If anyone asked me what the biggest perk of running a blog is I’d have to tell them that interacting with readers and other blog writers is tremendously satisfying. You end up networking with those folks and it’s a lot of fun. Just recently one of my blog-friends, John from AZ DIY Guy, included me on a chain post where you are given a bunch of questions and you are asked to write a post explaining your answers. The questions are all personal, which is a fun change of pace.
I’d really like to hear YOUR responses to some of these questions so pick one or two of them and answer them yourself.
So thank you to John and here are my answers.
A Post About Me
Why do you blog?
I started blogging back in 2011 because I believed that I had a voice and a perspective different than what I was reading online. Back when I was working on my first house and years before I started blogging, there were a lot of projects that I had started and finished and I’d regularly consult Google or YouTube for help with questions that I had. I noticed that there were large knowledge gaps or instructional gaps in the home improvement niche that I had to learn on my own. For example, I had no idea where I was supposed to find a window sill for the bay window in my first house. Was that something you just goto the store and buy? I spent some time online and couldn’t find anything. I went to Home Depot one day and was chatting with the cashier who was an older retired fellow and he thought I was crazy that I was trying to buy a window sill. He said “Just buy a piece of wood and route an edge on it and that’s your window sill” (tutorial here!) OHHH. Duh. Today, that’s supremely obvious to me, but when I was first starting out, I had all these questions of that sort. So, I started blogging and I envisioned my audience as being people like me, but ten years ago. People who want to do the work themselves, but they really want to see the whole process laid out for them. So I’m here to write about the whole process of all my projects.
What advice to you have for new bloggers?
You either have to write about something you really, really enjoy or you have to have a passion for writing in general. I’d also recommend new bloggers take the time and learn HTML and CSS. If you can control the code on your site even in small ways, it helps tremendously. Start an email newsletter. Always think about what value your writing gives your readers. Respect your readers and they’ll respect you back.
What is your favorite social media to support your blog and why?
I like Facebook for chatting and discussions. I like Instagram for sharing sneak peeks of projects. I like Twitter for sharing posts and tutorials. I probably spend most of blog related social media time on Twitter although I read more than I post. I always respond to tweets though.
What are your favorite tools?
My favorite tool is the table saw. I wasn’t a huge fan of it until I upgraded the table around it. Now it’s much easier to cut larger sheet goods and the Biesemeyer fence is just great. I recommend anyone using a contractor grade saw upgrade their setup to include a large out feed table and an expanded side table.
What is the oldest tool you still use?
The oldest tools I own are my grandfather’s radial arm saw and drill press from the 1950s. I’m in the middle of cleaning up and reorganizing my basement workshop so I’m hoping to get those two tools running again. At the moment they’re still disassembled.
What was your biggest DIY success?
This BIGGEST DIY success to date for me has to be the kitchen cabinets in my first house. I was able to build a custom looking set of cabinets with inset doors (similar to most of my current projects). The project probably only cost around $2000 for what a carpenter or cabinet shop would’ve probably charged closer to $15,000. I’m convinced that those cabinets really helped sell that house quickly.
What was your biggest DIY failure?
Right now my biggest failure is my concrete planters. I tried making these a couple of times, but I had trouble with the molds. We actually have the first planter sitting in the front of the house. It has our last name’s initial in it and it looks pretty cool, but it didn’t come out as nicely as I would’ve liked.
What are my favorite books?
I don’t read too many books nowadays unless I have a long work trip. Life is just too busy with the kids, work and the blog stuff. I recently read the $100 Startup by Chris Guillbeau, which I’d recommend to anyone interested in earning money online or rethinking their career.
Although I tend to prefer non-fiction books, I’d like to read more Hemingway when I get the opportunity. I enjoy his writing style.
Light Sabers, Hobbits, Defense Against the Dark Arts or the fortune and glory of beating the Nazis to supernatural antiquities?
I’m not a big Star Wars fan so light sabers don’t interest me. Star Trek is WAY better, in my opinion. Lord of the Rings was a great trilogy and it’s actually my wife’s favorite movie series, but I’m not a giant Tolkien fan. That leaves Harry Potter or beating Nazi’s. I choose beating Nazi’s.
