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DIY?

lenaitch

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I am active on another forum focused on DIY issues such as renos, carpentry, wiring, etc. and a thread was started asking why we do what we do, and it got me thinking about DIY in the urban environment. i grew up in and have always lived in a single family dwelling and was raised by a dad who grew up on a farm during the Depression so he had an ingrained ability to do many things himself. I have built decks, sheds, etc. and do most of my own house repairs and upgrades with the exception of HVAC. I have built some furniture but am by no means a craftsman; I know my limit and play within it.

Clearly, I have learned along the way and have made my fair share of things that turned into kindling. Motivations vary, from too cheap to pay others, satisfaction of creating something yourself, difficulty getting contractors, etc.

What is the general state of these skills today? Obviously, I have no way of knowing the demographics of forum members, but I get the sense that many of the younger generation (I appreciate it's a broad and relative term) either don't have the skills and/or aren't interested. Is it a lack of interest, space, time, proliferation of condo/rental living. other?
 
Primarily lack of need - and the continued specialization of labour. It's cheaper to work a few hours of overtime at work and pay someone to fix it instead of spending a few hours fixing itself usually - and you end up with a better product.

Different lifestyles changes things too - condos don't need a lot of sweat labour - most stuff is done by the condo corp through professional contractors. Those who own houses in the younger generation tend to be much higher income than average also - so I imagine you see higher rates of hiring contractors.
 
I’m definitely a DIY guy. There are so many angles to this topic it’s hard to say where to start.

There are a lot of factors working for and against DIY. In short you save no money making mass produced products like furniture, cabinetry, etc. unless you want specific customization. You do save a lot of money doing interior repairs and renovations. The cost of speciality tools and materials vis a vis professional labour is really attractive.

That said the increasing complexity of the regulatory and liability environment is making DIY much more difficult to do. It is also driving up costs for professional labour. I think it’s getting harder not easier for people to afford professional trade services. Unless you make over $100 an hour you are not in a position to easily afford professional interior repair and renovation services. A very modest day of professional labour services would be $1000 +HST

Is having a DIY culture a good thing? I think it is. It’s not maximum efficiency. It’s not maximum quality. But it’s robust. Making things with your hands matters. I would even call it spiritual. People being self-reliant to an extent at the micro level has important societal and economic implications
 
I’m definitely a DIY guy. There are so many angles to this topic it’s hard to say where to start.

There are a lot of factors working for and against DIY. In short you save no money making mass produced products like furniture, cabinetry, etc. unless you want specific customization. You do save a lot of money doing interior repairs and renovations. The cost of speciality tools and materials vis a vis professional labour is really attractive.

That said the increasing complexity of the regulatory and liability environment is making DIY much more difficult to do. It is also driving up costs for professional labour. I think it’s getting harder not easier for people to afford professional trade services. Unless you make over $100 an hour you are not in a position to easily afford professional interior repair and renovation services. A very modest day of professional labour services would be $1000 +HST

Is having a DIY culture a good thing? I think it is. It’s not maximum efficiency. It’s not maximum quality. But it’s robust. Making things with your hands matters. I would even call it spiritual. People being self-reliant to an extent at the micro level has important societal and economic implications

Good post. You are correct; it is a very broad topic. An advantage to things like furniture and cabinetry is the option to build things out of real wood versus the retail standard of veneered particle board, although having said that, source raw lumber is getting to be a real challenge, particularly in smaller markets. Solid lumber furniture can be really expensive and getting harder to find.

The regulatory impact can be both a good and bad thing. I can go up on my own roof without needing a 'working from heights' certificate and all of the restrictions that now face commercial workers. To cut through the regulations, much may depend on your local building department. Some are quite helpful and will work with you and your back-of-napkin drawing, others not so much.

