Skip to comments.Young homeowners often repair-challenged (Gen Y can't DIY)
Posted on 08/07/2006 6:58:08 AM PDT by Hydroshock
CHICAGO - The staff at his neighborhood hardware store can spot John Carter from a distance.
He's the slightly befuddled guy who often comes in declaring, "I have no idea what I'm doing. Can you at least get me through tonight?"
The 26-year-old Chicagoan, who's been slowly rehabbing the condo he bought last year, is part of a generation of young homeowners who admit they often have no clue how to handle home projects.
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For them, shop class was optional. It also was more common for their parents to hire contractors, leaving fewer opportunities for them to learn basic repair skills.
With low interest rates allowing more young adults to buy property in recent years, many inexperienced homeowners are desperate for advice when the furnace goes out, the roof leaks or when a home project that seemed like a no-brainer goes terribly wrong.
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I was born in early-1980, does that make me a Y'er? I'm not sure. Anyway, I was raised by a single mother who relied on me to do "man work" around the house. I was mowing lawns by 8, had a job and savings acct. at 13 and rebuilt a 429 cid. Ford motor at 17.
This article proves, to me anyway, that the American family is incapable of passing on crucial components to a common sense life. From basic lawncare and maintenance to replacing leaky faucets and hanging drywall, I learned it all on my own with a little help from DIY books and the internet. I honestly believe some people just don't want to get their hands dirty.
My cousin, for instance, absolutely refuses to change a tire. He got a flat on the NJ Parkway and called someone to pick him. It took longer for the person to come pick him up than it would've to pull off the flat and replace it with the spare. Inconceivable to me, really.
I've had to limp an old Chevy from northern NC to Maryland with a blown exhaust manifold gasket, and despite being tired and dirty, it worked. Without my family support and some common sense, I would've left that POS at the VA border and found another way to get where I was going. Here's to resilience!
This article seems like a lot of BS non-news. I don't think young homeowners today area any different than at any time in history. I came from the baby-boom generation and yes I took shop. I didn't learn a thing from shop about basic home maintenance tasks. Likewise I also worked with my father, a WWII vet who did teach me one of the most important home maintenance arts - how to swear like a sailor while you are banging your thumbs, strippping bolts and bending nails. The one advantage today's youth has is the internet. There is plenty of self-help information out there. If anything they have advantages previous generations didn't have and they'll do just fine.
I'm a late X-er, and even I have problems with a lot of DIY. And my dad is brilliant at the stuff. Hopefully, I will get better with practice.
Our first home was my training ground. I used it to learn. The first time I sweated copper pipe was about an hour before I tore out my plumbing system and replaced it. Gutting entire rooms down to studs is intimidating the first time. Kind of fun though.
Last week, I bought some Home Depot stuff for my cousin's wedding gift. One item was a Purdy paint brush for $15.00. It took me years to learn the value of a proper brush.
I have to commend these younger folks who are unafraid to try their own repairs.
That was me 5 years ago - but I decided to do something about it. After hiring someone to finish my basement, paying 20K and seeing a pretty poor job, I discovered that for the money you pay for work you can do it yourself twice or 3 times. And sometimes you DO - just because you don't know the right way the first time.
Still, it is fun to learn all this stuff.
I think there's an inverse relationship between the money you spend on coffee and your ability to do basic home repairs (or car maintenance, drive a stick-shift, handle firearms, take down trees, etc.).
I wonder why many high school graduates don't know how to do anything until they get out in the 'real world' for a few years?
If you don't try to fix something you'll never learn how to fix it.
My parents wouldn't let any of us drive until we demonstrated the ability to change a tire.
All three of us changed the tire and passed the test.
I have had many a flat, and while sometimes I've been lucky enough that a nice man has pulled over to help, other times I've changed that bad boy myself and gone on my merry way.
I assume the same thing applies to my brother, except I bet nice men don't pull over to help him since he's one himself.