What are your three favorite movie quotes?
This is a tough one.
1. “We don’t need no stinking badgers” – UHF
2. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” – Jaws
3. “You’re killing me Smalls.” – The Sandlot
Welcome to our new digs! Over the Christmas and New Years break, I hired a coder to transform our old site to the current theme you are now using. There were a couple of reasons for this transition, but the biggest two reasons were to improve the look on tablet and mobile devices. The other was to make it absolutely obvious what this site was about to new visitors. Thus, the main page is now a sort of landing page and the blog section has been moved.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be making some tweaks to improve your user experience. So I have a favor to ask of you. If you find any problems or issues with the current site, please email me and let me know. I’d particularly like to know how the site looks on your mobile device. Feel free to email me a screenshot. I know it looks a bit wonky on the iPhone and I’m working on getting that corrected.
The site was actually redesigned by a designer on 99Designs.com and I’d highly recommend that site if you’re in the market for ANY kind of design work.
So before we dive back into the DIY game with our next project, I thought I’d take a few minutes and talk about what we’re planning for 2015.
1. A Webinar. Sometime in the next few weeks I’m going to host a Google Hangout session. If you’ve never been online for a webinar or hangout, it’s basically a video chat where you can watch, listen and interact with me. It’ll be a great opportunity to get any of your DIY questions answered. I was planning on discussing some cabinet projects, but I thought I’d let you guys decide what you’d like to talk about. Shoot me an email with your suggestions.
2. Smaller Projects. In 2014, it was the year of the never ending office project. Great experience, but since it took so long, we have a stack of smaller projects building up that I need to finish. We’re going to make some shadow boxes for the vestibule, start planning to finish our basement, setup the shop and make some big improvements to our landscape.
3. A Podcast. Looking to launch our very own podcast sometime in the next couple of months. I’m fairly new to the concept myself having just started to listen to a few on my daily commute last year. The platform will allow me to talk about projects, skills and techniques in a way that a written post can’t. Videos are great and you’ll see more of those, but I think the podcast will help grow our discussions.
4. eBook. I’m in the middle of writing my first ebook on kitchen remodeling and expect to self-publish it sometime before spring. It’s hard making time to write both the blog posts and the book, so it’s been slow going. I think the book will give you a more cohesive look at how I approach projects, even if you aren’t planning on remodeling your kitchen. It should give you a leg up on any major home improvement effort.
5. Coaching. I’m planning on offering some DIY and home improvement coaching via Skype or FaceTime. If you’re planning on a major project or remodel and you’d like to chat with me for 30-60 minutes about your upcoming housework, this will now be a way to do it. You can still email me your questions and the forum is now available, but if you just need to have a conversation with someone face-to-face you’ll have that option available. I’m working on the promo video soon. It won’t be free, but I’ll make it worth it.
Thanks for reading! We’ll be back next week with our first project of the new year.
Great news! The newest addition to our website is now LIVE! It’s the DIY forums and it’s waiting for you!
Let me answer a few questions you may have…
What are the DIY forums?
The DIY forums are a brand new area of this website where you can ask questions about your home projects, discuss projects from other people and show off your finished work. More than that though, it’s a first step towards building a community of like-minded home improvers and DIYers.
Is it Free, what’s the catch?
Yes, it’s 100% free. No catch. Well, the catch is people need to actually use the forums in order for it to be successful.
How do I sign up?
I’m already a newsletter subscriber, is this different?
Yes, this is separate from the newsletter. You’ll need to register and create an account even if you are already a newsletter subscriber.
Ok, sounds good. What do I do once I’m registered?
There is a New Members Intro discussion started. Tell everyone a little bit about yourself. You will also be able to build a social network-like profile complete with a description of yourself and a photo. You’ll be able to add friends, chat, share status, etc.
What can I talk about on the forums?
Pretty much anything home improvement related. Have a question about electrical, landscape, woodworking, cabinet building or general DIY? Ask away.
I hope that answers any questions you may have! Now go register!
