# Best bang for your buck as a jack of all trades

1. Jun 8, 2005

### Pengwuino

Since for the last 3 months our family has been getting a new bathroom and my car's been acting crappy... i started wondering something. We itemized the job to be done with the contractor and there was stuff like drywalling, electrical, plumbing, tilesetting, etc. I was wondering when it comes to how much time it would take to learn a skill + tools needed vs. how much you pay for the service otherwise, what kind of job is probably the best "bang for your buck" to try to learn yourself? I figure say (for my car problems), mechanic skills wouldnt be that great because you need a lot of expensive equipment :-/ but how bout other things? :)

I know... odd question but im a curious penguin :D

2. Jun 8, 2005

### hypatia

Except for the electric, I have done all the things mentioned on your list, including at least 50% of my auto repairs. I'm sure I have saved myself 20,000 to 30,000 dollars in the couse of my lifetime.
Hint, if you go to home depo.. you can get lessons for free, they even rent tools really cheap.

Last edited: Jun 8, 2005
3. Jun 8, 2005

I don't know if you have the category in the States, but what would be best here would be a 'general contractor'. They have knowledge of all building trades, and in most cases the tools are common to them all. Any specialized tools can be rented very cheaply. (For example, a trip-hammer might rent for $25/day, and you'd have your own compressor to run it.) 4. Jun 8, 2005 ### Adrian Baker In the UK, plumbing is the way to go. Call out rates are massive and to find a decent (or any!) plumber is a near impossibility. They can charge what they want, and work when they want. I have no problem with this (Hey - I'm a capitalist) but if you want to re-train and make big bucks, become a plumber! 5. Jun 8, 2005 ### Pengwuino Yah there called general contractors in the US too I wanna learn in my spare time but still be able to do a job good enough for say, my parents. I feel like if i go to home depot for a class... its gonna be like ... people walken out feeling like they know everything yet dont know anything and will do a crappy job... 6. Jun 8, 2005 ### Danger A lot of community colleges or trade schools up here have inexpensive night courses for stuff like that, as well as our Continuing Education programme providing them in smaller towns. Having seen a mechanics course like that on 'Fraser' once, I assume that they're common down your way too. 7. Jun 8, 2005 ### mattmns Since you live in the US, car mechanic experience would probably be the best, imo. And like hypatia said, if you need specific tools you can rent them. 8. Jun 8, 2005 ### Pengwuino Yah... wonder if i can do it during summer... haha what im worrid about is... since i know the most about computers in my family, evvvveryone asks me to fix their computer. Ugh god knows how long it would be until i wanted to shoot myself if i knew what a general contractor knew and my family knew about it. 9. Jun 8, 2005 ### Danger So don't tell 'em. If you feel like helping and they ask why you know how, just say that you read it somewhere. 10. Jun 8, 2005 ### Moonbear Staff Emeritus Most of those projects are pretty easy to learn to do-it-yourself. The easiest way to learn is to find a friend who knows how to do it and have them either help you or you go help them with a project so they can show you what to do or not do. Plumbing is a good one to learn and doesn't require too many tools and is something you'll use more often for repairs in addition to whole remodeling projects. If you can do the minor stuff, then you just need to call in a plumber for the big things, like running a new sewer line for a new bathroom (that's one I wouldn't do myself), but once that's in, you can do the water supply and drains for fixtures. Plus, when a pipe bursts, you can avoid the expensive middle of the night call to the plumber and fix it yourself. Drywall takes more practice, and if you're a novice, then it takes twice as much time sanding to get a smooth finish after you've overdone the joint compound, but it's also not hard. Generally, it starts out as a two-person job though. You can do it by yourself, but it's a heck of a lot easier to have a second set of hands to hold stuff while you're nailing it in place. I don't screw around with electric except to replace outlets or switches or fixtures. Running new wiring isn't something I want to deal with, and anything that requires work at the circuit box is best left to someone who has experience or supervision of someone with a lot of experience so you don't kill yourself. Tiling mostly just requires a lot of patience to get it right. I've patched tile, but never laid a whole floor. You do need to be sure you've got a level surface and all that sort of stuff so you don't wind up with cracked tiles the first time you walk on it. And they sell little plastic spacers now, so you don't even have to worry the way you used to about getting the tiles evenly spaced. So, it's mostly just a tedious job, and your knees will hurt from crawling around on the floor. What it really comes down to on any of these things is time is money. If you have the time to spare and realize it's going to take you probably at least twice as long as an experienced professional to do it on your own, then it can be worthwhile. If it means you're going to have to take a day off from work to finish the job that should have taken an hour but has turned into an all-day task and has to be redone three times due to inexperience, then it's cheaper to hire someone. 11. Jun 8, 2005 ### Danger You might want to check into some legalities, too. There's a fair chance that if you do your own electrical work, it might void your fire insurance. 12. Jun 8, 2005 ### Pengwuino Hmm good idea! We've had absolutely terrible luck with electricians and that was something i was interested in... 13. Jun 8, 2005 ### hypatia ummm you screw dry wall in place. lol home depot 101 14. Jun 8, 2005 ### Moonbear Staff Emeritus Um...then why do they make nails for drywall? Screws are for those who can't hit a nail without making extra holes in the drywall. 15. Jun 8, 2005 ### Pengwuino Good ol nail guns :D 16. Jun 8, 2005 ### hypatia The heads of nails used to fasten plasterboard to studs often pop out. This is caused by moisture changes in the studs which squeeze the nail out. If you live in a really dry area, it wouldn't be a problem. Screws never pop out, they are easy to countersink for mudding over and electric drill with screw bits are really easy to use. With nails youhalf to go back with a punch to sink them. 17. Jun 9, 2005 ### Zantra being DIY guy myself, I'm all for it.. but a side note on auto repair... First I've worked on plenty of cars in my time- I'd owned about 15 old junkers by the time I was 22 or so. Learned quite a bit. That being said, fixing your car nowadays can be difficult due to all the technology now involved. You've got chips for your regulators, chips for the ignition(EFI's not that new) chips for your intake, chips for cruise control, fluid control,transmission control, etc etc.. Bottom line is that it's gotten to the point where you need to be well versed in electronics to do anything besides change your oil and other fluids. I suppose you can still install fuel pumps and change your brakes, and a few other things.. Adam's a grease monkey maybe he can give some insight... 18. Jun 9, 2005 ### FredGarvin Hypatia's pretty much right with the nail/screw bit. I use nails to hold up a piece of drywall then I screw it in. I usually use 2-3 nails per piece. They usually do pop out eventually. Not a difficult fix, but it usually happens when you least feel like doing the repiar. In terms of DYI stuff in general, most things are not difficult to do. They get more difficult to do well. They get even tougher when doing them well and to code. That is the #1 thing I see most "experts" not doing. One of my personal pet peeves is burying junction boxes in drywall so they are unaccessable. Electrical scares me when most people do it because most people don't have a clue as to what code is for their area. While I'm at it, in regards to working on newer cars, they are tougher to work on IF you don't have the right equipment. When I worked for Ford, I worked in OBD (yes, the guys who are responsible for turning that annoying check engine light on). On development cars, we always installed a breakout board on the PCM so you could use a meter on the 104 pin connector. A lot of times you could simply pin out sensors to find out problems. It actually made things very easy. Since that's not possible on regular cars it gets to be a serious pain. The one thing I hated was the problems that were caused by a bad ground. Those were tough to track down. With modern cars, half the battle is knowing what sensors detect and how that fits into the operation of the car. 19. Jun 9, 2005 ### Chi Meson [edit note: I didn't notice the 2nd page of posts before I added this: some redundancies follow] I agree with Adrian (I always agree with Adrian). I've been doing "helper" jobs for cantractors and carpenters for most of the last 20 summers. Many of these "skilled laborers" barely have a high school diploma, yet there is this aura that somehow what they do is "difficult." (Shh. This is a trade secret) Plumbing is the best kept secret in the trade. Copper soldering has to be one of highest ratios of fun vs. difficulty compared to anything else. But people are pre-convinced that it must be "hard" because a plumber charges up to$100 an hour for services.

