Self-sufficiency – it’s all about attitude!

Bob the builder main

I’ve written previously about the value of being self-sufficient if you’re trying to achieve financial independence, but it’s easy to forget this if you don’t have the right attitude. Fortunately for me (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), a freak occurrence this week forced me to test my attitude so that I could find out whether I really could solve my problems with my brain rather than my wallet!

You never know when disaster might strike

I was picking up our youngest child from day care on Thursday when my wife called me. I pulled over and she told me that I had better get home now as “we’ve lost half of our roof!”

My immediate response was something like “What?! How the f$&k did that happen?” (excuse my french), and my wife then proceeded to tell me how she drove in the driveway and our oldest child asked “Mum, why is there a hole in our roof?”. My wife got out of the car, looked at the roof and saw what looked like where a flying piano had crashed through our roof. The neighbour from across the road then came over and said that she saw it all happen: A freak whirlwind ripped some tiles off the roof, and it then kept going and blew out a heap of other tiles.




Now when I heard about all of this I had images of rain pouring in through the roof, so I raced home as quickly as I could before it got dark to see if there was anything that I could do to keep any weather out. I didn’t even have time to check the forecast, I just got straight up on the roof to inspect the damage.

Cows falling from the sky?

This was our roof when I got home on Thursday night. As you can probably appreciate, I was freaking out about how I was going to fix this and stop rain from coming in! I was also thinking

This was our roof when I got home on Thursday night. As you can probably appreciate, I was freaking out about how I was going to fix this and stop rain from coming in! I was also thinking “I hope there isn’t a dead cow or broken piano in my roof cavity because it looks like one fell in there!”

It turns out that my wife’s assessment that half of the roof being gone was a slight exaggeration, with only about 15-20 tiles having flown out of the roof, and three of the ridge tiles being displaced. The real problem was the fact that some tiles were broken, and I didn’t know if I had any spares.

Once I had quickly surveyed the damage, I went straight under the house as I remembered seeing some old bricks and tiles under there, presumably from when the house was built in 1976. It turned out that there were actually a few tiles under there (and they looked shiny and brand new too, not like the faded ones on my roof), but when I got them up onto the roof it turned out that they weren’t the same. At this point I was just focussing on patching the job to make it watertight, so I set about refitting all of the non-broken tiles and then using some of the non-matching tiles to take the place of the broken ones.

This just left me with the ridge tiles that were broken, for which I had no adequate solution. Instead, I just got some poly plastic, put it over the remaining hole and stacked a heap of bricks no it in case another wind came through. By this time it was pretty much dark, and dinner was on the table but it was now cold. Just what you want on a Thursday night when I still had some work (for my real job) to do on the computer before the next day.

The temptation to solve the problem with my wallet rather than my brain

Once we were safe from the elements, my wife and I started discussing how we would fix the issue for good. We knew that the pointing/grouting that holds the ridge tiles in place was pretty ordinary on our house, and even though I could have a go at redoing this (I’ve done it before about 6 years ago, but obviously not well enough otherwise the tiles wouldn’t have blown off!), I thought that I would rather have someone fix it properly. It therefore became a question of whether we would use insurance or not.

Now we are proponents of having high excesses (deductibles for those of you living in the US/Canada), so I knew that even if we were to use insurance we would be out of pocket at least $800 for this whole debacle. That didn’t sit that well with me, but we called the insurance company anyway to see what their turnaround time would be like. I had this feeling that it would cost about $1,500-$2,000 to get all of the pointing/grouting done (and not just on the area that was affected), and I was hoping that an insurance claim would cover the lot. Unsurprisingly though, the turnaround time from the insurance company was less than ideal, with their assessor not even being able to come out until Monday, and they would then need to arrange someone to actually do the work if they were going to cover it. Add in the fact that they would probably only cover the cost of repointing/regrouting the affected area (and not the whole roof), and my self-sufficiency kicked in…

So what did we do?

I figured that even if I paid someone to fix the roof, they would need some new tiles, so I found a guy who has a heap of old tiles from various eras. I dropped in to see him, and walked away with the tiles that I needed (plus plenty of spares in case something like this were to happen again), all for the princely sum of $55. I’m sure he was screwing me on the price per tile, but I didn’t care since I knew that the total I was paying him would still be hardly anything compared to what a tradesman would charge me.

I went home and fitted all of the tiles, with the new ridge tiles just sitting in place on the old grout. When you look at the roof it looks like it’s perfectly watertight, and the only giveaway that there has been a repair is that two of the ridge tiles aren’t quite the same colour.

When I was at work on Friday my wife also found a tradesman that would be able to repoint/regrout the roof, and he is coming around on Sunday to have a look. Depending on his price, we may get him to do all of the ridgelines, or just the affected area, and I will get him to swap the new tiles (that aren’t quite the same colour) onto the back of the house where they are less visible, then no one would ever know.

