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Ask the Builder: Let Angel’s dormer be an inspiration to try new DIY projects

Tim Carter, Tribune Content Agency on

One of the most fulfilling moments of my career happened just a few days ago. It’s a story worth sharing for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it should inspire you to do something you think is impossible. It’s a tale of the three Ds: diligence, determination and dedication, mixed with a heaping spoonful of courage.

Just before dinner, I got a text from a reader named Angel, a 28-year-old mom of three mischievous boys in Schenectady, New York. Just before Christmas of 2021, Angel purchased a consultation phone call from me that would change both of our lives. She typed: “I am trying to build a dormer and wanted to know if it would be possible for you to give me step-by-step instructions of what I need to do and a list of materials. … I really need your help.”

When I take these phone calls, my responsibility is to assess a homeowner’s skills and expectations in the first few moments of a call. The last thing I want is for you to get into a situation where a contractor will swoop in and pick your bones and savings account clean.

Angel’s desire to complete this project was intense. Five minutes into that phone call years ago, I knew her boys were going to have a bright and delightful attic playroom made possible by their mom’s sweat and sore back.

So, days ago, when I looked at Angel's text, I saw a photo of a completed dormer poking out of a steep slate roof on a century-old home. Angel wrote, “Hi friend. It’s Angel … the dormer went really well … no leaking and we made it through the winter pretty good.…”

I was bursting with excitement and replied: “No leaks!!!! VICTORY! I’m so proud of you!!”


I shared this news with my wife Kathy, and she was just as excited as I was. I decided to interview Angel so you could tap into her inner strength. Using some of her inspirational nectar, you’ll be able to tackle a project and save yourself tens of thousands of dollars.

Over the phone, I discovered much more about Angel. She and her husband both work full time. They have three sons, and although Angel had hoped her last child would be a girl, God had other plans.

When I dug deeper into how much DIY experience she and her husband had, she said with no hesitation: “We didn’t know how to do anything. We built bed frames for our kids.” Let that marinate in your brain for a moment and then try to picture cutting a hole in your roof that measures 10 feet wide by 12 feet long.

Angel was quick to offer up, “We didn’t hire a contractor because the bids were too expensive, and in our immediate metropolitan area no one could do the job.”


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