December 03, 2008

A Leaky Faucet- Just One More Household Project

Just a few short hours ago my son complained that I am spending too much time working on projects around the house and not enough time playing with him. For a moment I was aggravated with him. It is not like I want to spend all of my free time puttering around. I'd love to have time to lounge around and play. Don't get me wrong, I do some of that, but not as much as I'd like to.

As the big guy stared up at me I smiled and told him to go get a flashlight and flat head screwdriver. I remember having similar conversations with my own father. I used to ask him to put the tools down and come play catch or chess, or whatever. And he did, just not as much as I wanted him to.

A few minutes later I was greeted with my flashlight and screwdriver. Before he could run off I grabbed the big kid and sat him down. I asked him to help me fix a few things around the house. He smiled and told me that he would use the screwdriver and I'd hold the flashlight. I smiled back and let him take control. As I sat there I watched him fumble around with things and found myself channeling my father.

"Be careful or you'll strip that. Watch out, you're going to scratch the hell out of that." And just as I glared at my father those many years ago, he glared at me. I smiled again and told him that I wasn't angry, just trying to help him learn.

The beauty of owning a home is that you never run out of projects. The real challenge is trying to figure out which projects can easily be handled by yourself and which should be farmed out. I know how to do a lot of things and what I don't know I can usually figure out. But the reality is that sometimes it doesn't make sense to do some of these things myself.

My method for determining what to take on and what not to is relatively simple. I look at the project and try to estimate how long I think it will take to complete. If it is big, I come up with an estimate and than increase it by a third. Things always come up and since it is not my full time job I can't always avoid the hurdles.

Alongside the time estimate is the question of how much will it cost. Here is an example. Dear Shmata Queen, ignore the numbers, I am using them strictly for the purpose of this example.

I can paint my house for about $1,000. Or I can hire a crew for $3,000. In theory it is easy to say that I should do it myself and save the $2k. However it ignores the time factor.

The crew can do the job in five days. That gives one full day of prep work. They'll come in and hydrowash the house, sand, etc. Then they'll the spend a chunk of time doing the stucco, the trim, doors, windows etc. They'll spend the last day walking around the house doing touch up work.

If I do the work myself it will take a minimum of three full days to do the prep work. That is assuming that I am able to work a full day and am not interrupted. Then I'll need another four days to do the painting and whatever time it takes me to do the touch up.

In my example I have the crew finishing the job at least two days faster than I can. In reality I expect that the difference will probably be even greater. They're professionals and do this all the time. I am decent with my hands, but I'll be slower at some of it. And like I said it is not my job, I am not so foolish as to think that I'll work unencumbered.

So let's revise my estimate to something like this:

Professionals: $3,000 cost for a five day project.

Jack: $1,000 cost for a ten day project.

I don't know about you, but my time is worth a lot. I am willing to pay two thirds more to avoid tying up my free time for two weeks. Not to mention that doing so also helps to free up time to play with the children. The day is going to come in which they don't come looking for me. So I want to take advantage of the moment.

P.S. For those who are curious I do have a leaky faucet. It is in the kitchen. I had to order a new cartridge from the manufacturer. The good news is that I have a lifetime warranty so it doesn't cost anything. The bad news is that I have to wait for it to be shipped to me.

In the interim that drip, drip, drip is irritating me. But as I said there are a ton of projects to be done. Later this week I am going to replace the handles on the shower tub and maybe install a new sink in the bathroom. I am kind of going back and forth about that as that means removing an old ugly vanity. I pull that, put in a new sink and a new vanity and the old tile in there is really going to look bad. That is the sort of thing that leads to a push to remodel the whole freaking bathroom.

And now my head hurts.

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