Tag Archives: smart fixes

Renovation Tips for the Older Folks: Safety First

June 17, 2011



Get help from the young folks.

I’m only in my early 40’s, but I’m starting to feel the effects of getting older. Maybe it’s not age as much as very hard work. I’ve always worked rough, tough physical labor all my life. When I was a kid, my body seemed invincible. Now, however, I hear it complain from time to time. It’s not very loud complaining, but my body is hinting to me that it’s not as supple as it used to be. So I’m starting to pay attention more often.

Renovation is hard work. That’s why I love my power tools so much. šŸ˜€ It’s great to build muscles the size of cantaloupes, but it’s harmful to abuse your body for the sake of a renovation. Here are a few tips for taking care of your body– no matter what your age– that I have learned along the way.

1. Don’t forget to eat. And eat healthy foods!

I’m a tad obsessive when it comes to big projects. I tend to focus very narrowly on that one goal, even to the point where I skip meals or eat “fast foods” so I can get back to work. When I was younger, my body could cope with such abuse. But not anymore. With our living room renovation in 2007, I stuck to a rather rigid schedule of working on the house for 6 hours a day, then cooking dinner for the family. And I rested every night.

When we were working on the kitchen, it was a much larger project with many more things involved (wiring the entire house, replacing the plumbing system, etc). And I was on a time schedule. I HAD to finish the kitchen before the kids began school in the autumn.

I felt rushed and figured I could work and work and work. I skipped meals and lost sleep and also was working my writing jobs at the same time. It was really too much for my body. I lost some hair (it’s growing back as white), I gained weight (I never lose weight, ever), I was exhausted. Looking back now, I could kick myself. I just didn’t take care of myself like I should have.


We filled this dumpster. THREE TIMES.

So if you have a very physical job ahead of you: eat regular meals (no heavy meals); take your whole-food vitamins, as your body absorbs them better; eat healthy foods like fresh vegetables. Increase your protein intake, too. Nuts are good. Fish is good. Red meat and chicken are good, but I didn’t like to eat heavy meats every night, as they are more difficult to digest.

It really will make a difference!

2. Use safety equipment, when it’s safe to wear them.

This is another area where I tend to fail miserably. I wear glasses, and I just can’t stand the safety goggles! When it’s a hot summer day and I’m at the power tools, the goggles fog up. The plastic lenses are cloudy and blurry and I can never see clearly with them. How can it possibly be safer to wear those things?? My opinion is that it is not. I don’t wear safety goggles unless I’m working with caustic liquids.

I do use ear plugs, now. I didn’t during most of the renovation, but the piercing screams of the circular saw really started to bother me. Ear protection is important, use it.

Dust masks are indispensable. I forced the kids to use them at all times. They were a real pain, especially when it was very hot and humid, but they are necessary. Unfortunately, most of the dust masks available are for men– that is, they fit large faces. I am thinking of petitioning companies to consider women and teens when they make masks– we work, too!

DR Ceiling Down

Another little-mentioned safety tip is to use braces. Boy, these came in handy! Going up and down stairs, carrying buckets of bricks and plaster and stone… crawling around in crevices trying to wire the boxes…. my son developed a knee injury from all the activity, so we got him a knee brace. It worked wonders and he wears it whenever we do heavy physical work.

3. Create a quitting time and relax in the evening.

As mentioned earlier, I tended to want to work obsessively until the job was done. It was like my mind was on overdrive but my body was in neutral (and in reverse, sometimes!). I am aware that this is an area with which I’d still struggle if I was still renovating.. and I’m going to have to really force myself to cool my jets when we gut the upstairs of the house. But I do realize how important it is to rest after a hard day. Not only is it good for the body, but it helps your mind to recuperate, too.


Take a clue from the cat: REEEELAAAAX.


4. Keep the worksite clean.

I learned this from walking into my son’s room while he slept at night. When he was younger, he used to leave his Lego pieces all over the floor. Oh, those things are nasty when your foot finds them at 2am!

So when we created a few workbenches and brought in all the tools from the garage, we HAD to clean up everything before bed. No tools left around! If something like a Lego feels so awful, I could only imagine what it would be like to slam a toe into a pipe basin wrench! Oooo! >.<


Having a place for the tools also makes it easier to find what you need during the job!

5. Get someone else to do the gardening. :-p

Don’t overwhelm yourself with a zillion other projects during this time. I did the spring planting before we started the renovation, and had the kids manage the garden during the renovation. Toward the end of the season, the garden was filled with weeds, but I didn’t care. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

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The Makings of a Broom Closet

July 30, 2010


Since I had to change my initial plans and install a full wall (instead of a half wall) in the kitchen, I decided to make lemonade with lemons. A little background: after opening up a wall that the kitchen and conjoining dining room share, we decided it looked great, and wanted to keep the area open, with just a half wall/pass-through type of deal. However, I discovered that I had nowhere else to place the refrigerator, so we had to rebuild a full wall. šŸ™ The wall is a thick void, built to house a huge cast iron drainpipe in the corner. The rest of the wall is just wasted space. So I decided (on a whim) to bust out the dining room side of the void, and install a broom closet next to the bathroom door. I have NO IDEA how to make these things… after a little thinking, I just started whacking, lol. It didn’t turn out half bad…

I don’t know if you can tell in the photo, but here I removed a wall stud and installed a header about 7 feet up.


Then, I installed blocking to support the plywood walls I would soon insert.

Broom Closet_3

The blocking is a little haphazard. I wanted to use up the scraps of wood we had lying around the house. It doesn’t look pretty, but it works. AND it uses up the scraps instead of wasting them.


I had to meticulously measure the plywood panels and nail them in, to create a box. That bottom piece is a small scrap piece of expensive plywood that would have otherwise been tossed out.


We installed sheetrock around the walls.


Now, I have to find some doors for the thing. I didn’t take into consideration that I might not be able to find doors that fit such an odd measurement (the opening is 22 inches wide and 78 inches high). I may have to make my own, or buy two small stock doors and fit them in just right. The dining room walls will be deep red, so I expect I will stain the doors a cherry or mahogany color.

I’ll have a small shelf or two at the top, to hold various household stuff, like vacuum cleaner belts, light bulbs, etc. Our house has virtually no storage space (the basement floods and we have no attic space for storage), so little closets and cabinets around the house are valuable real estate.

In other news, we are FINALLY making progress with the sheetrock. WHAT a job. It’s just my daughter and I right now. We hope to have a small crew here Sunday to complete the job (am praying). If all goes well, next week we spackle and paint. Then— CABINETS!!!!!!

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