In today’s post, I wanted to take a few minutes and share the results of the reader survey we ran a couple of weeks ago. We received over 75 responses, which is not too shabby. If you took a few minutes to take the survey, THANK YOU! Your opinions are important and will help shape the direction of this blog going forward.
Let’s start with our readers.
We have a very large number of male readers compared to most home improvement blogs at 58%. You also told me that 86% of you own your homes instead of renting. I probably should’ve asked you what your ages were, but that’s probably more relevant to outside marketers and sponsored posts, which is not a large part of our blog income strategy. Besides, if you like working on your house, who cares how old you are.
The next question was about your level of interest. Basically, are you a casual reader that simply enjoys seeing what we’re up to or are you reading with the intent of improving your home improvement skills. Here’s what you said.
In case you were wondering about that math, this is one of those questions where you were allowed to select both! Otherwise, I need to go back to grade school.
Now we get into our content. I wanted to know what sort of posts you enjoy reading and what posts you would like to see more often. Not surprisingly, you said Carpentry was your first pick, followed by General Home Improvement, Cabinet Building, Design (which is surprising), and Adding Home Value. I can tell you with some degree of confidence that this isn’t anything terribly different than what we’re already doing, so this post lineup shouldn’t change too much. I’m a bit surprised by the Design category getting some attention, so I’ll make sure I put more emphasis on those posts when we get to them.
The next big change to the site that I’ve been thinking about is a adding a forum where readers can post their own questions and projects. I know you all have projects of your own and by offering a place to talk about them I think we’ll all get a ton of value out of it. Since I knew everyone may not end up using the forum, I still wanted to gauge the general interest in the concept.
Here’s what you told me.
Um, yeah. I think this is probably a good idea. I’ll be working on adding the forum, just as soon as I finish up our home office.
Another aspect of our blog that I’ve been exploring is adding a purchasable product. If you’re a frequent reader of home improvement blogs, then this whole idea may sound strange and could potentially be a turn-off. However, there could be a large enough percentage of readers that are interested in some sort of ebook or online course that it would be worth the effort.
Here’s the situation. I could write 200 posts on the ins and outs of kitchen remodeling, home improvement, trim work, cabinets, built-ins, or whatever. I could write this blog for ten years and if you took the time to sift through all those posts, you may read everything you would ever want on those topics.
I could write an ebook where I put together a few hundred pages of my thoughts on how to remodel your next kitchen or build your own kitchen cabinet. It would be in one package of text, one resource for you to hold onto. Being able to read posts is great. Being able to have a guide in your hands or on your tablet is valuable.
If you don’t like it. You don’t have to buy it. No problem.
Still. I wanted to be sure there was enough interest upfront before I started something. Around 2/3’s of you indicated that you’d be interested (the graph says 75%, but you get the idea).
Ok, cool. I’ll get started.
I’d also like to find out what topic you think would be worth developing into a product. Not surprisingly, Cabinet Construction was your first choice with Kitchen Renovation right behind it. A number of you also gave me some helpful suggested topics. Thanks for those! If I don’t incorporate them into a product, then you can be sure I’ll try to cover them in a future post.
The final question of the survey was an open invitation to write me a comment. What do you like? What do you hate? What needs to get better? Anything you wanted to say.
The most common response I got was regarding the look of the website. Either the images aren’t big enough or the layout is awkward. Some people have even emailed me to tell me they don’t think it looks good on a mobile device. While I was considering a refresh at some point down the road, your feedback has convinced me that I need to make those updates sooner rather than later.
I also need to post more often. I realize that once a week kind of comes across as lazy on my part. I’m going to make an effort to post twice a week, but I’m still going to approach each post as an opportunity to deliver some sort of value to you. If I don’t have anything worth saying, then I’m not going to hit publish. I just don’t want to waste your time.
There are a couple other side projects I’m developing that have been consuming some of my free time. I’m really looking forward to telling you about them when the time is right. That extra time investment has eaten up some of my post writing time. The biggest time consumer right now is the home office project. Once that’s done I’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Thanks for your help in making this a blog worth reading!