I tell ya, I just finished installing one of those "point of use" hot water heaters under my kitchen sink. Getting all the right pieces together is like solving a fun little puzzle, then the actual soldering has a fantastic "oomph!" moment when the solder gets sucked into the joint by the flux. You have to deliberately screw up for the joint to go bad.

After that, definitely electric work, but this has a lower "fun" factor when it includes pulling wires behind walls. New construction is OK. Anyone who understands the difference between parallel and series circuts can do it as long as you "keep it to code" and turn off the circuit-breaker before starting.

Sheet-rocking sucks. Putting up boards is fine, but doing a good job on taping the joints requires practice. All my own taping jobs "show through." (Sigh)

Masonry; you can't fake it. Hire someone.

Last thing: don't do anything without the right tools. Buy, borrow, rent.

Last edited: Jun 9, 2005
20. Jun 9, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
Hmm...I've never noticed that problem of nails popping out. Well, there were a few spots in one apartment I lived in, but I figured that was just shoddy work since they also missed taping spots too so noticeable spaces formed in corners once the paint dried.

My current house only has drywall in one room, a bathroom that was remodelled by the previous owners (yeah, that's the one where they just walled in a window...morons!). Everything else is plaster. If I was planning to live here forever, I'd be starting on tearing out plaster and replacing with drywall, but I don't plan on staying here that long.