaks loud and clear.

I have several others that I plan on weaving into my blog as time goes on.

When you are self taught and have no specific mentor or teacher the experience of doing something becomes your teacher.

This experience however can be very humbling, frustrating, expensive and even at times very unsafe.

I shutter to think of all the bone head things I have done.

Just one more reason I like to share my experiences. If I can just save one person, one small screw up, or help them get the job done better, less expensive ,or safer then writing this blog will have been worth it.

I look forward to hearing more and sharing more of your lessons leaned.

Thank you for sharing your humble experiences.

I was beginning to think I was the only one ever to make these mistakes.

Maybe more than one village is looking? Is that possible?

-- Dusty

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4182 days

#13 posted 11-18-2007 02:38 PM

Bob Babcock,

How exciting for you. Good luck to you and your wife.

Far be it from you to dispense anyone advice, I have trouble dispensing a glass of water.

However if there is one thing I would tell you to do it would be- HAVE FUN DOING IT.

Enjoy the journey along the way the destination is disappointing or a real let down a lot of times.

-- Dusty

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4341 days

#14 posted 11-18-2007 06:10 PM

So true Dusty. My big lesson was to just do one project at a time and finish it. Ok so I’m building my house…and a bed…and have three kitchens scattered about the shop in different phases of completion. I can do that today because I learned to finish one at a time. (I was in my thirties) I have that same tunnel vision when working so the planning is a must!

View gene's profile


2184 posts in 3910 days

#15 posted 11-18-2007 07:23 PM

Very true on all of the above! I may have missed one while reading. Always have a detailed contract signed whether you are the client or the contractor. Seems that you can’t normally go with just a hand shake anymore!
And Besty, I , and I feel sure the rest here, applaud all that you have managed to accomplish. I’ll bet that you are still the talk of the town. Are they calling you for advice now? “Way to go” !
God bless

-- Gene, a Christian in Virginia

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