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BJLower 08-02-2008 08:00 AM

A Midwesterner that grew up helping others with projects
Hello DIYers,

I got pretty lucky in a couple of ways. I grew up in the first farm township south of Chicago that made us the smallest school in the district. The gave an experimental class for one year while I was luck enough to be in 8th grade, I'm certain that its costing way to much was why they only gave the class one year.

In groups of 4 we built a 6' tall, but other than that full blown corner of a house. They were in big rolling carts, so we couldn't actually build footer, but started with the cinder block and went all the way to the roof. It was pretty much a combination bathroom kitchen all packed into one so we could do everything. It was wired for electric, plumbing for both a toilet and a sink (they worked but the water drained into a bucket), had lights and even the proverbial “Fart fan” vented out the roof, a working window and a door that went to nowhere, was finished outside and inside including gutters (make that a part of a gutter), tiled floor, basically everything they could pack into a scale corner of a house.

The instructor was a retired master carpenter who only came in for that one class every day and gave us more hints and tips in a year than every episode of “This Old House” could ever do. He knew how to build a house. If we had all worked together on one big one, it could probably have taken a dead on hit by a tornado.

The other thing was that my dad was a DIYer. He started as a lineman for Ma Bell and ended up a VP, so could have just paid someone to do it, but was just like my grandfather. He enjoyed doing it and always got me involved even when I was so young that I was probably more of a hindrance than help.
Our subdivision was one block long and 8 blocks wide and surrounded by corn fields, so my friends would help on the projects when we got older.

I learned enough that the summer that I turned 15 my friends and I built a full bedroom and bath onto our house. Dad wasn't real comfortable when we started and was always “just looking” when he checked out our work. That man was proud as a peacock when we finished it. He kept a picture of it on his desk. He paid us back big time. The only place we had to swim was one of those pits that they dig to get road fill from that was dug for what used to be Route 66 out of Chicago and was only a half mile from the house and had some pretty nasty stagnant water. So he bought a swimming pool with a special liner that would make the water 7' deep in the middle. Naturally, we had to dig the hole for it that was in just the right place to let us jump off the garage roof. We could jump off the garage roof with the understanding that when it sagged we replaced it.

I've been a full fledged DIYer since. I always joke that I can't draw a straight line but I can build anything.

I turned my neighbors in Florida into Midwesterners. We helped each other with our projects. The brother of the lady across the street build custom pools in California. In just 2 weeks the neighbors build a pool that looks like it's made from boulders. It starts with a 7' high Pile of bolder that hide the pool equipment and also has a water fall that pours into the jacuzzi. They jacuzzi looks like a circle of boulders on the ground and is set up so that it will heat separate from the pool. We put what looks like a big slab of rock hanging our over the pool that turns into a sheet waterfall (with seating underneath)
that pours out of the jacuzzi into the pool that looks like it's all made from boulders. We did the whole backyard in tanning areas and walkways in fake rock.

Her brother said the same pool would have cost at least $100,000 in California. It ended up costing Stu all of $6,000. Stu's a plumber, so we added a bathroom and shower to the side of his house because in the natural Midwestern way his pool is now the neighborhood swimin' hole. We all have keys to the lock on his fence , that we also helped build, so we can swim whenever we want.

My house had that old “Spraycrete” on it that I hated and had been wanting to cover it, but everyone that said that I would have to have the house sand blasted. I found out that they all assumed that there was paint over it. Joe took one quick walk around my house. I think to check that the “Spraycrete” was solidly stuck to the whole house and looked at me and said. “You're house is covered with 40 grit sandpaper, this will be easy.” Joe knew how to mix your own stucco very cheap, so we ran out and picked everything up and had a load of sand dropped off. The neighbors put a very nice stucco job on my house in a short day.

I built the dock in the saltwater canal that goes into Tampa bay so that it floats on plastic 55 gallon drums and only has 2 poles holding it in place. It's L shaped so that my boat fits inside the L, but a longer boat can tie up on the straight side. People always ask why it doesn't rock and I have to point out that the tings that look like big boxes to sit and fish on which they're good for, are filled with rocks that balance everything. To protect the boats tied up to the dock I got a load of old fire hose from the fire department. Stainless screw, fair size loop, stainless screw...... It makes the greatest boat bumper you can imagine. I like to get someone up of the bow that thinks he's going to have to jump onto the dock to tie off the boat and go right ahead and ram the dock and shoot him into the water on the far side. I know those big loops of canvas covered fire hose will absorb a pretty good impact without putting a mark on my boat.

Between working on my places and helping other people, not to blow my own horn, but I've become a pretty good jury rigger. I'm pretty good at figuring out ways to fix and do things that are always easier and cheaper than the hard way, The tower on my boat is made out of PVC. I found a place where you can get it in colors and with connectors that narrow at the ends so it looks pretty. It has seating for 3 and is every bit a sturdy as a metal one. Moving the controls to the top of the tower was the only part that was in anyway difficult. It cost me less than $500 as apposed to for that $5,000 for a metal one.

I love a challenge, so if you got a tough one, I'll give it my best.

I've managed to make the front page of newspapers 3 times in my life with practical jokes which is a lot harder than figuring out how to do a lot of other things.

BJ (Just short for Bryan John. My grandfather gave me that nickname when dirtying my diapers was
my main function in the day)

Sorry, but I can't turn your nieghbor's into Midwesterners for you. You don't have to be raised as one but you still need to get lucky enough to have nieghbors that are friendly to begin with. If you do, the proverbial “men folk” will figure out very quicky that helping each other with projects makes them go a lot faster and be a lot more enjoyable. Somebody has to start the ball rolling, which is how I was raised and its just spread from there. Unfortunatly I've had to relocate, but have good friends that I can go back and visit. My new neighborhood is going to take some work. They've all lived here for a long time and are set in pretty set in their ways. They get a little stunned when they start a project and you just walk up and start helping them. It's taken me about a year, but they're starting to change. I've gotten very close with the people next door and they can't believe that people that used to barely acknowledge each other are starting to talk in the front yards and help each other.:thumbsup:

Sir MixAlot 08-02-2008 09:42 AM

Welcome neighbor!

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