Posts Tagged ‘BiY Learning Centre’

So Much to Learn at the BiY Learning Center’s “Helpless Homeowner Course”

June 29th, 2010

BIY Learning Centre -- Classroom

I have a dream: it involves some way of magically transforming our three bedroom house into a four bedroom one. As time moves on, this becomes increasingly important to my husband’s and my sanity. Our two teenage testosterone-laden sons can’t seem to pass each other in the hall without picking a fight and needless to say, sharing a room exacerbates the problem.  But there is no space for an addition (our backyard is 20 feet deep) and after doing the math, the cost of moving yet again is prohibitive. Last year I looked into having an 8′ wall built down the middle of their large bedroom to give them a little bit of privacy. Unfortunately, because the project is so small, the contractors’ quotes were larger than my tight budget could handle.

In May the Build it Yourself Learning Centers opened at King and Dufferin. If you’re not familiar with the BiY Center, it is a brand new education centre established by Jim Caruk that offers a variety of courses on home improvement and decor. While attending the press conference I mentioned that I was interested in taking their drywall course because I’d decided that I wanted to build a wall in my boys’ room and I was too cheap going to do it myself. Jennie Mester, senior marketing manager for the center, invited me to take the “Helpless Homeowner” course as it started right away and the drywall course, to be held over a weekend, didn’t take place for awhile.

biy workshopLet me be perfectly honest: while I didn’t hesitate at the opportunity to take the course, I really, really thought that I wouldn’t learn much in a  “course for beginner homeowners.”  I mean, I had been doing most of the minor home improvement repairs in our house for the 13 years we’ve owned homes. I know how to caulk, I can hang pictures properly, I can use a tape measure, find studs in walls, and change a light switch. What more could they possibly teach me?

It turns out, they could teach me quite a lot….ahem.

The course ran for 3 and a half hours per night for 5 Mondays. Ian Burns, the director of education for the centre, taught four of the five classes. The electrical portion was taught by a certified electrician. Ian is a master carpenter by trade, has over 20 years experience in the field, and more than 10 years teaching experience. He focuses a lot on safety and gives solid, memorable, examples of why safety is so important when working with tools (fingers and saws come up often).

Beautiful Tools

Over the course of the 5 nights we learned how to:

  • assess our homes for deficiencies like a cracked foundation, leaky eavestroughs or downspouts, holes and cracks that need repair, water issues around the outside of your home.;
  • measure and build a wall frame and attach it to another frame using 2×4 lumber;
  • measure, cut and attach drywall to the wood frame;
  • wire a three way light switch;
  • tape, mud, and add a skim coat to drywall;
  • repair holes that Ian happily put in our brand new drywall (eek!);
  • cut baseboard;
  • change washers on a leaky faucet;
  • prep, prime and paint a wall.

We were also introduced to all kinds of handy and fun tools ranging from large measuring squares to my personal favourite: an electric drywall screw drill. This tool is so cool: once adjusted properly, one pull of the trigger and the drywall screw is inserted to the proper depth — slightly concave so that the resulting dimple can be filled with drywall mud. The learning center is sponsored by Bosch, Stanley, American Standard and Dynamic, so the quality and variety of the tools is very high.

Ian also taught us some things about the common tape measure I never knew. It turns out the different markings on it are there for a reason and not just to look nice. If you look at the 16″ mark on a tape measure, you’ll see a little arrow. At 32″ it’s the same thing. On my tape measure, all increments of 16″ are highlighted in red blocks. Common wall framing is done in increments of 16″ so this makes it easier for measuring.

What’s really so great about this course is the ability to try what they’re teaching you. During the course we constructed three mini walls including frames, drywall, mud and skim coat. Here is what I learned from the process:

  • Cutting two by fours with a manual saw is tiring and precision is important. The straighter the cuts, the better your pieces will fit together. A lot of my cuts were crooked.
  • Measure, measure, measure. In my case, I measured twice but still had to cut twice because I’d cut so crookedly the first time that I thought the next cut was off, when really it wasn’t. I cut the next piece too short and had to cut another.
  • Allow for mistakes because you’re going to make them (see previous bullet point). The biggest mistakes are with cutting (naturally) and particularly with baseboard joins. Getting the 45 degree joints to fit properly can be a challenge. Regarding baseboard cuts, a tip Ian gave us was cut two small “outer corner” joins and label them “left outside” and “right outside,” do the same for inside joins, and keep them in your toolbox. Refer to these examples before you cut your baseboards.
  • Drywall is easy to cut and it doesn’t have to be perfect because you’re going to cover it with mud and visible edges with corner bead.
  • I suck at drywall mud application. The pros make it look easy. Trust me, it isn’t.

Take aways from this course: Learning how to do some more advanced home repairs for myself has taught me a lot. I do feel more confident changing light switches and patching wall holes. Perhaps one of the most important things I learned was that some jobs are better left to the pros. They are the skilled trades and trying to do something for yourself where you have no training (electrical comes to mind), will likely only result in a larger electrician’s bill or the fire department landing on your doorstep. On the other hand, I feel like I’ve been equipped with the knowledge to better understand what a repairman tells me with respect to a repair I need done.

