Home maintenance classes can help you save money and be smarter about what needs to be done to keep your new home in shape.
After the heady early days of homeownership wear off, first-time buyers often quickly realize that they lack even the most basic skills needed to take care of their new home.
You can get all the inspiration you need from do-it-yourself shows and videos, but what if you don’t know how to properly hammer a nail and don’t even own the right tools?
This is where home repair classes can help, giving uninitiated homeowners hands-on training. Courses cover a range of skills, from basic home maintenance to more elaborate tasks like tiling a bathroom, installing locks and repairing or replacing drywall.
A skilled labor shortage that makes it increasingly difficult to find a reliable handyman is what drove Mary McCabe to take a series of home repair classes.
First, she was irked when a tiler took five days to tile her small kitchen floor; then an electrician disappeared after disconnecting the electricity in her two-family home in Bayside, Queens. That is when it dawned on Ms. McCabe: “I trust myself, and I am handy,” she said. “I can learn to do some of this on my own.”
Comfortable around tools, because her father had been a carpenter, Ms. McCabe has taken five classes this year and has used her newfound skills to re-grout her bathroom tiles and fix a lawn mower.
“Most people are intimidated with using tools, but taking a hands-on class really boosted my confidence,” she said. She estimated that she has saved about $3,000 so far, just by learning how to do simple home repairs herself.
Just as learning how to save for and finance a home is important to financial literacy, educating yourself on how to maintain your home will not only give you a sense of mastery, but can also help you save money on repairs. And you’ll have a better sense of when you need to call a professional.
A July 2018 HomeAdvisor survey found that, on average, homeowners spent $6,649 on home improvement projects per household over the previous 12 months. Cable channels like HGTV and DIY Network have turned home repair projects into entertainment, but the do-it-yourself industry is extensive in online platforms too. In addition to the content available on YouTube, websites like Hometalk and podcasts like Fix It Home Improvement and Fix It 101 have solid followings.
But there is no point in watching and listening to all that content if you don’t know how to use a simple power drill, said Stephanie Lombardi Werneken, director of new digital products at Trusted Media Brands, publisher of the magazine Family Handyman.
Trusted Media started the online Family Handyman DIY University in 2015, so people could take quick classes to learn things like how to buy and use a table saw, or how to drill into materials like wood or masonry. Each class can be completed in one to three hours, and the fee is less than $20. “These basic classes are there so you can be safe, and not burn down the house,” she said.
Premium courses are being offered for the first time this year, for $89 to about $200. They last a few weeks, and students can ask their instructors specific questions online. The courses include kitchen cabinetry making and building your own tiny house, and some courses come with blueprints and other materials.
About 70 percent of the nearly 4,000 students who have taken DIY University’s online classes have been male, and students range in age from 35 to 70, Ms. Werneken said. Some of the older students have taken the class to fix up their homes before selling them, she said, but the younger students seem to have embraced a “DIY holistic-homeownership lifestyle” to mirror that of the popular hosts of some DIY television shows.
Raya Fliker, a homeowner in Port Monmouth, N.J., took a class on wood-finishing at DIY University, and also learned how to tile a kitchen backsplash. With her newfound knowledge, Ms. Fliker built a simple bench to fit into a small nook in her back entryway. She also built a plywood countertop to cover up a granite top on a kitchen island that she didn’t like.
Ms. Fliker, a nurse and mother of three, preferred taking classes online, she said, because she could do it whenever she had time, and the instructors taught her specific tasks that she wanted to learn. “I have loved how every project has turned out, and my husband is now buying tools for me,” said Ms. Flicker, who recently refurbished a mudroom for a friend’s house.
To be prepared for basic repair tasks, homeowners should arm themselves with a few essential tools. Peter Grech, an instructor at New York City College of Technology, City University of New York, who has worked as a superintendent for various residential buildings, suggested investing in the following:
- Phillips and straight-blade screwdrivers
- Utility knife
- Speed or combination square
- Channellock pliers
- Electrical pliers
- Electrical tester
- Circular saw or handsaw
- Battery drill, at least 18 Volts
- Set of high-speed drill bits
- Set of masonry bits
- Level tool
- Measuring tape
- Safety goggles
If you're looking to update your home or make repairs, you can take local home repair classes right here in Charlotte. Check out CPCC's DIY Home Improvement and Projects courses, including "Tile Your Home" and "Introduction to Bricklaying." Before you know it, you'll be a DIY master!