how to build your own house

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How to build your own house

I built my first house in 1991, long before YouTube.  I had basic shop skills from high school (see below video) but otherwise zero construction experience.   This stack of books is what I used to teach myself what was needed to build.  I wisely hired a local architect to do detailed construction plans and pull permits, worth every penny.   Its not as hard as it looks, just one small step at a time.

There are two ways you can learn to build a house:

  1. You can apprentice to a general contractor for a few years
  2. You can read about how to build houses

YouTube has been both a blessing and a curse to DIYers.  The blessing is that a number of things in construction require technique and a 3s video clip can explain what a page of text cant.  The curse is that people make the mistake of relying exclusively on videos and ignoring books.  The problem is that in that video you watch, it looks SO easy … and it is if you have EXACTLY the situation they did.  The thing is, every tile job, no matter how simple, is unique.  If you have just watched the video and come upon a different situation you end up making a mess, wasting time, and worse, wasting materials.  BOOKS are the answer.  Keeping with the tile example.  There are hundreds of videos showing how to do a backsplash on a counter and they are 5-10 minutes long.  The book on the top of the stack is my “tiling bible” has approximately 110,000 words.  There is no way a 5 minute video can prepare you for your DIY project!

If this expert author did all his content in video format, it would take about 24 hours of video in constrast to the 3 hours it takes to read the book.

The other advantage of the book is that after you read it once, you may not remember all the details but when you come up against a problem, a light bulb will go off in your head that you read about that.  In 2 minutes in the index, you can find the section and read up on it again.  Contrast that to finding the 30s segment you remember seeing in a one hour long tiling video.  BOOKS RULE!

You don’t even need to buy these books, they are classics and will most likely be available for checkout at your local library!!!!

Why books are superior to videos, audiobooks, and websites

Lots of people these days seem very resistant to reading books.  They say that everyone learns differently and that they learn from talking-head videos or audiobooks better.  Thats great but here is the fundamental problem.  I speak 100 words per minute in my videos (I have measured this).  Most Americans speak 110-150 wpm so I am slow, but I know that.  Most adults can read 300wpm and the average college student can read 450wpm  What this means is that reading is 2-5 times faster than listening.

Reading real books have three other big advantages:

  1. Anyone can make a YouTube videos.  I have seen how-to videos that are laughably horrible but the problem is that a newbie cant tell fact from farce.  On the other hand, to get a real book published you need to have credentials.  There is no point learning how to do something poorly from someone who has no idea what they are talking about.
  2. Although reading is 2-5 times faster than audiobooks or videos, its really much faster than that.  The big difference is that in audio and video sources you have to listen sequentially to the whole thing.  With books, its an easy matter to skip sections that do not apply to you so your effective information assimilation rate can be 10-20 faster than listening.
  3. As a reference, books are far superior.  Lets say you watched a bunch of 30 minute videos on tiling and you remember them saying something about how to deal with tiling over cracked concrete but you cant remember which of the videos it was.  It could take you many hours to find that video and where in the video it talked about it, if you can find it at all.  On the other hand, if you have a stack of books, you head to your tiling book, look in the index, and 30s later you are reading the section of interst.

Yes, video IS important in showing things that involve technique and motion, like how to spread thinset with a notched trowel, but most of the information you need to build a house is facts, not techniques.


High school is where I learned basic shop skills but you can teach yourself!