Restoration Services as a Sustainable Livelihood

While restoration businesses are nothing new, the combination of pressure on our standard of living leading to restoring possessions we own instead of throwing them away, together with changes in attitude about having possessions like listening to music on cell phones instead of CDs, more people are getting rid of things that restoration businesses can repurpose the discards. For example, EcoDomo repurposes leather and cork the company gets from Goodwill stores.

Another feeder for the restoration business is the emotional connection some people have to possessions that connect them to fond memories, important events, or important people in their lives. Providers of restorative services fix things that have been worn with age or dam¬aged by man or machine. For some clients you will restore not only an item but also the feelings that accompany them.

Sometimes the reasons are not just sentimental. We left behind a 1950s-era stove a few homes back. We remember how well it cooked; new stoves just don’t measure up to its performance. We would now gladly pay to get it back and have it fully restored.

Restoration services can be something you do in your garage, a storefront, or in clients’ homes and offices. Restoration takes many forms: stripping, caning, staining, varnishing, porcelain repair, enameled ironwork, and more.

Restorers approach bathroom porcelain restoration in several different ways. Porcelain restoration can be accomplished (usually on-site for obvious reasons) with scratch repair or by applying a new surface of synthetic porcelain. You can own and operate a franchise in fixture restoration more easily than other restora¬tion services.

Furniture restoration provides significant income opportunity as your skills and reputation grow. Stripping and refinishing pieces that have been painted can be a time-consuming job. Restoring or changing the appearance of a piece for a new or redecorated home will be a comfort to a client who has always known that piece as part of her environment. You can also promote restoration as less expen¬sive than replacing a candelabra or solid piece of wood or wrought-iron furniture.

How about old radios? Have you tinkered with the one gathering dust in the basement? Were you able to get it working? This can be a fun niche. There are so many radios out there that you may never see the same model twice. For the right person, what fun! If radios aren’t your thing, does restoring and repairing musi¬cal instruments appeal to you?

If you like to work with cars, auto restoration is something you can do in your backyard or garage. Collectors will pay handsomely for vehicles they covet. Some larger auto-restoration shops contract aspects of the work, such as mechan¬ical work, leather, upholstery, and painting, to smaller independents.

Restoration work does come with safety concerns. You will often work with chemicals, and not only must you be properly protected, but so must your client and any pets they have if you do the work in their home. It is important to dis¬cuss this up front with your customer if you are going to be working in his home or office. You will also need to be aware of environmental protection rules in the communities in which you work. Disposal of chemicals is often regulated.

High-end restoration work may be done for museums. Most have controlled storage, but items stored for many years will need work, as will newly acquired antiquities. You will need a reputation, references, and top-notch skills to break into this part of the restoration business.

If you like antiques and auctions, there is a twist to this business that might interest you. An auction bargain can bring you a project that will result in a sale of your restored piece. Pricing this properly will recover your restoration time and multiply your investment in the auction price. You could also represent a restoration client at auctions once you have developed a relationship and learned their interests.

Restoration can be hard work. It will be financially rewarding and will also have its special moments: restoring a treasured memory of mom or dad, bring¬ing grandma’s chair back to life, finding and restoring furniture originally built by a well-known craftsman. You will need skills and the ability to reach back into the past to re-create the work of an earlier artisan.

Restoration businesses are consistent with sustainable communities and living. If restoration interests you, association sites are a good place to start, such as the Association of Restorers and the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration.

For an initial free consultation to explore this or another sustainable livelihood that bests suits your personality and your community, contact us.

Comments on the substance of the blogs are welcome.

If you have other questions, please contact me directly for a consulting appointment.

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