Friday, August 28, 2015

Our house: One Big Mistake

By Michael

I've been absent from our blog for quite some time now, but Yulia's been doing an excellent job with her always inspirational updates. I hope she continues to write and inspire you just as much as she inspires me. She has a quirky, playful knack for storytelling that's just perfect to convey our quirky, playful life here!

I removed myself from blogging to better wrap my head around what needed to be done with our house--cover it with siding, trim all the windows and build a small addition. I have no experience with building--aside from the two years we've been living here--so I needed to focus.

I'm now done with a large part of that job, and I've realize something very important: Our house is one big mistake. I can't begin to tell you about all the mistakes I've made.

I started hanging the siding, for example, thinking I would do it by hammering the tongue and groove boards through the center with nails. I got to the second board when I learned that this would not do. The boards were too thick and hammering them in with big nails was too violent an action. The board would bounce as I hammered it to our old, uneven walls, loosening all the other nails

I didn't know what to do. I had the whole house to cover and had no idea how I was going to do it. I watched some videos online. One Ukrainian guy on YouTube installed this kind of siding with screws through the grooved end of the board. They used nail guns in all the American videos I watched.

I tried screws through the grooves, but every time I did it, the screw would split the wood. I didn't have a nail gun, so I couldn't do it the American way either. I was stuck. I walked around our property a few times. Thought. Complained. Felt nervous every time a neighbor would walk by wondering what I was doing. Then I realized I had some perforated metal straps for drywall. I cut these straps into short pieces, screwed one end into the back of the siding and used the other end to fix to the wall. I can't describe it very well with words, but maybe this makes more sense:

This was actually more of an elegant solution for me than using a nail gun or driving screws through the grooves. The old walls of our house are wavy in places. These metal straps are flexible, so that if there is a valley in the wall underneath, the strap will bend, but not force the whole board with it, allowing the siding to "float" and remain relatively straight.

Another big problem for me was our door. The day I brought it home was very windy. Yulia wanted to see it, so I unloaded it off our truck and leaned it against our open garage door, so that she could see it in the daylight. The problem with that idea is that the garage door is fixed on hinges. I walked away to get Yulia and then heard a gust of wind and a crash. The wind had swung the garage door and tipped over our brand new door!

It was not totaled, but both panels had popped out a bit. I tacked them back into place and fixed it up as best I could. But do you think that was the last of the problems with the door??

The next day I started to bore into the wood with a drill and chisel to make room for the door handle and lock. It was a few hours of work, but by sundown I had carved out enough room for the mechanism. I got too excited and wanted to show Yulia the new door handle in the door. What I didn't know at the time was that the lock cylinder did not fit the mechanism (something the seller at the store should have known when he recommended I buy the two!). When I screwed in the lock cylinder, I used a drill instead of a screwdriver and the screw got forced into the mechanism and became stuck. I could not pull them out again and so was forced to cut them out with a saw.

I wasn't going to give up though. I glued the wooden door together, let it dry overnight, and was up with the rising sun the next morning to sand it down. It took about an hour to sand a few square centimeters. I didn't admit defeat. Now that it is lacquered, it is hard to see the two groove marks from the saw.

Never admit defeat!
I have many other stories like this, which brings me to one conclusion: this was one big mistake. But I consider every mistake a lesson. When you realize you've messed up you have a choice. You can turn around and stop. Or you can keep going.

How do you handle life's mistakes?


  1. In my homeowner experiences it all sounds familiar and somewhat inevitable...making mistakes, big and small. You are learning a great deal and in the long run you will become an expert, or nearly so. Hang in there and don't let your emotions become your adversary, but rather an allie. Well done Michael. Home exterior finish line is closer than you think )).

  2. Thanks for the kind words :) We are hanging in there--and even enjoying ourselves! You're right, mistakes are inevitable, and I wanted to show how they are just a normal part of building--and living in general--to others like me with little experience.

  3. Mistakes are life's best teachers and experience . One learns more by doing the work than by reading and trying to understand it. That is a beautiful transformation that you folks did to the house.. Keep up the nice work.

  4. Hi Michael,

    I know just how you feel!! Its a long hard journey but it will all be worth it in the end. We have been building now for over 18 months and your post is what I have been through on almost every job.

    The good news is that it gets easier and easier as you make more mistakes and are forced to fix them.

    One thing you can do to stop boards splitting is pre drill a hole in them.

    Dont let it get you down! Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks for the tip! I definitely pre drill holes whenever necessary. These metal ribbons were just what I needed anyway since they flex and let the siding stay straight while covering the wavy walls underneath.

      It's true what you say about mistakes. A lot of people that are new to this may try and do everything perfectly on the first try, but that's unrealistic. You may get discouraged and quit before you even get started.

      Where are you building?

  5. I once had a house mate who's brother was a housing contractor. He built houses for a living. Trust me, even pros make mistakes. No house is put together perfectly. And as a professional contractor even he said, "we are building a house, not a piano."

    I for one think your solution for attaching the siding was brilliant. And you got the job done. My wife keeps asking when I will be done renovating....

    1. Haha. Yes, we're getting closer to being done, but there's still so much more to do. I still have to cover then back side of the house, then dig out a trench for sewage, then complete the bathroom, then....
      Slowly, but surely, right?

      Thanks for sharing the thoughts of an actual contractor. I hope this will help other do it yourselfers realize they have not failed if not everything goes to plan.

  6. This is the exact reason why I read blogs like yours. I bought a new house and am still making mistakes. Reading posts like you made helps me to better identify potential trouble and fix it in a timely manner before it leads to bigger and more costly repairs. Thank you for the detailed information on the issues around your home.

    Giovanni @ Coastal Contract Hardware