You Tube Renovation Tips for Building Sweat Equity

We have now renovated three homes all with knowledge learned from YouTube videos. Those renovations have allowed us to grow our net worth and passive income in ways we just wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. With each purchase, money was so tight, we couldn’t have pulled it off if we would have had to hire out all the work. Enter You Tube videos.

How to you tube renovation

Research shows that doing new, novel things boosts happiness.

This has proven true in my life. But it’s bigger than that. It gives me butterflies. It makes me nervous. It’s stressful. It’s exciting to see it come together. Then there is a huge sense of accomplishment. And that lasts a LONG time. I’m in awe. “I DID that!”

Most of the work in my life is quickly undone. Floors need to be swept again. Laundry washed day in an out. Even when I was working, I redid the same kind of work over and over. Each week provided a new dose of the same. But not renos. We gut and install a new kitchen and 6 months later it’s still there. It’s still awesome. I still DID that! Even if we could afford to hire out all the jobs now, I wouldn’t. Because that sense of pride and satisfaction in learning a new skill and creating something beautiful is hard to replicate.

How to you tube renovationYou Tube renovations

We rented for 10 years before we bought our first home. So as a couple, we had exactly 0 practice in small projects. Here is how we went from almost no hands on experience to renovating 3 fixer homes.

So if you are feeling brave, or crazy, here are the 3 steps to get you through the job.

1. Watch lots of You tube

 Watch 4-8 videos for each major step. So in a kitchen remodel we watched that many for cabinet removal and installation, and counter top instillation. In our bathroom the list included: building cabinets, installing floor tile, back splash tile, shower tile, tub installation, how to move copper plumbing, installing and sealing backer board for the shower.

Watch videos from different people. Each tradesman has a slightly different approach, and will offer different tips. Over time you find your favorites, who explain things clearly at your level and with the amount of detail you need.

Watch long videos. Don’t be scared of the long videos. This isn’t an HDTV tv show. You really need to know all the little details. A 3 minute video on setting tile will leave out all the little factors that you need to know. “Mix thin set” isn’t enough instruction if you have never done this and feel apprehensive. You will want someone to explain how to test the thickness, how big of a batch to make, what tools you need to do this, or what time frame you need to use it by. All this is something a 3 minute video will skim over.

2. Get the Right Tools

Nothing will make you hate a project more than not having the proper tools and materials. Every project I have tried to “make do” with the tools I currently owned has been a total disaster! Even with the cost of tools, we have always brought our projects in for much less than hiring a professional would have cost. In a moment of pure stupidity, I once tried to spread flooring adhesive with a paint stir stick. I’ll let you guess how effect that is to produce a 3/16 even spread. So even if you have to make an extra trip, and lose an extra hour (which was the case there), buy the right tool.

Rent expensive, rarely used tools. If you only plan on doing this kind of project once or twice, you can rent some of the bigger tools. This will save money and you won’t have to store it for years till you use it again. If you want to lay tile just once, renting a wet saw will make more sense. You pay $50 vs $300, and you don’t need to store an enormous wet saw for years. Smaller more versatile tools are worth buying high quality. Drills, levels, hammers, etc.

3. Enough time

It will take longer than you think. Every single time. You will run into unexpected problems. You will make extra trips to the home improvement store.

Making sure you have enough time will reduce your stress over the project. Feeling rushed by an unrealistic deadline sours the project. An unrealistic time frame can also make the rest of your life suck. If you don’t have enough time to finish the project it will eat away nights and weekends you weren’t planning. You will live in a construction zone far longer than you bargained for.

We couldn’t wrap up our master bath before Mr. Mt went back to school this summer. So we had to wait 4 months until Christmas break. 4 months of our bedroom full of construction chaos. Not fun.

After 4.5 years of being homeowners and project doers, I have to say I love it. I won’t be signing up to work construction 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year. But a couple 1-2 week projects a year is amazing. We have been able to leverage these newly acquired skilled into more net worth and more passive income. Each year we learn more, and take on bigger projects. With no plans on stopping anytime soon.

Other reading:

The Visual Handbook of Building and Remodeling: My go to reference for how a house is actually put together. After repeatedly checking it out from the library, I finally just bought a copy 2 years ago.

Complete Do-it-yourself Manuel: We have had an old version of this book for years. Very practical step by step help.

Mrs. Frugalwood’s DYI Tips


Any projects you’ve tackled? How did they turn out?

Do you find this kind of thing fun or a hassle (or both!)?

Do you like the idea of buying a fixer to build sweat equity?


