Author Topic: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?  (Read 10744 times)

liquidbanana

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How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« on: November 24, 2012, 11:36:54 PM »
The recent blog post has me even more excited about the possibility of buying a fixer upper and renting it out. BUT. I have zero construction skills. This is not because I have not been interested in the idea. I've been reading books about fixing up houses since I was 11. I tried and tried to offer my time to habitat for humanity to learn a few construction skills, but since I had zero to start with, they didn't want me. (I also deeply love what they do...so I would volunteer either way, but I'm more of a drain than a help, apparently).

I even started a construction engineering technology program at a University. I found out that I already should know how to use autocad and do carpentry to pass the classes I went through. So I dropped out because, duh, I'm going through this program to learn these skills, what am I paying you for! (I guess I was paying to hear lectures from dupont and other construction product representatives on how cool their crap is because that's what my most of my classes were.).

Soooo. How do I learn this stuff? I don't want to buy a house before I have a good idea of what I can and cannot realistically do. I can't know this until I've had some hands on experience. And in the last 10 years, I've found that the only hands on experience I'll be able to get is through my own house (that I don't have!). So it's become a catch 22.

Any suggestions?

Deano

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2012, 06:04:22 AM »
For a 130 bucks my local community college offers intro to carpentry programs. Something like that sounds like one of the few options for you.

Alternatively, you could start really small and learn through youtube or some how-to websites. I emphasize small though.

I started just by doing some trim in my first house, baseboard/quarter-round, that sort of thing. I'm by no means accomplished in this area, but I can do enough to save some serious money on occasion.

garnetfree

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2012, 10:45:52 AM »
Habitat for Humanity teaches volunteers some basics on construction. I learned the very basics on handling some of the saws, for example.

carolinakaren

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2012, 02:58:30 PM »
I also think you should check classes at your local community college.  Ours in Charlotte has beginner carpentry, small engine repair, gardening, kayaking, etc.  I was very surprised at all the options!  Good luck finding a class!

liquidbanana

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2012, 03:22:47 PM »
Thanks for the suggestions!

The community college here has no construction classes, though. And the habitat chapter here doesn't take volunteers who don't have construction experience for construction volunteer work. I know that some chapters do, but not here. :(

sheepstache

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2012, 05:04:45 PM »
Thanks for the suggestions!

The community college here has no construction classes, though. And the habitat chapter here doesn't take volunteers who don't have construction experience for construction volunteer work. I know that some chapters do, but not here. :(

I mean, how hopeless are you really?  Maybe watch some youtube, apply to Habitat citing your construction coursework and possibly some phantom neighbors you may have done work for,  then when you get there play it cool.  Lots of people get into fields that way.

Edited for clarity.

liquidbanana

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2012, 05:17:07 PM »
Thanks for the suggestions!

The community college here has no construction classes, though. And the habitat chapter here doesn't take volunteers who don't have construction experience for construction volunteer work. I know that some chapters do, but not here. :(

I mean, how hopeless are you really?  Maybe watch some youtube, apply to Habitat citing your construction coursework and possibly some phantom neighbors you may have done work for,  then when you get there play it cool.  Lots of people get into fields that way.

Edited for clarity.

Ohhhh, good plan! :)
[/quote]

sheepstache

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2012, 05:53:26 PM »
Better yet, say you worked construction/reno jobs when you were in college, so your skills may be rusty.  It's important not to oversell yourself so the people at the site aren't disappointed or forced to pick up too much slack.  Once there, you might stay undercover or you might eventually strike up a connection with one person who might help you out if they know you're more of an "amateur" (especially helpful with specialized terminology you don't know--speaking of, as soon as you learn a piece of terminology, use it!).  Don't expose yourself to the whole group because then you come off as someone wanting free training.  It goes without saying that you will be extremely, nay, supernaturally eager to do all the messy/heavy grunt work.   One more suggestion is, if you admit your lack of experience, to say you are trying to get your foot in the industry for a new career rather than saying that you're just doing it so you can do home reno.  The latter could be interpreted by them as "I'm too cheap to hire one of you so please train me how to do your job," the non-mustachian world being what it is.   Then again, experienced, qualified construction workers working for free?  Sounds like you might be surrounded by mustachians.  Finally, think across platforms to come up with skills you already have in this field.  Good with numbers?  Measuring and scaling.  Good at drawing?  Sketching and reading plans.  Cake icing?  Joint compound, same diff.  Put three construction experts in a room and they'll disagree about the best way to do something, so don't be intimidated by someone who says you're not doing something the "standard" way; go in with confidence.  And don't forget to study between class, or rather, watch youtube videos of anything your fellow workers were doing that you didn't understand.

c

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2012, 08:34:26 PM »
This is something I've wondered about as well.

