Uncle Bobs Tips

Work Parties, It's Not An Oxymoron, Just Smart Networking

Work Parties, It's Not An Oxymoron, Just Smart Networking

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To make a long story short we needed a cheap alternative to paying $1500 to move (for the third time in a year) a few blocks. Two words saved us; work parties. We called up a bunch of friends who we knew wouldn't mind sweating it a little, and asked if they'd help with the haul.

We ordered pizza, and got to work. Several hours, all of my furniture, and ¾ of the pies later, my whole house was in our new location. A job that would have taken me the better part of a week, (or cost the better part of my wages!) was done in less than a day. All thanks to a little help from friends.

To show our gratitude, we threw a BBQ a week later. We all enjoyed, and our friends really felt appreciated. More recently, work parties have really caught on in the DIY circles. People not interested in spending thousands on an easy (or complicated) repair are trying it out. Friends, fun and free labor? Why not! As my friend Adam put it after one of his 'classier' work parties, 'It was like going to a really nice party, and between the soup and the main, we all get to work drywalling.' This same idea is often used by local or non-profit organizations, nature parks, and conservatories to get volunteers for their cause.

Here are a few rules on best ways to get free home improvement help from your friends:

1- Number one rule is to set down very clearly the project that you're going to be endeavoring. The last thing you want is for a bunch of over-excited guys to go ripping out your kitchen cabinets when all you wanted was a paint job.

2- Provide good food, and lots of drinks. If these work parties are being held in the summer, cold water is the best choice, but have a bit of flavor too. Note: Though beer is a favorite, it's not recommended to give a bunch of guys with power tools too much alcohol…even if they "have a really high tolerance". Save the alcoholic beverages for the after party.

3- Business before pleasure. If you're work parties are going to have real food (ie bbq, sandwiches, or anything that's not finger food), get the job done first so you don't lose most of your help to fatigue. What you can do is get the bulk of the work done, then break for some snacking or food, and then finish up. If you go this route, be sure the guys won't peter out after the foods been served.

4- Know who you're inviting. A popular person like you has lots of friends. Some are good for going to the car show with. Some have a really great pitching arm. Some are wizards with a hammer and nails. And others are irreplaceable couch buddies on Monday nights. Though they're all wonderful people, no doubt, choose friends who will work well, work fast, and work hard.

5- Safety first. Even the most qualified do-it-yourselfers will bleed when cut by a circular saw. And that's only the start of it. Safety goggles, gloves, and facemasks should be requirements. Lawsuits between friends are an ugly business.

6- Come prepared. Obviously, you should have purchased and prepared all the necessary tools and materials you will need for the current DIY project. Nobody wants to stand around while you get your act together.

7. A final word of caution. Many professionals (doctors, contractors, and electricians) do not recommend work parties. Often the pros are called in afterwards for fix up jobs. An enthusiastic saw, misdirected paint sprayer, or even an overly zealous hammer can cost thousands in repairs. Make sure the people you are using are responsible, reliable with power tools, and know how to follow directions. And, again, no drinking until after the saw has been put away for the day!

It's also nice because, while getting a great home improvement project done, you also get to see friends you might not have seen in awhile. Don't feel like you're using your friends, either. You are inviting them to a party, first of all. And you're only asking a few select people. Friends should be flattered that you hold of their skills so highly! Anyway, if you don't take advantage of their prowess too often, most friends are glad to lend a hand.

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