The Perils of Do-It-Yourself Home Building

Diary of a Mad Home Builder.

Written by A. William Carson and published as a public service by the Indiana Builders Association, the following “Diary of a Mad Home Builder” is a dramatized example of how Murphy’s Law can and too often does come into play in do-it-yourself home building.

April 1 (Fool’s Day) – My banker was very friendly. Said he wished I would get a builder because I didn’t know what I was doing. Best rate I could get was four points above prime because I was too marginal with no experience. Also said I’d get the money in stages after I showed proof of payment to subs. What nerve! I didn’t realize there would be this much paperwork. Missed three hours of work. He gave me a calendar though.

April 26 – Took 25 days to finally agree on house plans. Never dreamed there were so many details. Discovered that my wife is a very nasty person. Think I’m getting a nervous condition.

May 4 – Finally swung the deal on the lot. The developer said, “Take it or leave it!” Said the builders buy several lots at a time and that’s why they get discounts and that I didn’t qualify. I know I paid too much but I’ll easily save enough to offset it later. He didn’t show me much respect.

May 6 – Somebody’s going to pay for this on election day. You need a Ph.D. just to fill out all the forms for permits and licenses and to go to all the various government offices. There was less red tape when I joined the Navy. Somebody will pay. Missed five hours of work.

May 7 – Staked out my lot as best I could. I didn’t have one of those tapes, so I just stepped it off. Wonder how builders square the house on the lot? I guess it’s no big deal.

May 8 – Met excavator early in the a.m. He said only a fool would build a basement on that lot. Too low! I let him know in no uncertain terms that it was my money and to dig. He was grinning when I left for work.

May 10 – The excavation was filled with water. I told him to fill the damn thing back up and I chalked my loss up to “experience.” I’m a nervous wreck.

May 11 – The foundation guys told me it would be at least three weeks before they could get to my job. They had to take care of their builders first. I hate delays.

May 12 – The lumber man said that I could qualify for discounts as soon as I bought at least $250,000 worth of materials. I told him that was discrimination. He agreed. He also would not guarantee any prices because lumber prices were fluctuating almost daily. Told him I wouldn’t stand for that kind of treatment and would shop around. Missed two days of work getting bids. Returned to original lumber man and signed up.

May 15 – When the framing carpenter told me his price, I told him to go to hell. Told him there were doctors making his kind of money and that there were plenty of others where he came from. Said he dropped out of medical school to become a carpenter.

May 24 – Hired original framer.

July 2 – Foundation man finally showed four weeks late. Foreman called me an idiot. Said that no blocks on the site, no work. I thought they brought their own blocks. I told him if he set foot off my property it would be his last step. He beat me half to death. Missed two days of work due to stitches and bruises. Had to reschedule everything. Those subs are mean.

July 11 – Lumber finally came. Called framing carpenter and he said he had to frame a house for one of his builders first. It would be about three weeks. I kicked my dog for the first time.

July 12 – Most of the lumber was stolen. Insurance company very cooperative. Lumber man said it would take about four weeks to replace items. Decided not to tell the carpenter for fear he would take another job. I’m sick.

August 13 – Lumber delivered. Called carpenter and said the timing was not so good. He would start in four days. An extra delay because his daughter was getting married.

August 14 – Made a list of everybody who has lied to me. Got writer cramps.

August 18 – Carpenter finally showed. I almost went berserk when he pointed out that I needed a sawbox from the power company or he couldn’t run his equipment. He said I’d have to pay him for as long as it took to get one or he’d have to go to another project. I mumbled, yes, I’d pay. How was I supposed to know about sawboxes? Missed more work. Decided it’s not fun to build a house.

October 3 – Structure looks beautiful. At least it will be closed up for the oncoming winter. Neighbor told me the house looked off-center on the lot. I told him to mind his own business and get off my property. I accused him of stealing some of my lumber.

October 6 – Roofer fell off the house today and was injured. More delays. My wife just keeps nagging. Told her to leave me alone and that I never loved her anyway.

October 12 – Moved family to a motel. New owners just moved into our house. Thought it would be long done before now. I have wasted a lot of money.

October 14 – Noticed red tag on my house. The Building Commissioner explained that the framer had not built according to the code and some small details would have to be corrected. I told him that I was “big” in the party and I wouldn’t stand for this and neither would my friends in high places. He urged me to continue my political involvement and to make the corrections or no more construction.

October 14 – Had some terse words for the carpenter, but didn’t know what to tell him to correct. Told him to work it out with the inspector. Felt like an idiot.

October 23 – Scheduled plumbing, cabinets, wiring, fireplace man and heat man – all of them at the same time. I just didn’t care anymore.

November 16 – They all showed up on the same day and it was total chaos. I didn’t care. Missed work again.

November 17 – O.S.H.A. inspector closed down project. Cited 21safety hazards. Told him someone was going to pay “big” for this because I’ve got strong political connections. My doctor told me I have high blood pressure.

November 22 – All safety requirements met. Work is in progress and all going well. Scheduled dry wall company. I’m drinking too much now, I know it. Missed three more days of work.

December 4 – Dry wall men asked me why I didn’t insulate the house. To save face, I told him he showed up on the wrong date. He was very disgusted. The insulation company said it would be at least four weeks due to backlog of orders. I threatened him with physical harm and then I relented and begged.

December 5 – Received certified letter that foundation man was suing me and received two irate calls from subs I hadn’t had time to pay. Told the boss to “get off my case” that same day.

December 6 – Discovered that vandals had broken all the windows in the house. The insurance people said the policy did not cover broken glass. I went berserk.

December 9 – Started going to an analyst. He advised that I needed to be better organized. Told him the only way his fee schedule could be any higher is for him to become a carpenter.

December 10 – Painter splashed paint all over the woodwork and carpet. I smiled at him and told him that I’d see to it that he’d never get another job. I keep a flask in my glove compartment now to ward off the cold chills of winter.

December 25 – Told the family the reason there was no gift exchange this year was because I had a sizeable overrun on the house. I promised next year would be better. My wife mumbled something about ignoring her advice in getting a builder in the first place. I retorted that if she was so smart why did she even stay married to me?

December 26 – My wife sued me for divorce today. Said she couldn’t live any longer with a man of my temperament and drinking habits. Said she was going to sue for the “House” and that she wanted it furnished. I headed for the glove compartment.

December 28 – Showed up at work with an awful headache. Boss told me that I should begin the new year by utilizing my talents elsewhere. Said he’d give me a good recommendation as a builder. Smart aleck.

AND THEY TOLD ME I COULDN’T BUILD MY OWN HOUSE!