Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013: My Year of DIY

Some people seem to believe engineers can do any type of engineering. Okay, well, at least my mom seems to think so. "You're and engineer! You can do it!" At this point I always point out that I was an electrical engineer and not a mechanical or civil engineer. Apparently I am not alone in this with my fellow EEs. Give me a math problem, and I will be just fine. Give me water running through pipes or dual bladed saws, and I start to twitch a little. Okay, maybe a lot. This year I took a few steps waaaaay outside of my comfort zone, and nothing flooded or fell apart. Thank God! Truly...

I updated a half bath. Unfortunately I didn't take before pictures, but I removed pink and white splotched wall paper (who picked that?!). I added shutoff valves under the sink. I removed a vanity, sink and mirror. I painted.  I installed a new vanity, sink, and mirror. Mom framed and matted a picture that looks great. Most importantly, I did not flood the bathroom. You know how they take a weekend on television to do this sort of thing? Well, this took me 4 months or so. Part of it was waiting on a wood floor to be installed downstairs. Part of it was me dragging my feet. Part of it was trying to figure out how to do things.  The other part was buying the vanity from a company that didn't pay attention to the sink dimensions I provided. (I even took the sink with me!) Another part of it was hiring a plumber that almost ruined the vanity so I decided I would do it myself which required cutting a very thick bamboo vanity. That's where the saw came in. I have to say, power tools can be fun. Scary, but fun. Somehow all these parts came together. After it was complete, it took a while to sink in (ha ha) that it was really finished.

My upstairs has a vanity that looks like the one that used to be in the half bath. This is what was there:

Here's the finished product:

My next project involved a ceiling fan. Two actually. I had a fairly new ceiling fan in my room that was a remote control fan. Unfortunately the receiver began malfunctioning and decided to turn both fan and blade off and on at random times. That isn't good when you are trying to sleep. Finally it got to the point that it no longer wanted to turn on at all, but the remote control was the only way to turn it on. Who decided to make a fan with no manual switches?! Hunter, that's who. I also needed to replace a fan in the guest bedroom because it wobbled like a drunken sailor and had no light. I found one heck of a deal online on two fans that were exactly the kind I wanted. I was pretty determined on this project so it only took me a weekend and one backache. Out with the old....
Why would this room not have a

Hey, wires! This I can do.

In with the new...

Ta da! Wood blades shaped like leaves - Bu-tee-ful.
My last project was my closet. This one only took me 6 years to do! Okay, really, I started it in December '13, but this closet needed to be replaced when I bought the house. The height between the shelves was designed for childrens' clothing, I guess. I couldn't use a quarter of the closet. Rather than moving the shelf up, it took me years to decide I didn't like the white wire shelving and instead wanted a cedar closet organizer. I bought this kit directly from Northern Kentucky Cedar which made the price less than most of those wood closet organizers AND it smells like cedar. Saw + cedar or drill + cedar = aromatic delight.

Here's what it looks like before... but unlike the picture, mine was without the ability to hang clothes in a quarter of the closet. This is the closet in the guest room that has white wire shelving:

Naked closet with patched
drywall and fresh paint.
Getting there...
Ta da!
Cedar is bu-tee-ful :-)
Still standing!
I learned a lot in my year of DIY:
- I can do it! Who knew?
- Even if I do something wrong, I can usually fix it.
- If I can't fix it, there is someone I can call who can. Thankfully I haven't had to do this... yet.
- Watching DIY channels made me want to take on the entire house.
- Talking to friends who do this sort of thing regularly is very helpful.
- Youtube has a lot of useful DIY videos. Mental rehearsal is a good thing.
- There were challenges I did not expect so I should just go ahead and expect challenges.
- It will take significantly more time than I think it will.
- It's okay to take significant time to think about what you are going to do before doing it.
- Sometimes professionals aren't so be careful who you hire to do work. 
- Home improvement hurts: my back, my hands, etc. Strength training regularly is a good idea.
- I ♥ wood.
- I ♥ power tools.
- Eye protection. Seriously.
- There is no such thing as perfect. Stand back 5 feet and look. If it looks good and works, you did well.
- Once you start DIY projects, you will notice great work or flaws everywhere: hotels, other houses, etc.
- Taking a few minutes to say a prayer before starting made starting significantly easier.
- Getting to enjoy work you've done yourself is a great reward!

Hopefully 2014 will be the year of PhD dissertation, and maybe a few more DIY projects. :-)


  1. Not bad for an electrical engineer! If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this was done by someone who knew his way around power tools. I love the fan with the leaf-shaped blades. From the things you’ve learned on your DIY year, I’m guessing you had a lot of fun! What was the best part of the whole DIY experience?

    Levi Eslinger @