Last year around this time we ran our first ever reader blog survey. The feedback we got from that effort was hugely helpful and we made a number of changes as a result. Today and for the next couple weeks, we’ve opened up another survey. Please take a minute and tell us what you like, what you don’t like or whatever is on your mind. The results are anonymous, so you don’t have to worry about us finding out who you are. Feel free to leave constructive criticism. You should be able to see the survey below, but if you can’t you can take it by clicking on this link.
Thanks and have a great weekend!
Just last month, this blog of ours turned 3 years old. If you’ve been reading our stuff this entire time, thanks a bunch. Chances are however, you’re probably a new reader or you’re landing on this site for the first time and if so, welcome. I decided to write a post about my experience with blogging for a couple of reasons. The first reason: my approach to blogging has changed over the past few years and I firmly believe that it’s worth sharing the rationale behind those changes. I know a number of my readers are bloggers and I hope they’ll benefit from this post. The second reason is for all the readers that aren’t bloggers. I want to tell you where this blog is headed.
Background: I started blogging in 2011 for two main reasons. I had developed enough home improvement and woodworking skills over nearly a decade that I could help people who were trying to add value and improve their homes. I also heard that people were making money blogging and I thought I should give that a shot. Seemed like the perfect combination of opportunities. I loved talking about home projects and I could potentially make some money on the side. Win-win. The only problem was, when I first started out, I didn’t know how to do that.
The first two years. When you’re first starting out, the easiest thing to do is follow the leader. The best and most influential home improvement bloggers were all pretty much doing the same thing. They were publishing great content. In fact, they were publishing great content several times a week. To be clear, I’m not just talking about Young House Love. Everyone who was leading the pack seemed to be posting at least five times a week. I think they all were doing that for a few reasons. The more content, the more search hits, the more readers. I don’t think that’s a bad strategy, at least at first. When you are trying to get rolling, publishing a lot of content really can’t hurt. Plus, if you really enjoy writing, then go ahead write the posts.
The underlying problem with my approach the first couple of years was my monetization strategy. Most of the big time home improvement bloggers were making money from ad revenue and sponsored posts. Those methods CAN be pretty lucrative IF you have a lot of traffic. If you don’t have a lot of traffic, then no dice. Ah, but more time and more posts will deliver more traffic. More pins. More time on pinterest. More social engagement. More tweets. More comments on popular blogs. More guest posts. More. More. More. If I just posted more often. If I just get that one post that goes viral. After two years and 300+ posts, I was starting to become skeptical of this whole traffic and ad based concept. It works for some folks. Wasn’t working for me.
Moreover, most of MY content is not terribly pinterest friendly. The whole home blog scene tends to be dominated by women. My content is more aimed at both men and women. As a guy, I tend not to read blogs on a regular basis. I’m assuming most guys don’t. Even today, if I want to learn something new, I’ll google it. If I land on a cool blog, I’ll try to remember it, but chances are I’m not going to pour a cup of coffee and read 15 posts in one sitting. My wife will do that.
The past year. Around July of last year, I bumped into a blogging niche that was taking a completely different approach to online publishing. Lifestyle and income bloggers. They were publishing LESS often, sometimes 4-5 times a month. They had great traffic, but they weren’t using pinterest (if so, barely) to drive it and they were making more income in one month than some bloggers were making with their full-time jobs and their blogging gigs put together. Sound cool?
What are they doing differently? They’re publishing the same great content other bloggers are providing, but they’re also selling digital products on the side. E-books, courses, consultations, you name it. They have newsletter subscribers, not just RSS feed subscribers. They have e-commerce sites, static sites, affiliate programs, podcasts. It’s a whole other world of blog monetization.
Who are these bloggers? Pat Flynn. Derek Halpern. Chris Ducker. Ramit Sethi. Melanie Duncan. Many more. Normal folks, that simply package their content in more ways than you may be accustomed to in the DIY and home improvement community.
Whats next. Over the next several months and years, I’m going to continue to keep up the same posting schedule, the same content strategy and the same type of home improvement projects that you’ve come to expect. I’m also going to be rolling out some new features that I think will help me deliver value to you, my reader. I’m shooting to launch a new podcast before November and I’m thinking about adding a forum for more on-site conversation. The goal with these two projects would simply be to grow the Our Home from Scratch community.