I am "handy" in that I'm able to watch someone do something and pick it up myself. This is how I learnt programming, and my mind is good at stuff that involves problem solving and fitting stuff together. My apartment needs a lot of work and I think that I can do most of it, but then I read DIY forums and they're all "YOU MUST GET A CONTRACTOR TO REPLACE THAT CEILNG FAN". We had a contractor in our building doing structural work on the back wall.  He and his guys were great about explaining everything to me when I said "I want to do ...". Most things they said I could do myself and a couple they said I should probably pay someone to do (venting the stove outside and putting in new wiring). To me the biggest hurdle seems to be that things are heavy.  Tiling, replacing a sink, putting up cabinets, patching dry wall all seem do-able to me. On the other hand I feel like I'm discouraged from doing these things myself as there's a whole culture around specialization.

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2012, 07:32:29 AM »
This is the reason we recently hired a handyman to help us remodel our kitchen and bathroom. We're generally handy, but hadn't done either kind of work before. We explicitly negotiated with him up front that we would be providing significant labor, and that part of his job was to teach us how to do it, not just do it himself. I think it worked out well. Both projects cost considerably less than hiring a contractor, we were able to take advantage of his experience to skip several potential "gotchas", and DW and I learned some new skills which we can apply elsewhere.
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mindaugas

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2012, 12:34:48 PM »
This is the reason we recently hired a handyman to help us remodel our kitchen and bathroom. We're generally handy, but hadn't done either kind of work before. We explicitly negotiated with him up front that we would be providing significant labor, and that part of his job was to teach us how to do it, not just do it himself. I think it worked out well. Both projects cost considerably less than hiring a contractor, we were able to take advantage of his experience to skip several potential "gotchas", and DW and I learned some new skills which we can apply elsewhere.
That's a great idea and something I was thinking of myself.

Didn't MMM post something a blog along the lines of hiring someone off CL to show him how to do it? That would be a good route too.

ykphil

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2012, 03:34:58 PM »
Everything I know about fixing and building things, I learned it from countless bathroom readings of my dad's 1965 edition of the Reader's Digest Repair Manual/The Complete Guide To Home Maintenance. In theory, I can build anything. In practice, that's another story. One thing I know for sure is that if you have the right tool for the job, you are halfway there. Practising your skills on Habitat for Humanity projects is a great way to learn on the job, and you won't get fired for making any mistakes. I personally started on kitchen/bathroom demolition jobs with that outfit, which is a fun way to learn because you learn how to demolish with the goal of reusing as much as you can.
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Kenoryn

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2013, 05:50:53 PM »
I bought a fixer-upper house knowing nothing at all, relying on what the home inspector and realtor said as to its structural soundness & potential. I figure this is practice and an opportunity to learn these skills before I eventually build my own house. :) It's pretty intimidating, and the hard part is not knowing what it is that you don't know. But, once you get that figured out, YouTube and library books can tell you how to do almost anything. And it turns out everything is easier than you'd think it would be, especially wiring and plumbing (considering how much plumbers and electricians charge). My favourite book for basic tools and techniques is 'Tools and Techniques' by the Handyman Club of America. This is an awesome book for covering the beginner stuff like how to drill holes neatly, how to measure stuff, use different basic tools, how to buy lumber, etc., as well as specific how-to projects (e.g., how to cut hinge mortises) and sections on working with wood, metal, plumbing and electrical.

The other great resource I've had was Home Depot. They have actual electricians and plumbers in the appropriate aisles, so you can go in and ask them your questions - what kind of wire, will this box work, is there any reason I shouldn't do x, how do I cut this pipe? My local Home Depot employees have been ridiculously helpful and will stand around and explain whole projects to me.

Best way to learn is just to start doing it. So if you had a project you could do now before you have buying a house on the line - a reno in the place you're living, building a garden shed, or helping a friend with something - just diving into it is the best way to get going, I think.

