Goood morning! Shaun and I are currently living (which really means: eating) it up in Vancouver, but I thought that, with our 11th (!!) anniversary (yesterday) and all, it might be time for another round of:
I recently had a reader ask me when I was bringing back this series, and I had to smile because, while I’m learning all kinds of lessons about marriage these days, I feel like most of them are so specific to my life/current circumstances that they might not be very interesting/relevant for anyone else.
But then, I thought, “Who cares?” After all, this is the place where I share my life with y’all, and if it’s not a relevant post, you’re plenty welcome to and capable of skipping the post.
So! Without further lame explanation and dithering, let’s dive right in.
Today, Shaun and I are both answering 6 questions about what it’s been like to build 2 (well 1 1/2 so far) houses together.
(Hope you) ENJOY!
1. How would you describe the first house-building experience in 3 words?
ABBIE: Hectic, exhausting, fast
SHAUN: First house – Easier than expected. New one – Longer than expected
2. How has this time been different?
ABBIE: At least for me, the pace has been considerably less frenetic. Probably because my main contribution–other than design decisions–so far has been my role of what I lovingly refer to as a “construction widow.” Lots of weekends on solo kid-duty–especially while we were pushing hard to get everything dried in (weather-proofed). Now that we’ve got the exterior foam up and the roof on, I usually get my beloved Sundays back, so I’m good.
SHAUN: The house is different this time. It is much larger and has more complicated details, which present new challenges for sure. Overall, though, it is going fairly smoothly, like last time, only slower, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
3. What has building houses together done for/to your relationship?
ABBIE: I know a lot of people joke that building a house together is a quick road to divorce. But, even outside of the fact that divorce is off the table for us, I feel like it’s been a really positive experience. Both times. But especially this time (which is probably due to some hard lessons learned last time). Maybe it’s because we do so much of the work ourselves, and Shaun is such an excellent, meticulous builder that I have utter confidence in the sections that he tackles. It seems like, as relaxing as it sounds to not have to do the actual labor yourself, the more we sub out the work, the more frustrating the situation, as contractors change their prices halfway through the job, don’t show up when they say they will, and finish well after their self-professed “deadline.” We haven’t had any disasters yet, but we’ve had some narrowly averted ones (I’m looking at you, cement dump truck driver who drove directly into the sink hole my husband had just told to avoid), and I often find myself wishing that I could clone Shaun (and his dad) so they could do every last bit of the work. Nothing like personal investment to motivate you to do a good/timely job!
As far as personal growth, I feel like I’ve really improved in the area of expectations (as in: not having them, which, in turn, helps me avoid feeling resentful if they aren’t met) and Shaun has gotten better at communication.
SHAUN: Let’s say it has highlighted ways in which each of us could stand to improve our communication, decision making, and patience – all of which make for a better relationship. Fortunately, this time around I believe I see evidence that we’re a little better at each and the result is less stress in the building process and hopefully more decisions that turn out just as we planned/hoped.
4. How is it different to have 3 times as many kids involved this time around?
ABBIE: Surprisingly, it’s better. Mostly because everyone but Theo is older than both the boys were when we were building the first time. And Theo is just the chillest little dude ever (whereas Ezra spent the entire year that we built constipated and miserable), so even he is pretty easy to handle. The boys love to head out to “the property” with Shaun and help. They haul trash to the burn pile, pick up nails, and even get to pound a few boards along the way. Sometimes, Della hangs out there too and contributes a bit every now and then.
SHAUN: Well, the older boys now get to come out and swing hammers, burn scraps, clean up, play fetch, and generally prove somewhat helpful – so that is nice. It is also fun to see them take an interest in how their areas will turn out. But of course there’s more going on in general with 6 kids, so we also have to take it slower in some ways and not tie ourselves to a strict building schedule – this is where the improved patience from question 2 comes into play.
5. Any advice for other potential home-builders?
ABBIE: Well, considering that one of the topics I receive the most emails about is our DIY house-building process–and the fact that they range from: “Hi, we’re both 19 and have zero construction experience, but this is our dream. Where do we start?” to: “We’ve already bought the land and have our blueprints but are wondering about ______ specifically”–my best piece of advice would be to research the tar out of your project. I get a lot of rather, um, clueless questions. (See: “We’re 19…” from above). But the main thing seems to be that people don’t know where to find the answers to their questions and are hoping that I’ll know or at least have an idea of where to send them. The truth is, though, that building codes and requirements, materials, and costs will range widely from state to state and even from inside the city limits to outside. So, taking the time to get online and research your county’s requirements or (shudder) visit physical government offices, check out books from the library or buy them at Lowe’s, and watch beaucoups of YouTube tutorials (yup, many are legit) will ultimately save you money, time, and sanity in the end.
SHAUN: Building a house yourself isn’t for everyone. You’ll definitely want to make sure you have the skills/resources to tackle whatever parts you want to do yourself. For some people that will be everything from foundation to fixtures, for others it may just be painting a room after the general contractor hands you the key. Don’t try to tackle something you have no experience with that are more critical in nature (structural framing, electrical, plumbing, etc.), but on the rest, don’t hesitate to save money with your sweat. For many of the house’s jobs you can easily do as good or better than a contractor would if you take your time and do a little research first. It’s obvious, but there are a lot of good videos online of contractors who know what they are doing showing you how they do it. Take advantage of this, but don’t just watch one, watch several on each task and you should quickly see which ones know what they are doing because they do it for a living and which ones are simply hacks. The good ones will typically point out what not to do and tell you why they do it the way they do. There’s plenty else I could say, but basically you need to go into it with realistic expectations of the process and of your capability. One last tip would be to start in the most inconspicuous area for each task. You may be tempted to start in the most obvious place because it shows progress the quickest, but if you are patient and start in the least obvious place, you’ll get better as you go and the little imperfections from the learning curve will be out of the way where only you will see/know/care about it.
6. Would you ever do it again?
ABBIE: Ask me again in six months. Ahem. Short answer? I sure hope we don’t have to. I mean, if the Lord wants us to build again, I’m sure he can drop a meteor on our heads or something. But seriously. We’ll do whatever he calls us to, but I’m certainly hoping that this is our forever home (you know, other than Heaven).
SHAUN: I probably shouldn’t say this, but building a house yourself is kind of like labor. It’s long, tiring, painful, and by the end you’re definitely saying you never want to do that again. But… time takes it’s toll on your memory/sanity and you eventually find yourself ready to tackle it again. Having said that… NO!