If you’re new to blogging or are considering starting your own, here are a few things I would consider adding to your to-do list. Keep in mind, these are my own lessons learned. At some point I was guilty of all of these infractions at one time or another.
1. Start a Newsletter. I started my first e-newsletter in December and I’m on pace to reach 1000 subscribers by the time next December rolls around. How is this different than subscribing to posts in Bloglovin, Feedly or just an RSS subscription? Newsletters are emails that you write to your subscribers telling them in your own words what’s going on. You CAN use them to keep people in the loop on your latest posts, but you can also use them to remind them of giveaways, contests and downloads. You can write unique content. Have an idea for a post that you’d rather not publish? It would probably make a great newsletter piece, plus it’s exclusive. If you DO end up developing some sort of digital or physical product, it’s a great way of introducing it and offering sales information. So start a newsletter. I use Aweber for my newsletter service and so far so good. Not sure who would ever subscribe to your newsletter? Try offering something free in exchange for someone’s email address.
Just to put this in perspective. My absolute biggest blogging regret was not starting an email newsletter on DAY 1. Hands down. When I started the newsletter, I wasn’t sure if I’d get a dozen subscribers in a year. I’m getting 2 or 3 a day. Some days I get a dozen. I’ve had a Facebook page for my blog for nearly 3 years now. I have under 400 likes. Newsletters. Do it.
2. Only Post Valuable Content. Don’t waste people’s time. If you have nothing going on then don’t post. You don’t NEED to post something just because you always post on a Tuesday or whatever. If you take the time to write content that will provide value to people in one way or another, then you’ll readers will come back time and again. But if you mail in a post and just talk about what you had for lunch (unless your blog is literally about your daily lunches) and waste people’s time, then they’re much less likely to pay you repeat visits. I’m not talking about your blogging friends and real world friends that actually know you in real life. I’m talking about people that read those 2 or 3 killer posts you wrote over the past year and you’re starting to grow on them. Don’t blow it. Oh and for the love of God, if you take a week or two off from blogging, you don’t need to apologize to your readers. They’re not offended. I promise.
3. Don’t Make it a Chore. Growing your blog takes time. Don’t put pressure on yourself to churn out new, amazing posts every week. If you feel like you HAVE to hit publish or your blog is going to sink, you’re going to get burned out. Most people start blogs because they have something to say about a topic and they approach this new hobby with a fresh sense of optimism. So very many of them will quit or get bored or become cynical over a lack of success. If you’re blogging because you enjoy writing, then only write when you are going to enjoy it. If you’re pissed off or in a hurry, then you’re going to make the process miserable. Slow and steady wins the race. Take your time.
4. Be Known For One Thing. When people land on your site, they decide within the first few seconds whether or not to look around or to move onto the next website. People are a fickle bunch, no? You need to grab their attention and immediately make it clear who you are and why they should read your content. Chances are your content is diverse and you’re a complex person with skills, passions, hobbies and pictures of your pets. That’s all great. Let new readers figure that out after they’ve read a couple of posts. Initially though, you need to hit them right in the eyes with who you are and what you’re awesome at. Like a deer in headlights, if that’s what they’re looking for, you’re in luck. So how do you do that? Well, take my site for example. I want people to know right away that this site is about home improvement and power tools. Before they leave, I want them to think “Oh, this guy builds furniture. This guys is good at home improvement.” What do you want the people who land on your site to think? Gear your site towards that goal.
When I first started blogging back in 2011, Lisa and I would cover more topics in our blog posts than we do today. A lot has changed since then. For starters, Lisa doesn’t write anymore. I’m also much more focused on home improvement and DIY projects specifically. Gone are the recipe posts and the occasional humor post. Probably for the best. At some point over the last few years I decided that sticking with this one niche topic would be better for our readers and frankly more satisfying than trying to cast a wider net. For the most part, it has been more enjoyable. In December we introduced our free email newsletter and started publishing wood working plans to try to build our following. Things got serious.
While this approach is all well and good, it can leave our blog a bit impersonal. Our posts are much more technical. I would prefer to make our blog more like a mullet. Not just business in front, but also a party in the back. My goal for this website is to build a community of people that not only enjoy reading my posts, but also contribute their own opinions and experiences.