However, my sister has NEVER changed a tire since she did it in the driveway that one weekend. She has always called whatever boyfriend she had at the time, and every one of 'em dealt with it for her.
A few year ago, when our son was about 16, his dad had him under the kitchen sink, instructing him on how to replace the pea trap. I walked upon the scene and laughed, joking with him that he was experiencing the American equivalent of a tribal "rite of passage."
My hubby is slowly, but surely, passing on "skills" (car repair, around the house construction repairs and fix-er-up knowledge, lawn and garden care, etc.)
Truth is, it will save him so much money when he's out on his own. He just doesn't realize it yet.
If it requires more than driving a nail, I call someone!
As a matter of fact, I just did that the other day. My fence needs mending. I'd rather call a handyman service than Kofi Annan for that job!
In my generation during High School all the boys got construction jobs because they paid the best. By doing so we all had a serious understanding on how things are put together. I think todays men coming up don't do that because of all the low wage immigrants in construction have killed the high school labor market.
I admit that while I'm no Bob Vila, I certainly can do enough. I learned some from my dad and some from this novel thing called "reading."
I'm of two minds on this issue. Age 52, I was taught by my Dad to use tools, etc, in the wistful Dad-teaches-son fashion I guess we're supposed to pine for. He's still alive, thank God, and pretty chipper, but his knowledge of tool-use et al ceased expanding circa 1946. Tools today are really quite different than they were then. OK, sweating copper pipe and replacing a faucet aren't much different, but since he SUCKED at those, it's of little consequence. Anyway, watching him attempt to use tools today is just plain scary. I am sure it's that role-reversal-with age type of thing.
My father was a acontractor, and home builder. They have sons for one and only one reason. Cheap summer help. I helped build the house I live in.
If the guy didn't know squat about carpentry, etc. why on earth is he rehabbing his own place?
While we're on the subject I want those two guys from Monster Garage beaten until they look like shrimp cocktail. Every stupid episode of their rotten show begins with: "And today we have a very simple bolt-on...." Meanwhile, their friggin' shop has 100k of equipment in it and is air-conditioned. They do the repairs wearing khakis and polos, it take less than 30 min. no matter what the repair is, and when they're done they are totally spotless, not so much as a drop of grease. Meanwhile, I change out the water pump on my Grand Marquis, I come out of there looking like Al Jolson four hours later.
Stuck on stupid.
Hey, you gotta know your limits!
My husband and I bought an older house back in '93. We stripped the wallpaper in the bathroom and hubby tried to re-plaster the walls. It cost an awful lot, when the plaster guy came, for him to take down hubby's stuff first.
However, when the hot water heater broke, hubby ran down to Home Depot and picked one up, and he and his brother installed the new one in a couple hours. That saved us plenty.
Follow your talents!
You can take classes on all kinds of home projects at Home Depot and Lowe's too.
So, knowing that I was not going to learn any of this from Dad, I proceeded to the local library, where, lo and behold, they had scads of books dealing with home repair and renovation. I identified a few that appeared to be the most useful and up to date and bought them. These books, heavily thumbed, pencil annotations in the margins, with the occasional sweat stains and blood splatters, still sit on the shelf in my workshop 40 years later.
I am sure all of this stuff is on the internet, which is a good thing, since I get the impression that a lot of kids today wouldn't look at, much less own, a book. But it's good to know that they are trying.
I to get a chuckle out of those.
My 16 year old son can paint a house and lay concrete. At least his education is progressing:
My 12 year old can trim out a room a well as any carpenter. Just point him to the chop saw (compound miter saw) and stand back. Perfect fits. He has been working at my (and my fathers') side for years and isn't afraid to try anything. As you can tell I'm a proud papa!
I don't generally enjoy working with these younger homeowners. They generally seem to have an over-inflated view of their own worth based on their careers as computer specialists, lawyers or whatever and an under-valued assessment of the tradesman. They seem to "shop price" above everything else and don't consider the overall "value" of a conscientious, skilled person. Then, when the job's half-done in a half-assed manner by some bubba who gave them the great price, they don't understand why it's going to cost even more to fix it.
