One of the most fulfilling moments of my career happened just a few days ago. It’s a story worth sharing for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it should inspire you to do something you think is impossible. It’s a tale of the three Ds: diligence, determination and dedication, mixed with a heaping spoonful of courage.
Just before dinner, I got a text from a reader named Angel, a 28-year-old mom of three mischievous boys in Schenectady, New York. Just before Christmas of 2021, Angel purchased a consultation phone call from me that would change both of our lives. She typed: “I am trying to build a dormer and wanted to know if it would be possible for you to give me step-by-step instructions of what I need to do and a list of materials. … I really need your help.”
When I take these phone calls, my responsibility is to assess a homeowner’s skills and expectations in the first few moments of a call. The last thing I want is for you to get into a situation where a contractor will swoop in and pick your bones and savings account clean.
People are also reading…
Angel’s desire to complete this project was intense. Five minutes into that phone call years ago, I knew her boys were going to have a bright and delightful attic playroom made possible by their mom’s sweat and sore back.
So, days ago, when I looked at Angel's text, I saw a photo of a completed dormer poking out of a steep slate roof on a century-old home. Angel wrote, “Hi friend. It’s Angel … the dormer went really well … no leaking and we made it through the winter pretty good.…”
I was bursting with excitement and replied: “No leaks!!!! VICTORY! I’m so proud of you!!”
I shared this news with my wife Kathy, and she was just as excited as I was. I decided to interview Angel so you could tap into her inner strength. Using some of her inspirational nectar, you’ll be able to tackle a project and save yourself tens of thousands of dollars.
Over the phone, I discovered much more about Angel. She and her husband both work full time. They have three sons, and although Angel had hoped her last child would be a girl, God had other plans.
When I dug deeper into how much DIY experience she and her husband had, she said with no hesitation: “We didn’t know how to do anything. We built bed frames for our kids.” Let that marinate in your brain for a moment and then try to picture cutting a hole in your roof that measures 10 feet wide by 12 feet long.
Angel was quick to offer up, “We didn’t hire a contractor because the bids were too expensive, and in our immediate metropolitan area no one could do the job.”
I know many of you are likely in this situation. I get about 50 emails a week at my website complaining about high prices and contractors who won’t return phone calls. Angel didn’t let that huge obstacle stop her from reaching her goal. Nor should you.
Sixteen months earlier on our first call, Angel told me she had gone to the library to read books about framing and building dormers. I wanted to know what finally gave her the confidence she could start to take slate off a steep roof. She surprised me by saying: “I read a lot of books about how to frame and build dormers, but they left many questions unanswered. The most important thing was being able to get in touch with you.”
I wondered about fear because it can be paralyzing. When I asked Angel about this she replied: “My biggest fear was what happens if something goes wrong. Having someone like you to talk to knowing you have my back allowed me to contain my fear.“
As the conversation unfolded, Angel told me they only bought a circular saw, a reciprocating saw and a nail gun to build the dormer. They already had a 4-foot level, a tape measure or two, and a ladder. Believe it or not, you only need those and a few more simple tools to build a dormer.
I asked Angel what she would have done differently if she could go back in time. As we all know, hindsight is 20/20, and she didn’t hesitate to say: “I would have started earlier. We let the summer and dry weather slip by. Once we cut the hole in the roof, it rained every day, and we kept the house dry using a big tarp. Had we started two months earlier, it would have never rained a drop on the job.”
You’re preaching to the choir, Angel! Rain is something most contractors fight on a routine basis.
I congratulated Angel at the end of the call and once again told her how proud I was of her and her husband. We said our goodbyes, and I sat and thought about what she had done in just four months' time working on the weekends. An hour later, my phone rang and there was Angel’s excited voice. “Tim, guess what!" she said. "I just found out I’m allowed to do all of the electric and plumbing, too! I know you can help me and you’re going to save me an additional $10,000.”
Indeed, I will. Along the way, Angel is going to become even more confident. I wouldn’t be surprised if within several years she decides to build her own home like I helped Zoe do in New Mexico two years ago. Trust me, you can do things you think are impossible!
Subscribe to Tim’s FREE newsletter at AsktheBuilder.com. Tim offers phone coaching calls if you get stuck during a DIY job. Go here: go.askthebuilder.com/coaching