Author Topic: Seeking advice on Home Renovating / General Contracting  (Read 1591 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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  • Posts: 16
  • Location: Ottawa, Canada
Seeking advice on Home Renovating / General Contracting
« on: April 29, 2015, 09:04:23 AM »
Hi Mustachians,

The past few years, I've been moving towards an FI lifestyle. DYI is one of the strategies I've been applying, and it's been paying off. I've done a few basic things around the house, like patching holes in walls, painting, replacing faucets, fixing leaky toilets (I paid a plumber $300 to fix a leaky toilet once. The last toilet I fixed cost me $12 in parts. Huge payoff here), etc.

Now I'd like to get into bigger jobs. For example, here are a few projects I'd like to do around the house:

  • Replace the backyard deck
  • Replace the shower (doors, tiles, etc)
  • Fix our hardwood floor
  • Fix a few warped kitchen cabinet doors
  • Replace the bay window with sliding doors and add a gazebo at the cottage

I'm a bit hesitant to jump in and just do it, for a few reasons:

  • I'm worried I'll screw something up and it'll cost me more than it would have to hire a professional in the first place, as I'll have to pay not only for the job, but to fix whatever else I broke.
  • I'm guessing some work will involve investment in equipment I don't currently have, and I wouldn't want to over-buy equipment I don't need.
  • Will I even like this type of work? I've certainly enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when I fixed the little things around the house. The rewards certainly outweighed the efforts. But what about larger jobs? Does that still hold?

So my first question is: how does one get started with larger home reno jobs? Is it safe to get started with books and YouTube videos? Is an evening or weekend course useful?

My second question is around home renos / general contracting as a hobby or even a side business.

I'm a software engineer / manager by day, and my hobbies have been mostly digital so far. I'm trying to get away from that, yet still do something that allows me to build things. The home reno / contracting thing seems to be one way to go. My dad has had this hobby (on and off) for a while. He built our family cottage, a small wooden sailboat with his brother, sheds, decks, etc. I like the idea of having a hobby that produces something useful, as opposed to a non-productive hobby like video games or golf. And certainly, MMM and other friends that are into this make it seem like a hell of a lot of fun.

To go a bit further, my wife is an interior designer, and every once is a while she talks about us having a side business where we'd do design and home renos. We work well together on our own little projects, and the idea is really appealing. But dreams and reality are two different things. I'm worried that my lack of knowledge in this area is blinding me to the downsides.

So what are the Mustachians' thoughts and experiences on this? Is a general contracting business a side business a feasible idea? Is there a way to experiment with this type of business without having to go all out? Are there good projects to start with to get experience in home renovations? What are good resources to help learn about the work and the business?

I look forward to your wisdom!


  • Magnum Stache
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  • Location: Emmaus, PA
Re: Seeking advice on Home Renovating / General Contracting
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2015, 09:12:24 AM »
Consider your hourly rate and that of a contractor. Not saying don't do it if you'll enjoy it, but some of these jobs are simply not fun.


  • Magnum Stache
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  • Posts: 4277
  • Location: Northwest Indiana
Re: Seeking advice on Home Renovating / General Contracting
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2015, 10:11:47 AM »
Sounds like your dad has the hands on experience. See if he'd be willing to help. Even if he can't physically do it anymore, he can still teach you a lot. He'll know what goes into things, and can supervise to make sure you don't screw up.


  • Stubble
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  • Posts: 102
  • Location: PDX
Re: Seeking advice on Home Renovating / General Contracting
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2015, 10:28:12 AM »
Given the fact that you're hesitant about whether or not you'll enjoy it, and you don't have any of the tools, it sounds like you need to find a way to "test drive" your interest.

Find a friend or family member with these skills (and tools!) and pay them a nominal rate to help you with a project and teach you along the way.

Something like a deck is easy skills wise, and you're unlikely to screw it up in any major way.

I'd say find a way to get your feet wet for a while, then worry about getting your own tools, then once you've done multiple major projects think about if you want to do it for other people.

If you have specific questions about projects once you're underway I'd be more than happy to help and I'm sure others will as well.