I agree with the 'almost spiritual' aspect. Although it can be frustrating at times, my workshop is my place to go chill (when it's too cold to ride my motorcycle). I wish I had the connection my father in law had. He could do wondrous things with wood and I swear it spoke to him. I have a friend that is very good but he approaches a project as a goal to be conquered rather than an accomplishment to be achieved.

You comment about self-reliance is well taken. It makes society more resilient. How many people know how to change a tire on the side of the road anymore?
 
You nailed many of it. Reasons I have observed.

-Younger people today grew up on their free time with the internet which is all encompassing mentally and physically. It's also very 'clean' as you don't get dirty, clean up required, etc.
-I'm 40 this year and grew up playing arcade games, NES, playing outside. My dad never personally got me involved in house projects. So even many of my peers are not really that hands on, but I do know they are still alot more or are willing to try than those in the heart of the millennial classification.
-More young people want and are living in urban settings, in multi-unit households negating the need for DIY. Even buying quality painting supplies is deterrent to many people when compared to the smaller size of their living units (sunk costs get cheaper the more you paint), and or rules of renting.

-My co-hort were also the ones that bought alot of new builds that were cheap in the 2000s and early 2010s. So everything came new and shiny.
-But we are also more suburbanized and have accepted commuting as a way of life (even during our 20s) vs those in their 20s now, and younger that abhor such a lifestyle. So there are some DIYers.
-For me, I moved out to a large house in Scarborough when we had a child 5 years ago to where my wife had bought her family home before . It was rented out when we didn't live there so I took on alot of work myself. Nothing crazy, but to improve the aesthetics and update. Bought stuff like all the major saws (mitre, circular, table, reciprocating, tile), drill, small compressor with nail gun, sanders, etc.
-Buying tools and more importantly STORING them is another big issue and deterrent for people living in the city. I knew I had a list of what I wanted to do and skills I wanted to develop, so investing in the tools was worth it. Having young kids is the main thing holding me back to spend more time on projects/developing skills.
-The same trend that has led to many younger people not even having their driver's license has also reduced the younger generation DIY interest. Today's DIY is more "how do I monitize my internet presence". But, the overall DIY market is still huge and growing given that those that have moved out to the suburbs, especially older ones above 40 are far more inclined to DIY their home projects.

Changing furniture Tastes
-Sleeker, stylish, lighter furniture is in more demand. Certain hardwoods for traditional furniture has plummeted in value and demand (i.e. dark Cherry) due to changed tastes. The thought of "this is real solid wood" has as much impact as "look at the huge size of this lot far from the city core".
-Furniture is cheap today. Look at Ikea.
-More minimal living. No need for that heavy hutch to show off the China, or solid wood piece bedroom set.
 
-Sleeker, stylish, lighter furniture is in more demand. Certain hardwoods for traditional furniture has plummeted in value and demand (i.e. dark Cherry) due to changed tastes. The thought of "this is real solid wood" has as much impact as "look at the huge size of this lot far from the city core".
-Furniture is cheap today. Look at Ikea.
-More minimal living. No need for that heavy hutch to show off the China, or solid wood piece bedroom set.

I haven't noticed a lot of hardwoods getting cheaper, and most retail yards don't carry it; no demand. I'm lucky that I have a yard that will order it but I have to wait. Quality wide stuff is getting to be a challenge. Now that I've found a place that will mill for me (I don't have a planer) I'm trying to source old lumber. Old growth softwoods have a grain tightness that approaches some hardwoods.

The "china hutch". Ya, great point - how many of the newer generation even know what fine china is? It's hard to fault them, it takes space to store and ain't dishwasher safe. Many houses now don't even have a dining room in their design and even if they do it's probably used for something else. We have my mom's good china in boxes and I've told my kid she's getting it, like it or not. Try getting rid of a dining room set. My in-laws had a huge one (family of seven) - we couldn't give it away. Most used furniture retailers won't take them 'cause they've already got a bunch they can't move. It's too bad in a way because they are often quality pieces made with quality wood.
 

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