In today’s post, I want to share some details of my life that I don’t often discuss on the blog and in the comments section I’d love to hear about you and your life.
What I do when I’m not blogging or working on the house.
For the most part, I’m usually trying to help Lisa around the house with the cleaning, laundry and taking care of our two girls. I used to cook more frequently after I graduated college, mostly because I had to. When I was 23 and 24 I was glued to the Food Network. I loved Oliver’s Twist and Good Eats. Nowadays, Lisa does 99% of the cooking, but I’ll try to do something one night a week or so. In case you missed that math, 1 night out of 7 equals 1%. Unfortunately, I find it much harder to cook if I’m actively working a home project like our office remodel.
What I do for fun.
When I have some genuine down time, I enjoy playing a first person shooter on our PS3. It’s setup in our sitting room. Lately I’ve been playing Battlefield 4. I didn’t pick-up the latest Call of Duty game. My video game time is usually 30 minutes or less so I prefer the run and gun type games that I can jump into and then quit. I never play the campaigns, just the multiplayer. I like to think I’m pretty good at it, too. Leave me your PS3 handle in the comments section and I’ll add you to my friends list, especially if you have BF4.
What TV I enjoy.
I HATE getting sucked into TV shows. It’s the worst. What I mean is… the shows that I get addicted to are usually so good that I end up binge watching them and they kill my evenings. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who. That’s pretty much the only regularly scheduled show that I watch. Otherwise I’m watching hockey or DVDs with our kids. I’ve managed to avoid watching Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and House of Cards. Lisa just started watching Mad Men.
Where I travel
I have a great full-time job (that I won’t get into) that enables me to travel very rarely. I’ve been to San Diego, Seattle, Japan, Ireland, Denmark, Canada and Germany (soon). In my personal travel I’ve been to Portugal, France, The Netherlands and Mexico. Would love to get to the UK, back to Ireland, Italy, Greece and Scotland. It’s hard to pick a favorite place. In the US, I love San Diego. Even wrote a travel post about it way, way back when. It’s hard to beat the East Coast though. Philly and NY food is pretty hard to beat in the sandwich, pizza and European ethnic food department.
I don’t do sports. I used to run and workout when I was younger, but I haven’t been to the gym in a long, long time. I would love to start running again on a regular basis. Not for competition, just for good health and for enjoyment. Just this week, I ran for the first time in maybe ten years. My legs are destroyed. It’s going to be at least 4 or 5 days before I can walk normally again. This summer, I’ve been thinking about learning how to hockey skate so I can play in a rec league next year. I can ice skate, but I can’t skate backwards, speed stop nor have I ever tried to skate with a stick and puck. Going to be interesting.
Is watching and talking about Doctor Who a hobby? No? Well, then blogging is my hobby. Lisa and I are also dabbling with some online business ventures. One of my goals is to add a membership section to this site beyond the email newsletter. I also started writing a book on kitchen remodeling. Hope to have it finished by the end of the summer.
Now it’s your turn. Tell me a little but about yourself.
In this post you’ll learn:
-About my Amazing Experience with Angie’s List
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time getting to work on our home office remodel. I’ve got about 90% of the coffered ceiling framed out and I’ve applied for an electrical permit for the additional ceiling lights we’ll be adding. I’m looking forward to shifting gears and actually doing some drywall work, which isn’t something I’ve had to do much of in our new house. Am I any good at spackling or mudding walls? I’m actually pretty good at it, so I hope I can share some tips on that subject if you’re interested learning. Later this week, I’ll share some pictures of the ceiling work on our Instagram and Facebook accounts.
Today, I want to do something a little different and share with you one of my all-time favorite remodeling stories. Now just so we’re clear, I’m not being paid to write this post. I’m sort of on the fence as to whether or not I should start doing sponsored posts or not. I have yet to write one. Anyway, that’s a discussion for another day. Even though this isn’t a sponsored post and I’m not being compensated for it, I just added Angie’s List to my affiliate portfolio. That means if you visit the Angie’s List website using my link AND THEN purchase a subscription to their service, I get a kickback at no additional charge to you. Affiliate advertising is a good deal for bloggers and there’s way more money in affiliate advertising than banner or Google ads. Anyway, just want to be above board with our readers on this stuff.
