A DIY home reno project is risky business even if you own a tool belt – CT Post


August 28, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Uncategorized


Published 6:54 pm, Friday, August 26, 2016

Before deciding whether or not to replace the front porch railings myself, there were things to consider. Foremost among them being, is this job beyond my capabilities?

This question is a common one among men whose main claim to craftsmanship is they have their own tool belt. I not only own a tool belt, I own power tools as well.

But to the matter of competency.

On the one hand, I faithfully watch home repair and renovation shows on television and am quite capable of following along as the work progresses. On the other hand, it has been my experience that televised renovations tend to go much more smoothly than non-televised renovations.

So, have I gotten in over my head on occasion, bitten off more than my reciprocating saw could chew? OK, maybe there have been a few incidents.

I don’t think there is any point in getting into specifics here other than to note that when something collapses it is not automatically the fault of the person who built it. I mean, sometimes things just come down to … stuff happens. Also, I’m much less delusional now.

This was not always the case during the peak of my do-unto-yourself period, when I actually saw myself as a cast-member-in-waiting for “This Old House.” This was also a time when others saw me as a cast-member-in-waiting for “Jackass.”

Getting back to the porch railing.

Before undertaking a project of this magnitude, the average do-it-yourselfer would no doubt make a list of the pros and cons. The problem with this approach, of course, is that you miss out on doing a lot of projects.

Instead, I just try to ask the right questions and then make an informed decision from there.

The right questions:

Curb appeal: We are talking about the front porch here. Everyone walking or driving by sees the front porch. The front porch is kind of like a house’s face. Do I want to take the chance that my house’s face will end up looking like a bad celebrity nip and tuck?

Permits: How difficult will the town be about issuing me a building permit? How much will this project unnerve the building inspector? How will the neighbors overreact? How strongly will my wife object? Will our lawyer become involved?

Cost: How much money will I save by doing this myself? How much money will I lose by doing this myself? How much money will it cost to get a professional to come in and do this after I do it myself? Plus, will I have to pay for additional medical, liability and long-term disability insurance? Will I have to go through Lloyd’s of London again?

Skill set: What level of carpentry will be required? Will any tricky angles have to be cut? Will the measuring have to be more than my usual standard — ball park? Will I have to deal in any fractions? Because I don’t do fractions. Fractions are math. I do arithmetic. I do fingers and toes and maybe some short division.

Risk: Speaking of fingers and toes and dividing, am I putting myself in harm’s way? How about others? How about the rain forest?

Equipment: Do I have the right tools? Do I know how to use these tools? More importantly, will this be an opportunity to purchase more tools?

Duration: How long will this take? Can I expect this project to be finished in my lifetime? What is my life expectancy at this point? What is my life expectancy when you factor in power tools?

Biggest question: What could possibly go wrong?

Jim Shea is a lifelong Connecticut resident and journalist who believes the keys to life include the avoidance of physical labor and I-95. He can be reached at jimboshea@gmail.com and on Twitter @jimboshea.

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