About a year in, it finally and spectacularly sunk in: I was over $200,000 in debt; I had sacrificed my health and time with my family; and after all that I was maybe, just maybe, 20 percent done. But I was so totally dedicated to doing this house myself, I asked for a four-month leave of absence from my job—and was ready to quit if my request was denied. Luckily, my supervisor grew up in a house his dad built, so he actually seemed to understand what had gotten into me.
Shown: Repurposing the old den gave the family a new breakfast nook. The space's five windows channel lots of natural light into the reconfigured kitchen.