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The Eight Rules of Good Construction

Before today’s post – a little aside. I’ve now been publishing every day for three months and yesterday I tried a little experiment – to not publish. It made me feel a little uncomfortable so I’ve decided to continue posting every day but on the weekends I’ll pick a lighter topic or an illustration that I believe will be of interest.

And with that on to today’s subject – building a bathroom ๐Ÿ˜‰

Last week I started ripping out and replacing the family bathroom. I’ve already replaced the smaller guest bathroom in our house, and we have a separate toilet so in theory, our five-person family can survive for a week or two while this goes on. However the clock is ticking.

I really like doing building projects and I’m getting better at them through the tried and tested technique of making mistakes and learning from them. I’ve installed a few bathrooms and toilets now, a kitchen, plus built-out a load of rooms. I do electrics and plumbing and building work and for the most part I love the challenge.

However, like all projects, there is a trick to managing your expectations and outcomes while you’re working, just like in a software project. This is particularly important when you’re building alone, because you have no-one to give you feedback or bounce ideas off. I end up boring everyone (usually my wife) with whatever it is I’m trying to think through.

So what have I learnt? The following are the opinions that I’ve come away with over the years. These help me balance my enthusiasm with my energy levels and hopefully deliver great results ๐Ÿ˜‰ We’ll see in a week or so.

Here are my top tips in order of how you should tackle things:

  1. Make all the big decisions up front – positioning of new items, what things you’re going to buy (type of shower, toilet, sink, bath etc). Mock up your positioning and try to stick to that plan.
  2. Order all the items with long lead-times well in advance. You don’t want to be hanging around for parts to turn up when you’re on a roll. Live with the inconvenience of ordered parts hanging around your house.
  3. Set realistic timescales for your project. Everything will take at least twice as long as you think. I thought this project could maybe be done in a week, five days in to this project I know that it’s another week of work at least and my back aches.
  4. Don’t underestimate removing and breaking down the existing structure. Replacing things uncovers all sorts of things that the last builder wouldn’t have been too proud about. Deconstruction can take longer than you think and tiles and hardcore are heavy. Your body needs rest.
  5. Pace yourself. If you’re doing it by yourself, you can’t keep going for a week straight, you’ll be exhausted. Give yourself a weekend off or a day off in the middle of the week. Coming back fresh with renewed enthusiasm always brings clarity and pays dividends.
  6. If you know it’ll take longer to do something right – then take the time. You’ll only hate yourself later. Rushing to finish a job you’ve worked hard at will only ruin the finish.
  7. Keep tidy. Try and keep dust and nuisance to a minimum and tidy up after yourself as best as you go along.
  8. Be consistent, turn up regularly and finish it off if you can in one consistent streak – allowing for rest days.

Now, look at that list again. How many of these things can you apply to any activity you choose? Like writing software (ok perhaps not number 2) or writing words. Application to any big task is a test of will, a test of patience and a test of consistency.

Keep at it.