Getting The Know-how

By Vicky Katz Whitaker

May 2, 2008 5 min read


Do-it-yourselfers get a hand from Web and classes

By Vicky Katz Whitaker

Copley News Service

You might not want to tackle building a three-car garage or replacing a roof, but if you want to try your hand at a simple do-it-yourself project, you can count on plenty of expert help.

In addition to workshops at some home centers, plenty of tips, techniques and professional instruction are within easy reach, in some cases as close as your computer. In addition, the do-it-yourselfer usually can get a step-by-step guide to handling just about any home-improvement project themselves, drawing on the advice, illustrations and photos found in a variety of publications available at libraries or booksellers.

Among the chains, the Home Depot - the largest home-improvement retailer in the world - has successfully burnished its image as a do-it-yourself-friendly operation through ongoing clinics and workshops. The retailer, which has 2,234 stores in the United States, Canada, Mexico and China, offers four do-it-yourself clinics every week in each of its stores, as well as a children's workshop once a month and four "Do-It-Herself" workshops.

Targeting 25- to 55-year-old do-it-yourselfers, the clinics - which tend to draw more women than men - run about an hour, with 30 minutes of product education followed by 30 minutes of hands-on demonstration on core home-improvement projects as well as seasonal subjects, says company spokeswoman Jean Niemi.

"For instance, we have a standing weekly clinic on installing tile that covers the installation of tiles for floors and walls. Our customer can learn the same basic steps for the installation of a wide variety of projects. They may start with a backsplash or bathroom floor and then take it to walls, shower floors, etc.," she says.

In the spring and summer months, Home Depot clinics cover topics such as water conservation, gardening, landscaping, installing a paver walkway and other outdoor-oriented projects.

"We have seen that once a consumer takes on a project, they tend to continue to take on more, adding to the level of complexity each time," Niemi adds. You can also attend one of its workshops without stepping out of your house. The Home Depot offers online workshops such as a recent five-part series on how to install crown molding. In addition to visually demonstrating how to do it, the site provides a shopping list of supplies. Previous workshops have provided do-it-yourselfers with instructions on such topics as installing interior lighting fixtures, toilets and faucets, and decorative painting.

The Web, in fact, is a popular place for do-it-yourselfers to find the guidance they need. One site,, is a virtual encyclopedia of do-it-yourself projects, providing detailed instructions, illustrations, photos, even videos to help you complete the job. A shopping and tool list is also included. The site is the online storefront for more than 4,100 independently owned hardware and home improvement retailers worldwide that are members of Do it Best Corp., a buying cooperative in the hardware, lumber and building materials industry.

One of the country's best-known authorities on home improvement, television personality Bob Vila, provides online how-to videos on his Web site,, where do-it-yourselfers can learn how to apply joint compound to drywall corners, hang a wooden door, repair gutters, even put up a curio shelf. They're among 44 step-by-step how-to's available free on his site.

Another popular do-it-yourself site that provides free online home-improvement tips is, a repository of nearly 83,000 how-to videos and articles by experts on every subject. Its home-improvement and home repair videos provide a broad range of instruction, including the proper way to install a tricky bi-fold door and how to use a miter saw.

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