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Question: In cases where you have the time and skills to do a project yourself, but physically cannot without a second skilled person to help, how do you go about finding and hiring someone that is willing to work with you?

Example: I'm planning to build a detached garage as an owner-builder. I know the applicable codes, drew the plans myself and have AHJ approval for them. I also have the carpentry skills and tools to do the framing. Unfortunately, I am physically incapable of doing certain tasks without additional hands, such as standing up walls and installing windows and doors.

I'm trying to find someone that I can pay hourly to assist me for a week or two. I've gotten a list of framers from the local building supply store, but they want to do it all themselves with their own crew, not work with someone they don't know.

I'm sure I could find "warm bodies" to hire, but I really need someone that has at least some relevant experience.

What strategies do you use to find skilled assistance for larger DIY projects?

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    At that point it becomes a DIT project. Do it together hehehe. I'll be here all week – Ruslan Jan 29 '18 at 15:14
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    Sounds like a bigger issue might be, "how do I get day labor and insure their injury on my job site". – JPhi1618 Jan 29 '18 at 20:03
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    Do you need someone who knows what they're doing? Something like hoisting a wall requires muscle, not necessarily knowledge. Furthermore, while you obviously know your specific requirements and limitations better than I do, a lot of jobs that would be much easier with several people can still be accomplished by one person with a clever approach. It could be more work, but it also means you won't need to find and pay someone. – canadianer Jan 30 '18 at 0:06
  • @canadianer: There is also a safety factor. I'm in the boondox, if I get injured and am working alone, there is no one to call for help. – Nick Jan 30 '18 at 0:14
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    A licensed handy man would be what I would look for. They are usually much cheaper than contractors. I have a friend that got his license many years ago, he is skilled , he works for me and another friend that is a contractor when we need help. – Ed Beal Jan 30 '18 at 20:02
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Many community colleges offer construction trade courses. Have a chat with the instructor, he can often offer enthusiastic young students who are ready and willing to provide some sweat as an on-the-job learning opportunity.

The students get class credit, the only cost to you is to buy them lunch and provide water, no insurance/license, etc. required because they are covered by the institution.

This is assuming the instructor finds your project suitable and the work area safe.

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    "no insurance/license, etc. required because they are covered by the institution." Are you absolutely sure about that? I'm fairly sure colleges like that don't provide insurance at jobs not sanctioned by them. If something goes wrong, you're still screwed. – Mast Jan 29 '18 at 13:38
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    But if the college instructs them to go to work, then they're sanctioned? – mickburkejnr Jan 30 '18 at 11:23
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If you're in the US, and you want to work within the bounds of the law, contact a 'construction temp agency'. They'll have insurance and workers comp. They might seem expensive on an hourly basis, but probably worth the peace of mind.

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One of the people who worked on building our new house also works with several groups of people in recovery and twelve step programs. In some of these programs, people live in a halfway house or something similar and often really need spending money, even for things like a toothbrush or even just snacks. We have a large lot with a lot of things that need to be done and I've found these groups are eager to make arrangements so I can hire people in their program for about $10 an hour.

The catch is that I often have to guarantee a minimum (since it's a 40 minute trip out from the city to our place!) so they know they won't be gone 3 hours for $10. Also, I usually have to pick them up, since many times people in such a program may not have easy access to vehicles.

It's worked great for me so far and the people I hire are grateful for the chance to get out of their "home" and for the chance to make some spending cash.

  • I hate to ask, but in what jurisdiction could you find workers with insurance for 10 bucks an hour? (Or maybe the OP, as an owner builder, has insurance?) – Aloysius Defenestrate Jan 28 '18 at 20:52
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    Good point - I forgot that I'm dealing with a special situation regarding insurance - long story, but the short version is it's under the umbrella of someone with insurance. – Tango Jan 28 '18 at 21:06
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    I think there are also veterans programs like that. But insurance is an issue. My home owner's policy will cover an "under construction" building, but it is limited to things like the building burning down, theft of materials, or trespassers that injure themselves. The expectation from the insurance co is that health/life insurance covers me, and that anyone I hire would have workers comp. Uninsured twelve steppers might be OK for paining or caulking where the risk is minimal though. – Nick Jan 29 '18 at 1:52
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I find there are three options in my area. Your area may be different.

  1. Community Agencies/Projects/Teams etc. There are quite a few community based groups that can and will help. The idea is that they help you with your project and you help with theirs. Your not hiring someone, any more then you would be if you asked a friend. It's just a neighbor helping a neighbor out. Workman's Comp isn't an issue, as your not hiring, and insurance is "on your own" (meaning you have to provide it if you need/want to). But with many "repairs" or "additions" Home owners general liability insurance may have you covered. Again this situation is more like asking your friend to help out then it is hiring an employee.
  2. Area trade schools. There are many trade schools in my area that are willing to "hire out" students. Certain rules apply, but essentially you pay the school and they use your project as part of their instruction. The biggest downside is of course your on their time frame. There are programs and option at some of the schools that allow for "on the job training" where you instruct, but the rest of the project falls under the school. Again, this is very school dependent and there are usually some rules around safety and insurance. As an aside, even if you don't want to use the schools full structure, they are usually willing to recommend their star students for you to hire. In this case though you are hiring a person, even if just for a short time. You should know your local laws for this.
  3. "For Hire" companies. These are agencies that hire out their staff. You usually have to pay much more per hour then you would for a "warm body", but the agency covers much of the insurance and such. Your essentially paying $X per hour and they fill that slot with someone they think is skilled correctly.
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    The "neighbors helping neighbors" is a great concept. Any suggestions for how or where to identify such local organizations? – fixer1234 Jan 30 '18 at 2:30
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    Ask around, go to Neighborhood meetings or use something like nextdoor.com I found out by asking on an email list about trash pickup. – coteyr Jan 30 '18 at 20:14
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I must be reading the OP differently, he knows he can hire 'warm bodies' but I thought he wanted skilled assistance?

I call this 'Assisted DIY' and it is something I do as a contractor quite often, I even keep a special page for it on my site, for example, (no queries, it's not a plug!) https://handycrowd.com/shop/diy-plus/.

Just contact local tradesmen as you would normally (I suggest asking friends and neighbours), stating what it is you want doing (labour only assistance to build XYZ) and anyone interested in the work will get back to you.

Personally I love doing this kind of work, it's no hassle, no materials to organise, no real time pressure as you're on an hourly rate and it's enjoyable passing on some tips and tricks as you work alongside the client.

I think this working method should be common, it halves the labour bill for the client, the client gets a better quality job, but still retains their job satisfaction, and it's easy work for the contractor. Everybody is happy.

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