In a previous article I discussed learning fix-up skills by 1) trying to do repairs as you encounter them and using your investment fixer-upper house as a “practice” house; and, 2) by taking community college classes in the construction trades.
Two more ways to learn repair skills are: 1) reflect on past experiences and on persons who were good examples, and 2) put together your own repair book reference library.
1.) Reflecting on the Past
After I got more involved in doing repair work of my investment houses, I thought back about how my father had taught me a lot by example. I recall seeing him construct screened-in porches on various houses that we had lived in. I was too young to help out much at the time, or to appreciate what he was doing. Looking back I realize that it required a strong desire to learn the basic principals, and a sense of self-confidence to build it. He had no formal training in construction, and did not have reference books like I do but he learned by observing other porches that had been built in the neighborhood and by talking to people.
I also have a friend who has made a career out of living frugally. He does virtually all of his own house repair and car repair work. If he gets stuck, he goes to the library and finds books to help him. It helps that he has a background in teaching vocational education. We have helped each other with house repair projects over the years, and he is a reliable source of practical advice when I need help.
There may be people around you who can teach you a lot about home repair. This is the kind of person who can be an invaluable resource for you. Be sure to take them out to lunch once in awhile.
2.) Put Together a House Repair Book Library
I like to scour the fix-up book areas at used book stores for good buys. I buy a book as soon as I see it if I know that it has valuable information. If you wait to purchase the book you may return later and find that the book I had wanted is gone. The price you pay will literally be a drop in the bucket compared to the money you will save. I have books on almost every possible repair topic, including electrical wiring, plumbing, flooring, you name it. Some books offer information on a wide variety of repairs. Reader’ Digest Fix-it Yourself Manual and Better Home and Gardens Complete Guide to Home Repair, are good books to start with. From there, you may need to go to a more focused book on electricity or plumbing. The Home Depot books are generally good choices to include in your library. I have several.
When a book is not enough, you can usually get good advice on specific jobs at hardware stores, like Ace Hardware. And, you can often get good advice on difficult repairs by doing a Google search.