Tackling A Big House Project

In a way, it’s good that there’s an Indian summer this year because I’m in the process of painting my house. My husband and I have been working on it for a month now on the weekends, and we’re not even done prepping yet. I am still putting primer on the unfinished wood and my husband is still replacing cracked boards with new wood. So far we have:

    * Replaced 10 pieces of siding with new boards.
    * Replaced the side trim around the doors, corners of the house, etc.
    * Sanded most of the house–at least the parts I can reach.
    * Fixed a soffit that needed some work.
    * Primed the unfinished wood.
    * Killed two yellow jacket nests that were in the eaves. Ick.

So that’s done. Still to go: my husband has to finish the soffit on the other side. Then we will sand the high parts of the house. And then, finally, it will be time to paint.
Big projects can be overwhelming. It’s hard to stay on task, it’s physically stressful, and it’s not very fun. That’s why so many people quit halfway through a project and end up looking at a ripped-up part of their house for years at a time. I don’t want that to happen to us, so here are some thoughts that are helping us along the way:
1. Break the project down into small components. When I’m sanding a wall, I often start to feel overwhelmed by how big it is, and how much of it needs to be sanded. I will look up and just want to quit. But if I concentrate on one board at a time, somehow the wall gets sanded. When you are doing a large house project, break it down bit by bit, and take each part one at a time. Somehow, the whole project gets done.
2. Stay on task. We are not allowing ourselves to take a break from painting (other than a quick trip to Portland) until it’s finished. Why? Well for one thing, the rainy season is quickly approaching. For another, if you don’t focus on getting a house project done, there’s a much larger chance you’ll let it slide and it will remaining unfinished. So you have to make a rule: keep going until you’re done.
3. Entertain yourself. Two words: audio books. Of course there are other ways to entertain yourself–music, talk radio, thinking, etc.–but for me, listening to other people tell a story turns a boring task into an entertaining one. Remember LibriVox, the free source of audio books? Anyway, the point is, make the best of things with some sort of entertainment.
4. Focus on the money you’re making. When we’re done, painting the house will cost us about $1,500. Most of that money is going to the wood for the siding. To get the house painted would cost $5,000. If you add in replacing the soffit, trim, killing off yellow jackets, cutting siding to shape, and replacing the old siding with new boards, it would cost us at least $10,000 to have someone else do this project. That means I am saving at least $8,500 by doing it myself.
On top of that, painting a house adds equity. It increases curb appeal, and the structural changes are improving the house, meaning that when we’re done here, our house will be worth more money. Market conditions aside, we could sell it for a higher price after doing this, much higher than the $1,500 we’re putting into the job. This is what people mean by sweat equity.
The problem with sweat equity, though, is that you have to sweat to get it…
5. Reward yourself for a job well done. I think that having a painted house for the first time since living here is a pretty good reward in and of itself. I know it will make me feel better about my home–I might even start to feel proud of it. Nevertheless, I fully intend to do something fun with my husband when this is all over, as a reward for all hard work. Celebrate everything you accomplish in life.

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