How to Develop a Business in Restoring Old Buildings

Construction has always been a field with lots of opportunities for skilled entrepreneurs. Any building project requires lots of different trades for completion, from surveying and excavating to plumbing and roofing.

The best contractors in all these fields often stay booked up months in advance, so they typically have their choice of jobs. In many cases, they prefer to stick with new construction only, because the progress is easier to track and their costs of labor are lower.

At the same time, there remains a high demand for the restoration of older buildings. Tech companies often favor these classic downtown structures, seeing them as a great way to help preserve history while providing ultra-modern goods and services.

The problem here is obvious. People and businesses want to utilize old buildings, but the best contractors prefer new construction.

That creates an unmet need in the market, which is just the kind of thing that an opportunistic person wants to see. If you are willing to do the work that most of your competitors are not willing to do, you have a niche market that could prove very lucrative. You’ll just need some basic things to get you ready to go.


Tools and Materials You Will Need

Restoration work is very different from new construction. You’ll be working with things like tin snips, stencil material, and plaster, while your new building counterparts will use a lot of aluminum, vinyl, and sheetrock.

You need the skills before you start. The great thing about old buildings is there are usually a lot of them around, many of them in various stages of renovation. If you can do an apprenticeship with an experienced person who’s doing those jobs, you’ll have a skill base that will help you complete your jobs with beautiful end results. You can sometimes even get permission to practice in a building that’s been slated for demolition.


Engage with the Network

It’s never what you know, but who you know. Because renovation projects don’t have the big splash of new constructions–months of site prep, bid advertisements in the paper, and so forth–it can be easy to miss out when a project comes along.

Watch for things like building permits. Many cities require a permit for a change of use; that is, if they turn a warehouse into retail space, they’ll have to file a permit. You can follow that paper trail right to the owner and make your services available.

You also need to communicate with the vendors and stores where you buy materials. People who are renovating will often seek contractors there, so get to know the store staff and stick your business card on their bulletin board.


Do You Have the Right Personality for this Line of Work?

You need immense patience for this kind of work. There’s a reason many contractors won’t touch it. They know that a hole in a wall will reveal a water leak, and the water leak will lead to a rotted floor, and on and on. It’s a job that’s full of unpleasant surprises.

If you are able to think on your feet and punt from deep in your own end zone, you can handle this work. It’s just a personality type; if you see these situations as opportunities to use your creativity to conquer the problem, you’re in the right line of work. If you see them only as added expense and delay, you should probably find other jobs.

Renovation is unique work, and it takes a unique mix of personality, tools, and skills to be successful at it. When you’ve got the right combination, it can make you a very good living.