Is 50+ too old for do-it-yourself home improvements?

Is 50+ too old for do-it-yourself home improvements?

I spent my 51st birthday installing a hot water heater in my house. It wasn’t fun. As a matter of fact, I hated it. It wasn’t a particularly demanding job, but I had to make two trips to the hardware store and I had to crawl into a tiny space to make some plumbing connections. Suddenly I wasn’t that young do-it-yourselfer who fixed up an old craftsman bungalow, built an adobe house in New Mexico, and remodeled a 50’s Florida cottage.

I don’t think I’m too old to work on the house. I’m just a tad out of shape and a little less flexible. But I can tell you one thing: when I was 43 I retiled a large room in my home and it hurt. It really hurt. By the time I was done, my lower back, my knees and hands were in serious pain. Granted, I was kind of in a hurry to get the work done and I didn’t have knee pads. I am also not an expert.

I would certainly not lay tile today. I don’t wish that job on anyone. A water heater was really not such a big deal. But after this experience I look at my house and I’m glad I’m done with all the major work. Even the carport I built last year now looks like a daunting task. Not that I couldn’t do it—but that I don’t want to do it again.

Also read: The joy of buying and remodeling my home

Is 50+ too old for do-it-yourself home improvements?

I don’t think 50 is too old to take on major tasks in home improvement. I think it’s up to the individual and the determination, the help, and the time you wish to spend on a project. Personally, I don’t think it’s so much my body as much as my mind which has shut down to the idea.

I still love working with my hands. Just the other day I built an adirondack-style patio chair for my lovely wife who deserves a nice and comfortable place to sit. The difference is wanting to do the project versus having to do the project.

Also, I am beginning to wonder how much money I actually saved by doing all these DIY projects. In the end I think it’s really something to weigh with care. If you enjoy working with your hands, then it’s not about saving money, it’s about the pleasure you get. But if your only motive is staying within a certain budget, think again.

I once knew a guy in his 60s who built decks and roofs and did all kinds of remodeling jobs. His attitude was to take his time and not exert himself. He took breaks and accepted that the work would take a certain amount of time to complete. However, when I’m working on my house, I can’t wait to get things done so I can move on to the next thing.

As far as I’m concerned, I will be working on home improvement projects so long as they present themselves. If I’m cutting wood, lifting bags of cement well into my eighties, so be it. What I can say is that it’s best to have help if the project demands a lot of lifting. And that it’s okay to take your time. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Phillippe Diederich

Phillippe Diederich is a bilingual author and photographer born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Mexico City and Miami. His photography has appeared in The New York Times, Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report and other national publications. Phillippe's novels Sofrito and Playing for the Devil's Fire are both published by Cinco Puntos Press. He is the recipient of a PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship and the Editor-in-Chief of Viva Fifty!