It Always Takes Longer

As anyone who knows me understands, I’m a big fan of doing things myself instead. It’s actually how I got into computers – I couldn’t afford for someone else to repair them for me when something went wrong.

My level of skill in particular areas can be great or little, but I usually try. I’m not much of a mechanic, I’m a decent carpenter, and I can logic my way through electricity and plumbing. I’m not about to give someone a home appendectomy (mine’s already done, so I can’t do it to myself) but I know how to give injections to livestock and slap a bandage on a wound.

But there’s a critical fact that I often fail to account for: major projects always take longer than the time budgeted.

My house expansion (original house: 500 square feet, single-stall garage with rotten roof; new house: 1000 square feet, two-stall tuck-under garage) has been an ongoing project since 2012. In part it’s taken so long because I’ve never really committed fully to it. I had a 60-70 hour per week job; then I was writing novels. Last fall I really threw myself into it and got it 90% done, with the remaining 10% consisting of heat and plumbing (including the new bathroom which never got further than framed and insulated).

I had originally planned on forced-air heat for my expansion, but I hate my old furnace and really didn’t want to replace it. (I need to sell more books.) Also, drilling big enough holes through 6″ concrete walls to bring heat ducting over wasn’t appealing at all. So, my search for alternate ideas eventually landed on a radiant system designed around 1/2″ Pex tubing and aluminum heat spreaders strung through my floor joists.

On paper, it’s actually a really elegant and simple design. The holes I needed to drill through my wall are much smaller, for one. So after drawing up a materials list, I closed my eyes and ordered all the Pex, the pump, and everything else I needed to make it work.

I aimed to actually get the system built over Thanksgiving weekend. While I knew we had plans for Thanksgiving Day proper and the Saturday following, I had nothing on Friday and all of Sunday afternoon. I figured even if I didn’t get the system done (which was likely), I’d have the vast majority of it done and all I’d need is a quick trip to Menards to pick up the last of the fittings I’d need to complete the project.

As I write this on Monday morning, I can say that I’m far less than 50% on the project. Now, some of that had to do with butchering a deer on Friday evening that eliminated a big chunk of my work time, as well as a trip to the church last night to fix the sound system after a disastrous service on Sunday morning. (All audio and visual upgrades should be tested well in advance of a service, regardless of how well past upgrades have gone.) But even with that time back, I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I thought I’d be by this time.

As my father wisely pointed out to me last night on the phone, “It always takes longer than you think.”

I guess that means I won’t be getting bored in the evening any time soon.

With the outside temps approaching -20 this morning, though, it would have been nice to have some heat.

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