Author Topic: Learning to DIY  (Read 4540 times)


  • Stubble
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Learning to DIY
« on: July 24, 2012, 04:12:25 PM »
I have no useful skills. My dad never taught me anything useful in the sense of carpentry, electrical, of plumbing.

I love the idea of buying cheap rental properties in need of repairs and then fixing them up. My job will soon(relatively, in a year) be giving me tons and tons of free time(2 weeks a month) and I would be able to really do this.

But my question is, where did you guys learn your skills? Was it through paid employment? I've thought of attempting to whore myself out as an unpaid intern of sorts to various local businesses. But then I have no idea of the quality of the training I'd get.

I don't want to buy a fixer upper until I'm sure of my skills. I don't mind learning as I go along with the process, but at this point I'd be lucky to not put a nail through my foot.


  • Stubble
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Re: Learning to DIY
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2012, 04:22:57 PM »
My dad didn't teach me a thing about this stuff either. I learned what I know by attempting to repair things around the house growing up. My parents knew they'd have to call a professional and (in most cases) didn't think I could do much to raise the bill if I couldn't fix the issue. Eventually, I could fix most minor household issues and replace nearly any electrical/pluming fixture in the house! Carpentry is a skill best learned by building things. Try building a dresser or toolbox (really anything with drawers and doors). The first few will probably be pretty bad - but each attempt to build something you realize how you could improve your process. It's a fun expedition for sure!


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Learning to DIY
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2012, 04:31:12 PM »
No one taught me anything.

I just started taking things apart.  Stuff is interesting.  I did that since childhood.  By high school people were asking me to fix things for them (friends brought their bikes, professors brought lab equipment that the maintenance guy didn't have time to get to)

I never had the money for repair men or mechanics, so I either learned to fix it, or I had to live with broken stuff.  I had to fix my bike, tune-up my car, sew my clothes, and repair the furnace.
And this was all before you could find the answer to every question on the internet.

It turns out that almost everything is easy. 

Flash forward a decade, and I now make most of my income doing various household repairs for other people.

Its easier to learn if you don't have the pressure of a timeline. 
Fixing up a house that no one currently lives in seems perfect.  Just go one step at a time.  Don't buy a tool until you need that specific one (and have tried and failed to borrow one for free).  Read about the project in front of you on a few websites, and then just try it.  If you screw up, start over. 

Safety stuff is pretty obvious.  Don't touch moving blades.  Turn off the power at the breaker.  Most accidents happen to experienced people who get lazy about safety because the task is routine.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2012, 04:36:43 PM by Bakari »


  • Bristles
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Re: Learning to DIY
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2012, 04:47:36 PM »
My grandfather owned rentals and put us to work. I learned basic carpentry there.

You could also look into habitat for humanity to build skills. Be proactive!!! Don't just grab the heavy shit and start moving it. Look up and figure out who's doing more detailed work and follow that person around. You'll pick up a lot, or quickly realize that you're not well suited for it (...totally a possibility).

Generally speaking, I'm fearless about opening up something that is broken. It's unlikely that you'll break it more. This isn't totally correct if it's your home. If you have time, move slowly. This will prevent you from getting too far before realizing there is a problem.

Carpentry is pretty straight forward...You want straight lines and square corners. If you don't think you'd notice when this isn't happening, leave it to a pro. Otherwise, there's an incredible amount of youtube videos for whatever home improvement project you take on.

Good luck!

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  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Learning to DIY
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2012, 04:51:17 PM »
See if you can find a local real estate investor that does a lot of DIY projects.  Ask if you can help in exchange for some education on DIY and investing.  You will get two educations for one investment of your time.  Take a couple of free basic classes at Lowes and Home Depot - installing ceiling fans or laminate flooring are good ones.  You may meet a fellow new investor, and you can learn (and practice) together.

Even if you decide DIY is not for you, you will learn to price many jobs.  That's a really important skill when you are dealing with tradespeople and handymen.  Here's a link to an article by a professional flipper on the topic.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Learning to DIY
« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2012, 05:14:45 PM »
I learnt by watching my dad build a boat, and then trying to make my own furniture, followed by doing modest home renovations (fitting a new kitchen bench, painting the whole house top etc).

I'm by no means great at it, so I attend an evening class once a week on cabinet making.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Learning to DIY
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2012, 06:43:35 PM »
My husband learned some from his dad.  And we're both engineers, so keep that in mind.

When he was a kid, he took things apart and put them back together.
When he was in college/out of college, he learned to cook by getting his mom's recipes and trying them.
When he was out of college, he would buy a "kit" to build your own computer, and work on it.

Now he's pretty good at a lot of stuff. We have books on how to do things.  First, he started with borrowing from the library on plumbing, electrical, etc.  If the book was really useful, then he bought it.  The internet is a good source also.

He built our kitchen cabinets too.  He learned about cabinetry/woodworking by taking adult ed classes at the local high school.  Which is how I built my skills in cooking/ quilting. 

Man, I sound like such a girl.  I do like helping him with projects, but with two kids, we tend to divide and conquer these days.  So mostly I do the girly things.  Patching clothing, hemming pants, making curtains, cooking, etc.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Learning to DIY
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2012, 08:58:04 PM »
I learned by (in effect) apprenticing myself to a builder with his own (very) small business right after college -- basically I worked for him for ~6 months for something very close to $0 (though not quite that).  I'd guess that might still be an option in some places, some markets, but probably easier if you know such a builder, or know someone who knows someone (my approximate circumstances, back in the day), than starting from scratch.

In my area, Habitat projects mostly use large volunteer crews on weekends doing big but repetitive and low-skill projects -- framing walls, painting.  That's fine as far as it goes, a good cause, and potentially a way to meet folks in the trade, but around here, there's also a subset of more skilled workers (some unemployed and/or retired tradespeople) who come in on weekdays as volunteers to do the more skilled stuff.  In short, if you try to pursue the volunteer route and have the time available (as you do) it may be worth communicating about what projects you can work on which days and with what sort of interaction(s) with whom.

Worsted Skeins

  • Bristles
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Re: Learning to DIY
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2012, 06:57:42 AM »
Make friends with old codgers.

We have an elderly neighbor with an amazing tool collection.  My husband does maintenance on the old guy's computer and also does some things like tree trimming. In return, we have access to tools and knowledge.  Codger loves to supervise projects.