Or, they tell you how this other guy said he could do it for less, but he's too busy. Well, hell, when I'm too busy, I'll tell you I can do it for even less than that!
My all-time favorite was, "Well, my Dad could do that" to which I replied, "Yes, I'm sure he could" and then they said, "Well, he's passed on". At which point, I think, but don't say, "Then I guess that will slow him down some."
Nah, I prefer to deal with more seasoned homeowners who know the real deal.
Experience is the best teacher. When I bought my current house, my first home purchase, it was a fixer upper. Did most of the work myself and I learned the hard way how to fix, repair and install lots of things. Sure, I had to run to the hardware store in the middle of the project just to get some stupid little thing, or a different tool, but I learned from it. I made lots of mistakes, too, but I didn't sweat it. Just made sure it was done right the second time around. And I never grew up in a handy-man type of family. But the internet sure helps with Q&A tips. And it saved me $$$. Only for some of the more complicated projects did I hire someone to do it - mainly for time saving and for complicating factors I didn't want to get into. Switched from well water to reclaim for irrigation and saved $800 by doing it myself. I can' believe sprinkler system companies wanted $500 just to run a PVC line under my driveway to get to the hookup. Did it myself for $10 in parts (inluding 2 sodas to help with the hot FL sun!). The Gen-Xers will do fine and most will welcome the challenge of learning new skills. And it saves money and you get it done the way you want it look, too.
And what's up with this? At least boomers know which end of the screwdriver to hold.
There are some people who are completely incapable of manual tasks, but they're very few. My sister considers it beneath her to do any household tasks. She's a single mom, and she is not at all embarrassed to call the older man next door to help her with the simplest tasks.
My wife offered to buy some sewing materials for her young teenage daughter one Christmas, and my sister said, "I don't want her to have to do that kind of thing." She did send her kids to sailing lessons this summer though.
I can't believe we came from the same family.
when we see hints that this is the direction our kids are
headed in, we give our advice and guidance then we let
them sweat it out a bit. this little thing called experience
kicks in and they seem to learn from it.
i drove a '74 pinto (rear end me and we blow up together)
while i was in college. bought it for $500, did all the tune
ups, etc myself then turned around and sold it for $500
when i graduated.
pat, his brothers, dad and cousin are building a cabin on our
acreage up north...with out the convenience of utilities even!
it is our hope that our kids will learn to be equally resourceful
when they are grown and on their own. we won't be around to
take care of them forever so it's our job to help them learn to
be skilled and independent.
I was thinking something similar. For the Gen Y generation, a good bit of them, both parents or single parents really had to work outside the home. Kids learn so much through modeling. It's unlikely, between the video games and the time at day care or after school activities, that many Gen Y-ers had much opportunity to watch the plumber or construction men, etc, or even parents, perform repairs. My earliest memories include sitting on the curb with my little sister eating a box lunch (under the watchful eye of mom on the porch) watching repairs on our street.
Like your mom, I'm a single parent. I've done, and been assisted by my son, a number of simple repairs and construction of items like a bookshelf, a bike, for example. But I'm surprised by the number of my son's friends (and their parents) who can't or won't - and by those who can - do the simplest of things for themselves. I think the early exposure is helpful and crucial.
LOL! Sounds like my experience growing up!
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations (i.e. The Baby Boomers) are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.
LOL! Me too. Painters say, "don't skimp on the paint or your brush." I just painted our two-story house with two Purdy brushes. This time around I learned the value of a paint brush cleaning comb, a ladder stabilizer, and ladder equalizers.
I watch the pros and try to do what they do. They have a lot more experience than me.
I just used that brush last week. I've had it for five years and probably cleaned it (with a paint comb) 150 times. The bristles are nearly perfect.
