Most people don't get excited reading about home improvements, yet Russ Ringsak from A Prairie Home Companion has a way of entertaining while writing about the topic. His description of being a carpenter's helper “… chain sawing, Bobcatting, shoveling, pick-axing, jack hammering, sledgehammering, regular hammering, mixing concrete, wheel barrowing, and holding the dumb end of a tape measure” was fun to read and maybe you're wondering too, which is the dumb end of a tape measure?
At Russ's home, the Broken D Ranch, they were replacing the back porch with a much larger sun room, and hired “Minnesota's best carpenter” to complete all the structural work while doing the interior finish work themselves.
Home Improvement Tips
As I don't want to copy Russ's story verbatim (read Home improvement at the Broken D Ranch), I'll use snippets to show the fun ways in which he informs and entertains with his writing.
- “… enclosed now and the giant dumpster is gone” tells us that most home improvements start with some type of demolition and framing. These tasks generate huge amounts of debris so a dumpster is pretty typical for larger projects … and you'll want to decide where to place the dumpster on your property.
- “… interior phase has begun and we are on our own” shows that it's common to share the workload of a large project with your contractor. In this case “Minnesota's best carpenter” handled the demo and construction of the new sun room while Russ is handling the interior finish work.
- “Everyone should do this, but not more than once …” made me smile as you'll either love or hate the work and you won't know until you've tried your first project. Alternatively you can volunteer to help a good friend with their project but it's got to match in size and complexity to really test your commitment.
- “… repeated trips to lumber yards and hardware stores to write gigantic checks” is part of the homeowner experience as I expect my husband to make 3 or 4 trips for even small jobs. Another approach is buying every type of plumbing PVC for a sink repair so you've got what you ultimately need.
When I started my handyman business, I had a steep learning curve – which stores carried different materials, what was in stock versus needed to be ordered, what we could pick up versus having delivered to the job site, etc. My technicians taught me so much and I remain amazed at how they simply walk to the right aisle and find what they need the way you and I grab a gallon of milk at the grocery store.
- “… called a ranch in the way that a window box can be called a farm” is what made me write this article. Russ described the ranch in terms of a long driveway but also needing a fence if you were raising cattle. The message here is your home is what you make of it, and you are free to use your imagination.
- “… a piece of suspect siding on the front porch and the discovery of a vast conspiracy of carpenter ants, so named not for their building skills but for the fact that if you have them you need a carpenter. The name is demeaning to carpenters of course and changing it to demolition ants might be demeaning to demolition experts. ‘Property devaluation ants' would be accurate, and it would give them that colorless dead and blameless aura so favored by the politically correct.”
- “… porch was built from re-used 2x4s in 1950, 64 years after the main house was built; the year was printed on the Libby's Gay Nineties cardboard posters they tacked in there for insulation” gives us insight into how resourceful homeowners used to be. Reusing materials isn't new, just being rediscovered with the green movement.
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