By Chelsea Bailey '16
Sarah and Stefan Wolpert while at work on their house!
Sarah Wolpert is a 2010 Olin alumna who had been working at a start-up doing Design Verification until she was recently laid off. With Sarah's eternally optimistic attitude, she has chosen to make the best of her situation. As Sarah said recently in her DIYSarah.com blog, "Bummer but on the plus side, I'm getting so much done on the house! I know I've been AWOL for a while from writing here, but I've been working on developing a plan. I've got a draft of a resume and cover letter, and only a vague notion of what I want to do with my life. After much tile work and soul searching. I think I've decided to transition from a technical hardware engineering position to a Project/Program Management position. It's going to be an interesting change but I'm ready for something new. If any of you know of PM positions here in Boston, let me know!"
PGP wanted to hear more about this major home renovation project that Sarah has been working on with her husband Stefan Wolpert (also class of'10) since 2011.
1. What inspired you to start DIY Sarah?
Being so far from my family (they are in Texas at the moment), a blog seemed like a good way to keep everyone up to date. I started DIYSarah.com before we bought the house, but it's been invaluable for keeping both sets of parents and families aware of what we were doing. It's also gaining a good bit of traction and popularity in general.
A winter shot of the Wolpert's home.
2. What has been your favorite part of the house remodel?
We really like doing things together. It's been an atypical first year of marriage but we've grown so close with all this work we've been doing. The really satisfying parts of the process are the beginning and the end. When you're doing the messy demolition, you step back at the end of a long, tiring day of work, completely covered in dust and debris and you see the drastic change you have made.
Then at the end of it all, you see the bare studs turn into walls which turn into functional rooms. In the middle, you spend so much time doing things like electrical and plumbing or planning things you'll do later...so there isn't just the "before and after" changes that are so satisfying.
At this point, we are on to the finishing work stage and it's been great! Tiling, painting, and moldings make such a difference!
From left to right, the before, during, and current after of Sarah's walk-in closet
3. What has been the most challenging?
Communication. Stefan and I get in little spats about just how to do things or what order to do them in. We're getting better at communicating but misunderstandings and miscommunication about the work can be challenging.
Physically, carrying debris down the stairs was a bear. The whole house is plaster and lath and we had to remove it in several places. The plaster crumbles off the wall and is super dense. It's like concrete on the wall. We carried hundreds of 5-gallon buckets full of plaster dust down the stairs and into the dumpster.
Stefan and I demolished, removed and stacked 4 stories of a brick chimney.
That's a LOT of bricks.
4. What advice do you have for someone interested in taking on such a huge DIY project like house renovation?
Honestly, I think we bit off more than I would recommend for 99% of people. We both grew up with do-it-yourself families. I moved a bunch as a kid and we always worked on our new houses. I think that for any remodeling project, you need to have realistic expectations. No project is simple and there are always surprises. You think,"Oh, I'll replace the sink" only to discover the drain isn't done right which ends with you ripping out the wall and removing the plumbing and while you're in there you might as well update the electric and on and on it goes. You have to be prepared for that. Also, keep a blog from day 1. It helps to organize your ideas and you tend to take more pride in what you've accomplished rather than worrying about what all you still need to do.
Having a kitty assistant helps make a day's work more fun!
5. How do you both stay organized with all that you have going on?
When I was at Olin we had a saying - "Work, Play, Sleep - Pick Two." Well in the "real" world it's a little different. Weeks are for work and then weekends are "Work, Play, Sleep - pick two."
At the moment we are working and sleeping. We don't see our friends as much as we used to and we don't get to do as many fun things as we did when we were house-less. We work every weekend on the house. As for Blogging, it doesn't take as much time as you might think. I spend about an hour every Monday morning writing posts for the week and scheduling them to publish. As we are getting close to having a finished-ish house, we are finding more time to have fun. We entertain, visit with friends, go out to dinner etc. but that means less house work time.
We've found that we're happier with a longer project time and a more well-balanced life than work work work until it's done.
For a closer look at Sarah and Stefan's progress on the house ) AND to hear her take on Downton Abbey now that she actually has time to watch it!) check out DIYSarah!