Self-sufficiency: You need to have a “can do” attitude

Ah, Bob the Builder - I like his attitude!

Ah, Bob the Builder – I like his attitude!

Even though this situation has really only lasted for a few days, I went through a range of thoughts about it, swinging from “Oh shit, we’re going to get rained on” to “This is going to cost a fortune, we’ll have to put it through insurance and there goes $800” and finally on to “I’ll just buy some tiles and fit them myself”. When I reflect on all of this, I realised that in a crisis time, the first instinct is to get our wallet out, but if you have a can do attitude there is often another way.

To this point it has only cost me $55, and if I just get the tradesman to repoint/regrout the affected area then I can’t see how it can cost any more than a couple of hundred dollars. That would be a total cost of $255, compared to what would have otherwise been $800 or possibly more, plus a lot of screwing around with the insurance company and their tradesman who might not be able to fit me in for a week or more. I’m so glad that I decided to have a positive attitude towards the situation, or I might be sitting here next week worrying about whether we’re going to get rained on!

What have you done lately to be self-sufficient? And how has your attitude affected your ability to get things done yourself rather than paying someone else to do them?

IA

12 thoughts on “Self-sufficiency – it’s all about attitude!

  1. That’s a lot to handle on a busy Thursday evening! The picture looks bad (damage-wise), but it doesn’t look like the wood part underneath the tiles was broken. I’ll admit that when I read your entry, my first immediate stress-thought was that I’d get out my wallet too. I’m a very un-handy person so I wouldn’t know where to start, and wouldn’t even know where to source the tiles from.

    For me as a non-homeowner, self sufficiency comes from taking public transit and cooking my own food. 🙂

    • Ha ha, that’s the benefit of not owning a house (or a car or whatever) – you can never really be on the hook for major repairs.

      I accept that not everyone is into fixing things for themselves, but the point is that people shouldn’t just assume that they can’t do something without even trying. Like anything in life, you might be capable of far more than you first thought!

      • Agreed! It builds confidence and personal satisfaction to *try* something you think you can’t do. I took 2 semesters of auto mechanics in high school, which helps me to not be afraid of doing basic car maintenance (on older cars, anyway). 🙂

        • Wow, I’m impressed! My wife has no interest in cars at all (other than occasionally admiring a newer model that she would like to upgrade to). Does that mean that your husband gets you to change the oil for his car? I wouldn’t know where to start with German cars – like German taxes everything seems to be set up in a very strange way!

          • bahahaha! As if my husband will let me touch his car. 😛 To be fair, I think the oil filter is positioned in a hard to reach way (not that I’ve looked), and I only learned how to work on older cars from the 80’s. When I was in the shop, the most difficult part was having the physical strength to do stuff. I’m a bit of a weakling plus I’m clumsy, so I relied a lot on fancy hydraulic tools. An auto mechanic I am not!

  2. This is one of the (much, much) more amazing stories of self-sufficiency I’ve ever heard. Seriously, anyone can cut their hair at home or trust a partner to at least try it, but ROOFING? Colour me *very* impressed. As someone who is just now learning not to go straight to my wallet to solve problems, this is so inspiring!

    My somewhat-self-sufficient story is actually the table I’m writing on right now – instead of dropping $1000+ on a harvest table, I schemed with my boyfriend’s father to build one for him for his recent birthday, and it turned out great! Entirely thanks to his father’s superior skills with power tools, but I provided the assist, and did so much sanding I thought my arms were going to fall off (even with the assistance of a belt sander!) It was definitely a DIY, self-sufficiency win for us, and the all-in cost was under $200 for an amazing table.

    • Wow, your table certainly sounds impressive, you will have to make sure you do a post on it with pictures!

      Yes, the roof turned out really well, the man doing the repointing/regrouting came today and it is as good as new!

      Don’t be daunted by roofing – it’s not nearly as hard as you might think!

  3. I recently retired a 93 Ford Ranger, and driving an older car you makes you very self-sufficient. Over the years, I learned all basic maintenance, since I was doing it ALL the time; changing tires, batteries, oil. I currently rent the condo I’m living in, but I do very minor/basic things, think repair a leaky faucet, etc. If I owned the property, I would most likely do more. Self sufficiency is a must. What if you are really strapped for cash and you can’t pay someone to do something for you? I hope your roof repair goes smoothly! I would have panicked if I came home to that.

    • Well I certainly did panic, but once I gathered my thoughts the solution wasn’t that hard really. Like lots of thing I would imagine!

      Well done on looking after your car. I have found that there is nothing wrong with having an older car, and provided you have maintained it the it is less likely to surprise you with a huge repair bill than a newer car.

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