My husband is great at fixing things -- when he has the time. Considering he works 12-14 hours a day he doesn't have much time to do DIY projects (as much as he wants to).
I used to work as a sub under a general contractor... fun times...
A lot of people thinks trades jobs are for dumb people.. ha, I know plenty of tradesmen that retired by late 40's...
My uncle is a plumber and is semi-retired, he works when he's looking to make some money to restore muscle cars...
Good one! For what it's worth, we can build or fix anything. We have to. Plus we have enough spare parts to build a house or a tractor. We're hours from a hardware.
That equalizer is pretty cool. I've never seen that innovation.
Do you really think high school should be teaching students how to hang drywall and install a toilet?
They are very useful skills, but I think it's too much to ask of an education system that also has to make sure students can read and have skills for their day jobs!
Sheetrock, on the other hand, can be managed by anyone with a modicum of patience and attention to detail.
My husband and I put down parquet floor, installed wiring, and sheetrocked the walls and ceiling of the baby's room when I was nine months pregnant. I can still mud, sponge, and sand a seam so that you can't tell it's there (the sponge at the exact level of dampness is the secret trick.)
It doesn't insulate sound the way plaster does, but since 2 of the 3 walls were furring strips on concrete block, it didn't matter (we put sound damping insulation in the 3rd wall on the bathroom side.)
We're very gung-ho DIYSers -- have to be, it's too expensive to hire contractors to do every little thing, and I do a better job on fiddly detail work. (We did hire a man to paint the house, he was very reasonable and quick. He had a crew with pressure sprayers -- we don't.)
"This article proves, to me anyway, that the American family is incapable of passing on crucial components to a common sense life. From basic lawncare and maintenance to replacing leaky faucets and hanging drywall, I learned it all on my own with a little help from DIY books and the internet. I honestly believe some people just don't want to get their hands dirty."
I'm 56 and was raised to do everything myself. I was taught a lot by my Dad who was constantly involved in some project at home and he was taught by his Dad. I learned a lot by working in construction for years and trial and error (sometimes BIG errors).
After I finished college and started working in IT I just didn't have as much time as I used to and when I did I was to tired to do anything. I think that's a lot of the problem these days. People are working their butts off to get by and just don't have the time or inclination to learn things and finish projects.
I don't know squat about plumbing, but I can rebuild brakes and carburators. I had to replace a fuel pump on Christmas day once. Fortunately, I lived in Phoenix at the time and it was warm and sunny. My dad raced dragsters, so I guess it's what you're raised around. My kids probably won't know how to rebuild a faucet, but will be able to rebuild a computer.
I think one the problem is lack of tools and space to store them - well at least when you live in a Condo (i.e. Apartment - for those of you that don't in a major Metro area).
Most projects take specialty tools and then, at that, they run you hundreds of dollars, $$$$.
_ _ _ _ _
"-Hey, Honey... "
-"Can I store this 30 Foot plumbing drain snake in your closet? I'll put it near your shoes, but not too close."
I'm a baby-boomer. My father is a gifted handyman. He learned to work in a machine shop without formal training and did all his own repairs and projects himself. He built a cinderblock garage and had never laid block; it still stands over 35 years later. I watched him and he taught me things. When we bought our first house it was 84 years old, and I wouldn't have bought it except that I knew how to handle tools. I had never done a lot of things, but I had sufficient experience using tools that I learned new tasks like electrical, plumbing, carpentry, window repair, etc. As far as contractors go, there are just as many that are no talent assclowns as there are good ones. I repaired what many contractors fixed on that old house. You have to have guts, and mentality to try. Most that don't are just wussies who won't or are afraid to get their hands dirty. Some feels it's classy to have everything done, and they spend a fortune getting things done. Time is about the only reason for me to hire someone to do work at my house. BTW, I never took shop class in high school, I was on the college track.
A good education rarely teached students many practical skills (besides reading and math); it teaches them how to learn. Not that many high schools (or even colleges) actually give students a good education.