A few months after I got my house I started dating someone with a lot of home reno knowledge, so that was a big help too and I recommend it if the option's available. ;)

Aloysius_Poutine

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2013, 07:50:31 PM »
You learn by doing. As others have said it's easy to find good howto material. Once you've looked that over (and it seems like you have), you just start tearing down walls and doing things. It helps having a buddy who knows what they're doing.

Don't be a perfectionist-- the quality of your work improves over time. Just get in there and get dirty and you'll find you soon have the confidence to try all the cool stuff you've been dreaming of.

totoro

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2013, 12:40:18 AM »
I'm just not handy.  I've come to the conclusion that my time is better spent on other things than skilled renovation tasks. 

I can do general labour like load a trailer and I can paint and do a bit of tiling - and lots of gardening.   I am pretty okay at sourcing materials and interior decorating and enjoy buying bargains off CL and making a place look great.

My higher value skill set is more geared towards analyzing data, finding places with potential, and doing long-term forecasting.  This helps us find the right places. 

I make more per hour than we would save with me doing skilled labour so I have just given up on that idea.  Luckily my partner has better skills than me but we still hire out a lot of things.

GuitarStv

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2013, 08:27:07 AM »
You learn by doing. As others have said it's easy to find good howto material. Once you've looked that over (and it seems like you have), you just start tearing down walls and doing things. It helps having a buddy who knows what they're doing.

Don't be a perfectionist-- the quality of your work improves over time. Just get in there and get dirty and you'll find you soon have the confidence to try all the cool stuff you've been dreaming of.

+1

After reading about what you're planning, you really just have to get your hands dirty to learn what you're doing.  My suggestion is to start out with small projects that you can get done in a day or two . . . then gradually ramp up to more complex tasks.  Even the most difficult construction job can be broken down into small, relatively easy tasks . . . but if everything's brand new it can feel overwhelming at first.

Bakari

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2013, 02:15:31 PM »
Buy some 2x4s, some plywood, a saw, a drill, some screws, and build a dog house or a shed or a chair or a chicken coop or whatever.  Act like a kid, cut stuff, put it together, take it apart, than build something different.

When something breaks, put some key terms into google, read, then try it.

Contrary to what handymen (such as myself) want you (the public) to think, everything is very very easy.

I have no real carpentry or construction experience, I built this with just lumber, tools, the internet, and most important, general confidence:

http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2013/03/summer-project.html
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Spork

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2013, 02:30:18 PM »
In addition to "build stuff" like Bakari says, the opposite is also true:  deconstruct stuff.

I have learned an awful lot by taking stuff apart.  Assuming what you have is up to code (and the code hasn't changed significantly) simply "peeking under the petticoats" of the house will show you how it is put together. 

I do a lot of mimicking.  This can be bad from the standpoint of "some idiot did some stupid stuff in the past" ... but if you do a bit of it and maybe watch a few home shows on TV, you'll actually find yourself saying "that's not up to code" when you look at something.

Bakari

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2013, 02:45:36 PM »
In addition to "build stuff" like Bakari says, the opposite is also true:  deconstruct stuff.

I have learned an awful lot by taking stuff apart.  Assuming what you have is up to code (and the code hasn't changed significantly) simply "peeking under the petticoats" of the house will show you how it is put together. 

I do a lot of mimicking.  This can be bad from the standpoint of "some idiot did some stupid stuff in the past" ... but if you do a bit of it and maybe watch a few home shows on TV, you'll actually find yourself saying "that's not up to code" when you look at something.

+1 (times one million)
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arebelspy

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Re: How the heck do ya learn construction skills?
« Reply #19 on: March 08, 2013, 03:18:08 PM »
Also, I feel compelled to add: you don't need to know construction skills to own rentals.

I'm completely useless, not handy at all.  I hire handymen and plumbers and painters and anyone else to do the manual labor required of a landlord.

It can be good to learn for its own sake, but it's not necessary at all to own rentals.  That's a giant misconception.  (And, I'd argue, if your numbers don't pencil out while hiring someone for everything, you should pass on the deal.  If you choose to do it yourself as an extra side job/gig, then you should be getting paid for that, even if you're paying yourself.)
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