HR: Interviews #4: Dan Lyke

Blog entry by MsDebbieP posted 12-09-2010 12:40 PM 47917 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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This interview is from the December 2010 issue of CreativeHands News. I’d like to thank Dan Lyke taking the time to answer the following questions.

1. Not everyone is a handyman when it comes to fixing up houses, how did you first get started at refurbishing rooms/ homes?

When I was 6, in a fit of ‘70s back-to-the-land hippiedom (or as close to hippiedom as my fairly square parents ever got to), my parents bought a house in upstate New York that was built somewhere around 1790. It had started out as a saltbox shaker, and grew to include a summer kitchen, and then shrank back down again to a basic box with a symmetric roof, but when we moved in it had no central heating, no electricity, and no running water.

But it also had bones, foot by a foot chestnut beams (which, of course, hasn’t grown anywhere near usable lumber in this country since the blight began in 1900), a completely slide-down-able banister, 18” hard eastern pine floorboards. I’d bet the real estate agent sold it to them on “potential”.

One of the great joys of childhood was taking out the lath and plaster walls in the family room with an ax. I also remember sitting nervously on the basement stairs, my task to run screaming from the house if the laid stone foundation started to cave inward from the pressure of the concrete reinforcement they were pouring on the outside. And calling the babysitter a wimp ‘cause she was too scared to climb up the ladder and in the second story window when the polyurethane on the downstairs floors was drying.

We moved 7 years later, but in that time I learned to do everything from drywall to plumbing.

So I hit high school knowing how to sweat copper pipe, how to run electrical, rivet and crimp duct-work, and I swore I’d never, ever, ever, refurbish a house.

Click for details

2. What was it about refurbishing homes that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?

A few years ago, my now wife said ”We do lots of projects. We should buy some good tools to do those projects with.” $3500 later, we had a basic set of Festool tools. A year or two after that, she said ”we should buy a house”, so we did. It didn’t need anything done to it, but it was built in 1947 and though it had been meticulously maintained, hadn’t been updated since then.

I had the tools, so I started watching Craigslist and buying lumber.

It’s a very small house, by modern standards, 768 square feet, so every square foot counts, and we’re trying to do built-in furniture that maximizes our use of the space.

We never want to move again, so we’re taking the time to redo it as we’d like to live in it for at least 50 years, which is longer than we expect to live.

Click for details

3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today

So that’s been just about 3 years that we’ve lived in this house. We started early, the night before we closed we went at the baseboards and carpets with wrecking bars, exposing the white oak floors (that we paid someone else to sand and refinish). If everything hadn’t gone through we’d have had some uncomfortable discussions that next day…

Since that time we’ve done some core stuff, like vapor barrier and insulation in the crawl space and moving a wall to subdivide a closet, to some more cosmetic stuff, added some cabinets in the kitchen (which I need to write the next installment of at [LumberJocks.com], removed the “safety door” that the somewhat paranoid old lady who owned the place previous to us had put in, and replaced it with a mahogany door, with massaranduba trim, and that sort of thing.

The outside is mostly Charlene’s space, but I’ve also dug in an irrigation system, and am currently in the process of revamping the front yard to replace the lawn with low-water plants and a more sculpted terrain, and put in a flagstone patio so we can eat dinner out front and say “hi” to the neighbors as they walk by.

Click for details

4. What inspires you regarding refurbishing homes?

Had the tools, had the skills, gave me a goal for my shop time, which makes a great break from the very cerebral day job: computer programming.

And I tend to get way to deep into the “I can do that better” attitude. There’s lots of stuff I should just hire out that I do because I want it done “just so”. Also a lot of things that I’m too cheap to pay someone $20 an hour to do, so I’ll spend 4 times as long doing it right with time that I could have been billing out at many times that. But it gives me joy to do something physical and tangible, when so much of my life is virtual.

5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way? (and how did you overcome them)

Some of them are just silly, like the mechanics of getting the heavy mahogany door off of the roof racks of my car without destroying anything (getting it on was easy, ‘cause I had the help of the guy who sold it to us…), or cutting the perfect miter for the cabinet doors.

I’d say the worst was insulating the crawl space. After the first few hours I was ready to pay the $1,200 for the 3M positive pressure HEPA mask, but I was afraid I’d rip it to shreds scooting around on my back. I eventually found the solution at my local paintball store: a set of goggles with a self-contained battery powered fan that runs through a foam filter. Not perfect, but good enough that with a regular respirator it got me through the hell of dealing with all that fiberglass.

6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from refurbishing homes? (personal or tangible)

People walking in, seeing the kitchen cabinets I did (even in their currently not-quite-finished state), and just stopping and staring.

(kitchen cabinet doors)

7. What is your favourite tool that you use for refurbishing homes?

Just one? Gotta be a good crowbar. You can do anything with a good crowbar.

8. What is your favourite creation in refurbishing homes?

So far, I like the front entrance. I think the curved rails add a subtle touch.

9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with refurbishing homes?

I’m not sure I’m experienced enough to start giving advice. I guess the thing I’m still getting over is “don’t be afraid to do it again if it isn’t perfect the first time”.

10. How did you find HomeRefurbers and what is it that keeps you coming back?

I’ve been a member of LumberJocks for a while, and I’d like to see HomeRefurbers become as great a resource and community as LumberJocks is.

Thanks Dan for this great interview – and for all that you contribute to HomeRefurbers.com.

-- ~ Debbie, Ontario Canada

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6 comments so far

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Todd Thomas

735 posts in 5283 days

posted 12-09-2010 06:21 PM

great hearing your adventures…good work…..thanks for sharing

-- Todd- Oak Ridge, TN

View MsDebbieP's profile


628 posts in 5556 days

posted 12-09-2010 07:22 PM

I, too, want to again thank you for the interview AND all that you contribute to our site(s)

-- ~ Debbie, Ontario Canada

View mbulla's profile


64 posts in 5363 days

posted 12-10-2010 11:06 AM

Great interview Debbie, thanks for sharing.

View dustygirl's profile


321 posts in 5330 days

posted 12-12-2010 05:51 PM

Thanks for sharing your journey with us Dan.Good interview.

-- Dustygirl Hastings,Ont. Life is too short to sit around doing nothing

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Dan Lyke

331 posts in 5542 days

posted 12-23-2010 07:54 AM

Thanks, all! The journey continues…

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/

View dbray45's profile


157 posts in 3337 days

posted 04-17-2014 03:10 PM

Good article and commentary – thanks Debbie and thanks Dan.

-- Love woodworking and fixing most anything

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