Our Do-It-Yourself Retirement Lifestyle

The thing is, if you have a handy man, do-it-yourselfer kind of husband, you will probably end up doing-it-yourselfering with him. Big sigh.

Well, to tell the truth, it can be rewarding. We once bought a fixer-upper, renovated it, and sold it for a profit of $25,000. Although we worked on it almost every evening after working all day at our full-time jobs, we plucked away at it every weekend, and I spent all school vacations working on that house for nine months, the experience and profit were very rewarding.

Our rentals had plumbing problems for years. R fixed faucets and drains and made temporary repairs to pipes. I slapped stain sealer, texturizer, and paint on ceilings and walls where water leaked through. We called plumbers, Roto Rooter, and handy men whose ads we found in local newspapers. The “last straw” consisted of chicken noodle slop splatting all over us (right in my face) when we answered an angry call to clean out an inexplicably plugged drain in the basement of one of our duplexes. (Characteristically, the tenants who stuffed the noodle mess down the garbage disposal blamed the folks on the attached side for the drain clog, until we presented them with the evidence.) Finally, we started replacing all the old cast iron pipes in the rental units, one unit at a time. The jobs were tedious (we’re not experienced plumbers) and sometimes harrowing. One time R almost lost his hand when he cut out the main cast iron stack (the three-story-tall one) a bit at a time, starting from the bottom. He rigged a device which held the stack up while he pulled out the section he had just cut. Then he let the pipe fall so he could cut another section. During one of those drops he pulled his hand away 1/100th second before the pipe fell. I, standing by for tool handing and clean-up, almost fainted.  However, today he still has both hands, and we hardly ever have plumbing problems at the rental properties. Hugely rewarding.

At our own house, we have built new decks together, painted the whole house inside and out, build two new bathrooms, tiled walls and floors, gutted and rebuilt the family room, and replaced rotted wood siding. I have helped carry tons of dry wall and cement board siding and am not yet crippled or herniated. This summer, R decided the front of the house needed a redo, and we were just the workers to do it.

I pleaded with him, “We’re retired. We need help with this huge job. We have a teenaged neighbor boy who is strong and eager to earn extra cash.”

But, no, this was R’s baby. He spent weeks designing his plan, and I became his helper.

 First, we had to take off all the old shingled siding and cover the front with tar paper. The old shingles fell into the bushes below, and guess who was in charge of gathering them all into piles, removing the nails, and transporting them to the trash.

 Our do-it-yoursefer drew and cut, and pried off old boards, shingles, and battens. I swept up, picked up, carried, primed, purchased paint, painted, and polished.

 My main job for a while was to cringe while R perched on a high ladder fumbling with monster panels.

 We placed each panel on a board equipped with a pulley. A rope was pulled through that pulley and then through another pulley attached to a board screwed into the overhang below the roof. The end of the rope was then tied to our trailer and pulled by our lawn tractor. I drove the tractor (slowly, carefully) away from the house as the rope pulled the panel up and R maneuvered it into position. Then R dropped the tall ladder against the panel and nailed it to the house in a few places before removing the boards with the pulleys. It was not a smooth operation. Getting the tractor to pull ahead or back up just a “tiny bit” in order to place the panel in precisely the right spot was like asking an erratic bull to inch back just a bit from the cow of his dreams to let her adjust her skirt. Two of the panels fell in the process, and several times we had to take the whole thing down and start over.

 Meanwhile, summer decided to give us a great drought and heat wave. We had to quit by noon each day before the sun fully hit the front of the house, or risk being broiled alive. Our neighbors had to put up with the messy looking, partially finished project for several weeks.

 When the painting phase began, our wonderful neighbors were quick to tell us how nice it was looking.

 Part of it, anyway. There was plenty left to do for another week or so.

 Seemingly small matters, such as redoing the porch columns, taking the gutters down and putting them back up, and making everything fit just right took a great deal of time.

 Now, looking at our house framed in the colors of Fall, I can truthfully conclude, this was one of our most rewarding do-it-yourself projects ever (until the next one, I’m sure.)


About Joyce Ann Brown

Freelance writer retired from a long career as a library media specialist, adventurer, reader, lover of all things spunky. Besides hiking K.C. trails weekly, I currently write for publications and write cozy mysteries. Find Catastrophic Connections and Furtive Investigation on Amazon.
This entry was posted in My Journey Into Retirement and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Our Do-It-Yourself Retirement Lifestyle

  1. Sandy Schaffer says:

    Hi Joyce,
    I love your style of writing, as well as how you communicated the nuts and bolts of what has gone into all these projects over the years in Our Do-It-Yourself Retirement Lifestyle. What a great final product (just kidding – I’m sure there’s another project waiting just around the corner). In all seriousness, though, I really like the way your house turned out. It was worth the effort. Thanks so much for taking the time to share the story.



  2. Vicki Gaughan says:

    And people wonder what retirees do all day …! I am in complete admiration and awe of your “do it yourself” abilities, Joyce, and really enjoyed reading about all the projects. You could even start a blog totally devoted to DIY stories!



  3. cheryl Plas says:

    The house looks beautiful! I hope you and R will enjoy your work of art for a long, long time!


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