The Secret to Home Renovation: Telecommuting

I was chatting with a neighbor yesterday, consoling him for the lack of progress he complains he’s made with his house. He discovered my blog last month and couldn’t understand how I got so much done with my house, especially insofar as he’s lived here almost as long as me.

He assumed it had to be my prior construction experience, my shop and the fact that I didn’t have kids. All are true, especially the kids part. I’ve only got two dogs and I know how much free time they consume every day: an hour at the dog run in the morning, 45 minutes of miscellaneous walking, 20 minutes of feeding, an hour of play time at night. That’s three hours out of the day where I could be hammering holes in the walls. Kids? Fuggedaboudit!

Still, he missed it. The #1 reason is because I telecommute. Total up how much time you spend every work day getting cleaned up and transporting your body X miles to your job — in many cases only to sit in front of a terminal logged into the same server you could have accessed from home.

I did the math at my last office job. It took me, on average, 65 minutes to get to work, door to door. The return commute was even longer: 75 minutes. That’s 2:20 lost out of the day. Then count all the hours you spend at work waiting for something that requires your attention.

At my last office job we were required to keep detailed job sheets (a/k/a the TPS Report) so the productivity ferrets in HR could know how much they were paying us to sit and spin. As a tech manager, my average was higher than most but it was still only around five hours a day of real work. That’s quite a bit more than Peter Gibbons in the movie, Office Space, but it’s three more lost hours, not including lunch (which I never eat). I won’t include the pointless meetings, which were the root cause of the low office productivity, but I could.

Bob Slydell: “You see, what we’re actually trying to do here is we’re just — we’re trying to get a feel for how people spend their day at work. So, if you would, would you walk us through a typical day for you?”
Peter: “Yeah.”
Bob Slydell: “Great.”
Peter: “Well, I generally come in at least 15 minutes late. Uh, I use the side door. That way Lumburgh can’t see me. And, uh, and after that I sorta space out for about an hour.”
Bob Porter: “Uh, space out?”
Peter: “Yeah. I just stare at my desk, but it looks like I’m working. I do that for, uh, probably another hour after lunch too. I’d say in a given week, I probably do about 15 minutes of real, actual work.”
Bob Slydell: “Uh, Peter, would you be a good sport and indulge us and just tell us a little more?”
Peter: “Oh, yeah. Let me tell you about TPS reports…”

So, working from home added at least 5 hours a day of potential renovation time to my schedule. Twenty five hours a week. Damn, that’s a part-time job! That’s why I got so much done.

You could pad this even more. If you chose to (ahem), you might skip an occasional morning shower. Since you work in tee shirt and shorts there are no dry cleaning runs. And no company outings after work. You could miss a few haircuts too.

So there’s the secret. If you want to get a lot of work done on your house, get a telecommuting job.

Okay, it’s not telecommuting so much as the time it gives you back at the end of the day. Just be careful that the boss doesn’t hear the table saw winding down when he calls you about your progress with the Initech account.


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Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

I’m not a professional builder and don’t pretend to be. I’m just an experienced amateur raised in a family of committed DIYers. I try to closely follow local and national building codes but don’t mistake anything on this site to be professional or even accurate advice! Your mileage may and definitely will vary.

This is the third iteration of, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.