top of page

How We Learned to Renovate Homes & How You Can Too (On Your Journey to Early Retirement)

Amon and I have always loved DIY renovating properties. In fact, even with our new home here in Portugal, we’ve been renovating everything! Two new kitchens, a master bedroom garden suite, a home gym, new rooms for the girls . . . we have been very busy renovating!

We often get a lot of questions about our DIY projects. People want to know how we got started and how we learned so much to the point that we’re able to work on our properties ourselves.


So today I’m going to share the specifics of how we learned to DIY renovations, so you can work on and improve your properties! But first, I want to talk about why it’s so important to learn these skills.

Why DIY?


There are three reasons I think it’s important for homeowners to learn how to work on home renovation projects themselves. The first is simple: If you’re a homeowner, then learning the basics of home maintenance and fixing things up yourself is a really good way to lower ownership costs.

The second reason relates to our “live and flip” strategy. Amon and I love to purchase homes, live in them, and fix them up while we’re living there to increase the equity. After a few years, we move on to another property. DIY home renovation helped to save us money, while also increasing profits by a large amount. This could be the same for you.

The last reason is to avoid unnecessary contracting costs. We always want to be sure that spending money to hire a professional is more cost-effective than just doing it ourselves. By having a good knowledge base for property renovation, you’re better able to assess a contractor and the amount that they charge.

How We Did It

So, here are the steps that we took to get us to a point where we felt comfortable enough to renovate the properties we bought ourselves.

Read, Read, Read

Yes, we started off the old fashioned way! We jumped straight in by researching topics like renovation, construction work, and home maintenance. Through all of this reading, we not only gained knowledge of these topics, but we also gained the related vocabulary. That meant we could drive down to Home Depot, or meet with contractors, and understand both what we were being told and what questions we should ask.

A site called DIYdata.com is a great resource. It teaches you about common construction terminology and a whole host of other industry terms you might not know about.

Another great resource is the book Home Improvement 1-2-3 by Better Homes & Gardens. We found these books to be very useful as they are full of helpful pictures. They also detail really specific projects that you’re likely to carry out in your own home. These are very popular books so you should be able to find multiple copies at your local library.


YouTube It

YouTube is more than just a database for funny videos and cat memes. These days, it’s a fantastic resource for almost anything you want to learn - especially home DIY projects. You can watch people carrying out large-scale projects from start to finish, or find YouTubers to explain really specific projects you want to learn about, like replacing a sink or repairing a broken fence.


Help Your Friends & Family With Projects

This is an awesome way to apply what you’ve learned, especially if you don’t have your own property yet. If you have a friend or family member who is undertaking their own DIY projects, offer to help!

Volunteering to help with things like repainting the house, replacing the carpet, fixing old bathroom cabinets, etc., means you not only gain valuable knowledge and experience with these projects, but you’re also helping the people in your life. There are no downsides to this step of the process!


Take A Class

You might be surprised by how many free classes you can find that teach DIY projects, whether at your local community college or public library. Heck, Amon and I once took a free class at Home Depot that taught us how to lay flooring. That class was what led us to lay all of the flooring in our first home by ourselves.

There are also paid classes and courses you can take if you really want to dive into the deep end. For example, Amon took a paid course in tiny house building, and over a weekend he had learned all of the ins and outs of building a tiny house from industry experts! Opportunities like this can be worth more than the price tag in the long run, so it’s something to think about if you can afford it.


Become A Volunteer

Volunteering for an organization that helps with building big projects is an amazing opportunity to get hands-on experience. Being on a real construction site and seeing how everything works, from start to finish, is an absolutely invaluable experience.

I personally would recommend organizations like Habitat For Humanity where they build new homes and renovate older ones for people in need. Not only could you be on the construction site and participate in building, but the organization also has ‘reuse’ stores where you can learn more about building materials and construction.

If you can't find any volunteer organizations like this near you, think of other one-off opportunities you can get involved in. For instance, if a natural disaster strikes in your area, you should definitely get involved with disaster relief efforts. Not only is it a meaningful way to give back to your community, but it’s a great way to learn.