Best intensive courses for learning to build or renovate your own home
June 18, 2015 10:24 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for 1 week to month long classes that do hands-on teaching of basic carpentry, plumbing, and wiring skills for people who want to rehab houses. I am considering buying a fixer-upper and need to know what tools I need, how to use them safely, how to conform to the local building code, and when I will need to hire outside help.

Can any of you recommend intensive classes anywhere in the country that teach those skills? The Heartwood School, Shelter Institute in Maine, and Yestermorrow are all off my list because of timing issues. They each offer great classes once per year, during the same 2 week period. Unfortunately, that time coincides with one of the three times per year that I need to set up at an antique fair on which I rely for my income!

Also, much as I am drawn to timber framing, that is not the type of construction I would be doing on this renovation project, so please don't suggest one of those classes, or one that focuses on alternative building practices. I need straight, old style framing.
posted by ridingtheranges to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your local community college or technical college almost certainly offers these kinds of classes. Here in Madison, they offer both degree/certificate focused curriculums and specific skill based informal classes.
posted by rockindata at 10:46 AM on June 18, 2015


Our local community college surprisingly does NOT offer classes on carpentry or building.
posted by ridingtheranges at 10:52 AM on June 18, 2015


Look through Community Education through your city, too. I know our community ed frequently has deck building classes, plumbing workshops, carpentry, etc.
posted by schnee at 10:53 AM on June 18, 2015


Have you talked to anyone who flips houses? They are far from an easy project and what starts as $1000 worth of work can quickly spiral into $10000 if you're not careful. Most inexperienced people who go into this line of work go bust or barely make any money back especially if they are not tradesman by profession.
posted by lpcxa0 at 10:55 AM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


You say anywhere in the country--have you picked a few cities you'd like to spend a week to a month in and checked their junior/community colleges and industrial technology/trade schools?
posted by resurrexit at 11:16 AM on June 18, 2015


Where do you live and how far would you be willing to travel? Do you prefer coming home each night or staying away?

I had a lot of fun in a carpentry class I took through my local college. If it's not an option for you, call local builders and find out if they can teach you. I can understand if they are hesitant so you may have to explain your own special skill and how it might help them to help you.

Also check out the local chamber of commerce. They might have a weekly meal, usually breakfast, where they entertain prospective offers through paid-up presentations. It's pretty low key but sometimes you get an insurance agent who is also an Elvis impersonator (shout out, Springfield, Oregon). Make a pitch: Who can teach me to rehabilitate a house in record speed?

Finally, if you own the homes in question already only. Talk to realtors. There may be someone with a property management company on the side and an amazing handyman with a heart of gold.
posted by parmanparman at 3:53 PM on June 18, 2015


I am guessing your rehab is a stucco post-war sfh with cement features. Correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by parmanparman at 4:00 PM on June 18, 2015


No, parmanparman, it's a clapboard ranch in Massachusetts. I will see if I can find a local carpenter to hire who is willing to teach me while I provide him/her with a second set of hands. Then, if I do another actual flip, I'll know what I'm doing. I'm planning to live in this one for awhile if I go through with this plan. I'm going to start with asking the carpentry teacher at the local vocational high school.

However, keep those ideas coming! I would love to find a 2-3 week course to take somewhere in the country.
posted by ridingtheranges at 7:47 PM on June 18, 2015


This is a great idea, and I'll be very interested to find out what exists. My guess would be that you'll only get a very thin slice of what you'll need, and therefore that your $1500 would be far better spent paying a consultant to guide you through your first project. You'll probably spend more on the consultant (depending on how big the project is), but you'll also save roughly a kajillion dollars in avoided mistakes. Also, if you want my two cents on choosing fixer-upper projects: start small and think carefully about the risks. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Also, assemble your team. Things are much easier once you find a reliable carpenter, plumber, electrician, etc.
posted by slidell at 1:05 AM on June 19, 2015


I work on houses, and I'd be very skeptical that a 1-2 week course could possibly prepare you for diving into a fixer upper full of unknowns. There's just too much. A big part of a thing like that will be figuring out how the previous knucklehead working on the house screwed up what you're working on, and then why they did it in that crazy-ass way.

So, they notched only three of these floor joists that were replaced. Why those three? The house is sagging in that area from the insufficient beam reinforcement when the second story was added (for example). Nobody's going to be able to teach you how grandpa may have jury-rigged an old repair that now need to be fixed properly and in the meantime has lead to other problems. At least not in two weeks. This is why licensed tradesmen need years of coursework and 2,000 hours of experience or however much it is just to become journeymen.

Your best bet is to hire people and be their tool passer.
posted by cmoj at 2:03 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I agree with cmoj. I work in a construction adjacent industry and there is just SO much to know. Best reccomendation I have is volunteering with Habitat for Humanity as much as possible - luck of the draw on what you will be working on each day, but you can learn a lot - I did.
posted by annie o at 3:50 PM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


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