So back to my favorite remodeling story….
It’s 2008 and I’m getting married in under three months. I’m living in a row house that has been about 50% gutted. The kitchen is gone. The upstairs bathroom is non-existent. All of my personal belongings are covered in a thin haze of horse-hair plaster dust. I was just informed by Philly’s License and Inspections Department that I need to have most of my remaining remodeling work completed by licensed and insured contractors. Philly has a policy where contractors are the only ones permitted to perform electrical and plumbing work. Homeowners are allowed to do some basic remodeling like window replacements, framing, drywall, etc. Not a popular policy among DIYers as you can probably imagine. So, being the rule follower, I acquiesced and attempted to hire a plumber and an electrician. Lucky for me, I had just signed up for Angie’s List. A few years prior, I had renovated the first half of the house and hired out some roof work. I quickly realized that using the yellow pages to find a roofer was a misadventure I didn’t care to repeat. Let’s just say I burned through some serious vacation time waiting for contractors to eventually not show up to give me quotes. It was infuriating. So by the time 2008 had rolled around, I had already become an Angie’s List subscriber.
Now here was the challenge before me. I needed to identify affordable, competent and reliable contractors to finish the electrical and plumbing work so I could finish the house in time to have my beautiful bride move in after we got married. These contractors would have to both show up AND give me a quote, which in the days before Angie’s List was… well… a crapshoot. Oh, and after all of that, I still wanted to build my own kitchen cabinets. Needless to say, time was a critical factor.
Here’s how I pulled it off… On a Monday, I called three electricians and four plumbers I found in Angie’s List. I told them all I wanted them to come by my house on Wednesday and give me a quote for some work I wasn’t permitted to do myself. I intentionally gave them all different times so as to stagger their visits throughout the day. Right away, in Philly, this is like asking for the Pope to swing by with a fresh cheesesteak. A couple responded with something like… “Meh, maybe Wednesday will work. We’ll see what we can do.” Then, as if reading from a script, towards the end of the phone call, they would each ask me where I got their number. Was this from a previous job? Did you find my number on a bathroom wall? Where did you hear about our business?
This is my favorite part. I would tell them “Angie’s List” and then listen for that audible silence on the other end of the line. That “Oh crap, I better show up and better give this dude a quote” kind of silence. They would all commit to being at the house that Wednesday. They know that if they didn’t show up or blew me off, I could go onto Angie’s List and leave them a bad review or indicate a no-show. That’s not good for business.
Wednesday rolled around and I literally had a dozen contractors in the house tripping all over each other to scope out the job. It was an Angie’s List miracle. Oh and that whole staggering thing went out the window once the morning rush hour hit. I had three electrical contractors in the house at the same time eyeing each other up. I think it ended up working out in my favor. They knew there was competition.
Each and every one of those contractors showed up and all but one gave me a written or verbal quote. One contractor did decline to provide a quote, but showed up anyway and after viewing the work, told me he wasn’t interested in the job. Hey, at least he told me.
I was thrilled. I ended up hiring two awesome contractors that’d I’d recommend in a second. Actually, I’m working on a Resources Page and I will provide their info to anyone in the Philly area who’s looking for some quality guys.
All the work ended up getting done fairly quickly, which left me in a great position to build my kitchen cabinets.
So that’s my Angie’s List story. If I ever need anything done by a contractor, which is rare these days, the first place Lisa and I look is “the List.” The membership fee is outrageously affordable. It’s under $4 a month and the cost drops even further if you buy a whole year or two subscription. Lisa and I have even used it to look up our prospective doctors and dentists. Forget “in-network”… are they on the List?
For $4 a month, if you hire a contractor once a year, it pays for itself immediately.
Just so you know, I’m never going to recommend a product or a service that I haven’t used or don’t hold in high regard.
I hope you’re having a great week and I’ll be back later this week with a home office update.