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24 thoughts on “You Tube Renovation Tips for Building Sweat Equity

  1. Oh my goodness. This post is absolutely fantastic! So much is running through my head right now that I feel like it’s going to explode…and there’s no way my thoughts are going to come out as a coherent comment! 🙂 As I was reading this everything inside me was saying “YES! YES! YES!” This is what I want more of my life to look like…but not in the 40 hrs/wk, 50 weeks a year way that you mentioned! Thank you for writing this – it came at the perfect time for me!

    • That is great to hear! It’s been a great journey for us. =) It has helped keep our expenses low (because we were able to pay cash for our first fixer upper home) and create good passive income ($1000 a month because we got such good deals on our other fixers.) Good luck!

  2. I’ve been using you tube to learn enough to redo some plumbing in the house. So far I’ve replaced a kitchen sink and two bathroom sinks. I’ve also replaced two leaking toilet valves. Without YouTube I shudder to think about the costs of a plumber. I gather it’s a few hundred per visit, compared to the 8 dollars I spent replacing the valve.

    • That is great! Plumbers are so pricey. But the more you watch and then practice, you’ll keep building more skills. Mr. Mt has been able to do all sorts of plumbing stuff now. He even moved our copper pipe to accommodate a larger tub. But with the use of PEX, so many projects are easier now!

  3. I’m very lucky to have Mr. Smith . . . in many ways, including how handy he is with this type of work and fixing the cars. As I type this, he is hard at work remodeling out pantry.

    You are definitely right about everything taking longer than anticipated. We had hoped to finish remodeling our rental property years ago. The biggest thing holding us back right now (besides time) is finding cash in our budget to buy the materials. Mr. Smith has the tools, but he doesn’t have spare drywall sheets or attic insulation lying around anywhere.

    • Yeah, drywall and insulation add up quick! We have had good luck finding other kinds of supplies the ReUse store. Not so much for insulation. Sometimes we wait till our credit card offers the extra 5% back and things go on sale. Plus we get a military discount (10%) so that takes the edge off a bit. =)

  4. I love DIY projects 😀 My spouse tells me I’m not allowed to own a tablesaw or a mitre saw “because we live in a condo.” Pfffft.
    My last massive project was a built in bookshelf for our living room and a custom wardrobe wall for our bedroom. Of course it took way, way longer than we’d hoped. Many weekends were spent on that! That said, I love doing that stuff and feel very accomplished when it’s done.
    The time has come to repaint our ceilings, it’s been about 10 years since they were done… I will try to put that off for at least another year because it will suck so much!

    • The secret pay off to painting ceilings is strong, lean, sexy shoulders. At least that’s what I tell myself when I’m rolling that crap out! 😉 Cause it burns! And those table saws set up outside very nicely. We don’t have a garage or work space, so the driveway it is! A custom wardrobe is a BIG project. We are building cabinets for our bathroom and they are kicking our butt.

  5. You’re speaking my language, Ms. Montana! 🙂 The second we moved into our first home 18 years ago, we were tearing into it and DIYing. Within the first month, we had renovated the bathroom. It’s just what we do…and have been doing for our entire marriage. And it’s what my husband actually wants to do once he leaves the 9-5. We’re starting on a bathroom and bedroom in the basement soon – and now that I’ve read this I’m kinda excited to get going on it 🙂

    • I wish we had 18 years of experience! We really had never done anything until we bought our first house almost 5 years ago. In our year off, we did a few projects, including a full kitchen remodel, with cabinets I pained myself. It’s a fun, profitable hobby to have in “early retirement”! When we don’t have to wiggle these project around a 9-5, they are much more enjoyable. =)

  6. Ha, I love the timing of this – we currently have a shop vac sitting in our bedroom 🙂 There was some water damage in our master bath and the hubs just patched and mudded.

    YES we agree with this 100%! Both the highs and the lows of DIY – like you said, it alwaysssss takes longer and is more frustrating than you initially planned for, but it’s always worth it in the end.

    I’d also add that car maintenance is similar. We just got a $1200 quote for some work that needs to be done to our car, which my husband would normally do but it’s January and we live in Minnesota! So he did some research and bought an awesome garage heater so that he could do this time sensitive project, and with all the parts and the heater (and some fancy beer for morale!) he came in at $400. He kept coming inside to watch Youtube videos in the kitchen because our wifi wasn’t strong enough in the garage for videos 🙂

    • Oh, I love this! Mr. Mt does almost all our car maintenance. And You Tube has been awesome for that too! Someone has made a video for almost everything. There is always some tool he needs, but it’s always much cheaper than having it done. And fancy beer would help, Mr Mt’s moral as well. =) When we lived in an apartment, there was place he could rent a mechanic shop space by the hour. It was awesome! They had the lifts, and big tools plus one guy to help out with questions for about $20 an hour. I wish we had one here!

