The best part for me about writing this home improvement column is getting to hear all the stories that you send to me on a daily basis.
One topic that comes up all the time is home improvement projects. Homeowners tell me how easy it is to loose control of a large home improvement project and ask what can be done to prevent that from happening.
I never could relate to how a homeowner could lose control of a project since the process is usually a slow one. Also, in my 30 years as a professional contractor I ran jobs every day and never let one get the best of me.
For example: When I built my own home 20 years ago, I applied my usual contracting methods and the entire process went according to plan. But recently, even though I thought I still couldn't understand how someone could lose control over a major home improvement project, I nearly fell into that trap.
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When I built my home 20 years ago -- at the height of my professional contracting career -- I did my paid jobs all day and spent nights and weekends building my own house.
Because I worked on my house every day from start to finish, this job -- like all my previous jobs -- received my full attention and I had complete control over the building process. Before I knew it everything fell into place and my house was finished as easily as one of my paid projects.
Cut to 20 years later, though, and I'm not on construction sites every day like I was years ago. Now I'm lucky enough to travel the country promoting a new book, working on syndicated newspaper columns, making TV and radio appearances, and doing live speaking events.
I do this to educate homeowners and contractors on a topic that I devoted my life to -- home improvement -- and my work now is a long way from my every day on-the-job construction site roots. But, my love for "hands on" construction hasn't stopped, and earlier this year I decided to build two additions to my home that were long overdue -- a mud room area and a home office. This was no big deal, or so I thought when I took out the permit.
Since I'm on the road constantly, the big difference or me this time was getting only a day or two here and there to do my work or line up subs. Sometimes weeks passed between the days I could actually work on the projects.
Now, with the limited time I had, my major home improvement project did not get my full attention, and I had two additions going at once. I felt as if everything was out of control and nothing was getting done.
For the first time in my building career I understood what many of my readers were going through, this was a humbling lesson for me. My solution to this mess was to take a breath and follow the advice in my own book: "Focus on one small task at a time and do nothing else until that task is completed, then move on to another small task."
Sounds simple, but if you lose sight of that goal, you will lose control of your large project. My first step was to stop all work on the office and to devote all the time I had to only the mud room.
Then I broke the mud room down into tiny projects that I could complete in one day. This is called true "step by step" building and it works! Even though I still have a way to go before I can move on to the office addition, I'm no longer overwhelmed by the job and I can see progress being made.
Today's goal? All I'm worried about is getting a cup of coffee and a gallon of interior paint so I can paint the mud room door, and that's it. Not a bad day!
Master Contractor/Plumber Ed Del Grande is known nationally as the author of the book "Ed Del Grande's House Call" and for hosting TV shows on Scripps Networks and HGTVPro.com.