Since we started releasing our free woodworking plans to our newsletter subscribers, I realized that not everyone may be interested in building projects that are exactly the same size as the units in our house. Fair enough. So, I decided to open up an Etsy shop and sell custom dimensioned versions of the projects we make available to our newsletter subscribers. If someone wants to build one of our built-ins for example, but would prefer it taller or wider, no problem. You can buy the plans online and specify what final dimensions you would like and in a few days we can email you a customized set of plans specifically for you.
We’re also selling the same plans that are available for free to our newsletter subscribers. Why would I do that? Well, for one thing, it’s an opportunity to try and leverage some of the work we’ve done so far. It’s also a great way of establishing value to our readers and subscribers.
Here’s a link to our Etsy store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/OurHomefromScratch
This weekend, we’ll be back in our office finishing up our hardwood floors. In our next post, we’ll be sharing some of the design process and layout options sized for our office. We’ll get a chance to see what those ideas we considered actually look like in the space.
Maybe this post is a week or so early, but with the holiday week fast approaching, I think it’s now or never. I’m not sure how much time I’ll have next week for a wrap-up, plus I want to make some changes to our theme during my Christmas vacation. I actually LOVE tweaking the html and css for our site. Probably because it’s such a new thing for me and I get a kick out of it. I’m sure it’ll get old eventually. Over the holiday, I hope to add another set of plans for our subscribers and I’m shooting to add them by the end of next week.
Anyway, it’s always fun to look back on the year that was and take another look at the projects we attempted. Key word here is “attempted.”
2013 Blog Year in Review
Let’s start with January…
The first month of 2013, introduced our readers to our Master Bedroom and Sitting room. You can actually get a tour of our whole house on the Home Tour page. We bought an Ektorp couch from Ikea and upon opening the box, discovered it was broken. Instead of returning it, I just fixed it. Couches are heavy and I’m not a fan of returning heavy stuff.
In February, we started off with a Wiggles Themed Birthday Party for our two year old. Lisa made some graphics on Photoshop and we had a fun family party.
We finished up February by starting on our large built-in cabinet and also knocked out a custom wooden frame made from reclaimed lumber from a 200 year old barn.
March was all about built-ins. We did the bulk of the carpentry work for our large cabinet over the course of this month, including our tutorial video on building shaker cabinet doors.
I think April was our favorite month of 2013. We added a daughter to our growing family and wrapped up our large built-in cabinet. I guess the baby was slightly better than the cabinet.
We put a wrap up post together for the built-in to make it easier to follow the flow of the build.
I’m happy to say that those windows are still bug proof!! Big win.
July may not have been everyone’s favorite month since we did more than a few posts on website coding and WordPress theme design. While I’m not going to bore you with details of coding again, I am thrilled that we were able to get away from our standard theme and design something custom tailored to our needs. It’s always a work in-progress though and I’m continuing to make some tweaks here and there.
We also finally found some time to add UV window film to our front entrance. Tricky to put up, but it’ll prevent our floors from getting sun damage.
In August, we spent some more time in the garage adding an electrical outlet and plumbing in some compressed air so I could move my compressor out of the garage and into the basement. Love the extra space that move has given me.
In September, we finally re-epoxied our garage floor. You could literally eat off it now (I still wouldn’t). We also wrapped up our summer long garage improvement series by revealing the after photos.
In October, we took it back inside and started design work on our custom media cabinet. October was pretty much TV stand month as we only posted about the build of this piece.
November saw the completion of the TV stand project. This cabinet has only been around for a few weeks and we’re big fans of it so far.
So that was our 2013. Pretty exhausting if you ask me.
We’re super excited about 2014. We’re really going to try to go crazy with this home office. We’re going to be adding a lot more woodworking plans and possibly open an Etsy store for custom furniture designs similar to what we did in SketchUp for the TV stand.
Thanks for following along and we genuinely hope you learned something from our experiences this past year. I mainly write these blog posts with the intention of passing along some of the experiences I’ve gained over the years so you can approach your own home improvement projects with more clarity and confidence.
All the best,
John and Lisa
Hey! Thanks for stopping by. We're Lisa and John and this is our DIY and Home Improvement blog. Feel free to browse our DIY project gallery or our latest posts. You can read more here.
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