      • Oh wow – having a lift and an expert available by the hour…what a genius business model. I love out of the box businesses like that, giving the average guy a chance to learn skills, save a ton of money, and feel a sense of accomplishment to do something themselves!

        The main projects-related challenge we’ve had in the last six months is having a toddler…man, he’s into EVERYTHING 🙂 Cute, but a handful!

        • It was really cool! I wish someone would open one here. Plus it seemed like a lot of guys went there to do projects they might have been able to do at home, just to have a group of like minded people to hang out with. =)

          And kids are the WORST construction partners! When honey badger was 2 she spilled a whole gallon of paint on the laminate floors trying to climb up it. For the first time, I was really glad we didn’t have hardwoods. =)

  7. Love this! We did so much demo in our house before we moved in. We basically went down to the underlayment and studs in many rooms. Thankfully, my dad loves projects…even more now that he has a more, shall we say cooperative, person to work with him. My husband and my dad make a really great team! And yes to the YouTube videos. When things break, that’s the first thing my husband does. When I thought had taken to watching videos in the bathroom, I quickly learned he was learning how to fix a toilet that didn’t shut off quite right! HA! The kitchen photos is this post are amazing! And yes to the right tools (and borrowing them if you can because you don’t plan on using them multiple times).

    • It is so nice to have someone around who knows what they are doing. =) Mr. Mt and I are a bit like the blind leading the blind over here. =) We did the same thing with the house we live in now. Gutted the whole thing. Moved the kitchen. Tore down walls. Redid the whole backyard. It was (is) a project. But we were able to pay cash for the house and remodel. So it’s worked out just fine. =)

  8. I recently learned to install a light switch and I’m pretty proud that no one got electrocuted, including the very attentive dogs who served as my little Greek chorus. The new switch works perfectly! But there was a lot of consulting before that was done.

    Before that, it was fixing something gone wrong with our shower curtain rod. That required five trips to the hardware store and Skyping Surrogate Dad for help. He congratulated us on staying 2 trips below his usual average for DIY jobs 😀

    I find renovations nerve-wracking and best viewed in the rearview mirror, but I’m awfully glad we tried them. We’ll take on bigger ones soon, I’m sure 🙂

    • I find it a little nerve-wracking as well. Mostly just before I start. I am going to try to tile a shower tomorrow and am terrified! And 5 trips totally seems reasonable! =) I feel like that is the standard, even for professionals. 😉

  9. I love Youtube!!! My wife and I use it all the time to help with projects around the house. I always figure I’ll try to fix it first and if it doesn’t work I can call someone to fix my mistake. Better to try than just pay the money outright.

    We did a backsplash in the kitchen recently and it turned out way better than we anticipated. Plus the total cost was $120 for tiles and two days of work. Totally worth it!!!

    • We have a saying in our house, “I’d rather mess it up for free than pay someone else to mess it up!” =) I finished tiling the floor and small back splash in our new bathroom over Christmas and an now tackling the shower. I just started yesterday, and have to admit I was terrified. But now I’m half way done and it’s looking ok. Not perfect, but I’m excited about it. Plus I’m learning a lot in the process, and if I do another shower, I think it will that much easier. $120 for a kitchen backsplash is great! It adds so much “wow” to a kitchen. We added a backsplash and custom trim to our kitchen. Even though we used stock cabinets and laminate counters, we get SO many compliments on it. (maybe $300 upgrade between the two) Eventually I want to put a backsplash in both rentals.

  10. Only issue with Youtube now is simply sifting through what are the most useful. The learning curve at the beginning is always so steep, but levels off with more and more experience.
    Love the excitement and butterflies that come with forming something real out of a vision!

    • We have gotten to the point where we have a few favorites for each trade. But I also find, if I make the search specific enough, it gets narrowed down. I just started tiling my shower this week! I was terrified. But now I’m half down, and slightly less nervous.

  11. I am sooo obsessed with Youtube! That’s how I learned gardening and sprouting seeds from all things a lychee! I can’t wait until I learn how to do stuff with home renovation.

    P.S. I keep dropping the ball on those blogger Skype calls. Hope you’re still meeting cool people!