Not only do I have a new-found respect for all trades, but I also have the tools to do some of the jobs myself.

With respect to that wall in my boys’ bedroom, yes, I am going to tackle that one this summer. And I promise to document it along the way, not just for me, but also for the BiY Center. They’re curious to see if their teaching efforts have really been absorbed by their students, and I am going to be their test subject. Stay tuned! I will document my journey as I go.

The Build it Yourself Learning Center is located at 358 Dufferin Street, Toronto.

Visit their website for more information about their course offerings.

Vicky Sanderson Developing Decor Content at the BIY Learning Center

May 13th, 2010

When I was at the launch for the BIY Learning Center I met up with Vicky Sanderson who is developing the decor content for the center. If you’re not familiar with the BIY Learning Center, it offers courses to give people some hands-on learning in many different areas of homeownership. From framing and drywalling to plumbing and minor electrical repairs, these courses are designed to help the homeowner feel more confident about identifying problems that crop up around the house (and fixing the minor ones without the need for a plumber/electrician, etc.).

Vicky Sanderson

In addition to the construction courses, there are also the decor and seminar series which offer hands-on learning in a group setting. This is where Vicky comes in. Vicky has written a column in the Toronto Star for years about the latest in hot home products, home decor and appliances. She has a blog on The Star’s website, On The House, where she discusses the latest in home gadgets. She also writes about kitchen trends in HomeFront magazine. Now, in addition to writing, Vicky is in charge of developing the content for the decor and seminar series.

The courses in the decor section offer students hands-on training in doing things like reupholstering old furniture and learning how to sew soft furnishings such as decorative pillows and drapes. There is also a course on interior design which teaches students colour theory, how to mix fabric with solids and stripes, and plan a room.  Whether you plan on doing the decorating yourself or hiring a professional, the courses are designed to give you the knowledge to understand what the professionals are doing and why.

In addition to developing the course content, Vicky is also running a really interesting Lunch and Learn seminar called Retro Reno. During this seminar she will talk about where are the best places to shop for second hand furniture and even more importantly, how to identify whether a piece is structurally sound.  The seminars are being run on June 24, and July 15th, 2010.

As with all courses taken through the center, you’ll have access to the online content afterwards. As you can imagine, once you’ve taken a course, if you’re not putting the skills to use right away you can forget some of the things you’ve learned. Videos will be available online to help jog your memory of how to do something you might not be sure about. As the center develops there will also be forums where members can ask related questions about skills or materials they might be using. After you’ve taken a course, the backup support you need will be there.

For more information on the BiY Learning Center, see their website.

358 Dufferin Street, Suite 201
Toronto, ON M6K 1Z8
Phone: 647.547.9242 | 1.866.964.7188

BiY Learning Center — Brilliant Idea by Jim Caruk becomes reality

April 29th, 2010

When it comes to small jobs around the house, I am and always have been a do-it-yourselfer. I learned how to sew so I could make my own blinds, cushion covers and drapes. Before kids, my husband and I did all our own painting, I am way better at caulking than my husband, and I can detach a toilet and sink to paint behind that part of the wall.

The problem with being a DIYer, however, is that sometimes you can get too big for your own britches. What I mean is, you can become so caulky (sorry, couldn’t resist!) that you end up trying things that are way beyond your skill level. Like the time I almost electrocuted myself while installing a dimmer switch (I thought I’d turned the fuse off, really!), or the time I turned the water tap to the toilet so far that I broke it off. These experiences are humbling — not to mention dangerous, in the case of the light switch.

Enter Jim Caruk, star of Real Renos. Jim must have had people like me in mind when he decided to start the Build it Yourself Learning Center. This center is not meant to replace trade school, but rather is designed for the homeowner, whether they have just bought their first house, are wanting to tackle larger projects or, like me, realise their limits of DIY expertise.  The courses are designed to give you the knowledge and skill to tackle specfic homeowner tasks.

The variety of courses runs the gamut from learning how to reupholster a chair to building a deck. All courses are taught by accredited professionals and allow plenty of time for hands-on experience. Evening classes run 4-6 weeks for 3.5 hours per class, weekend classes run Saturdays and Sundays for 8 hours/day, and Boot Camp runs for 5 days, 8 hours/day. Courses range in price from $59-$399 depending on the content and length. Class sizes also vary depending on the nature of the course from 24-50 people. All students in hands-on courses will have access to equipment.

The Signature Series will focus on bringing in well-known personalities to talk about a variety of home improvement projects. For instance, Liette Tousignant will show people how to properly hang a group of pictures using the Hang & Level, an extremely handy tool that takes the aggravation out of picture hanging.

The BiY series will always have an accredited, experienced professional teaching the course. For instance, “Home Wiring Essentials — Electrical Basics” will be taught by a certified electrician. Courses consist of three main components:

  • Essential theory of whatever you’re learning about, be it drywalling, plumbing, or electrical wiring
  • Health and Safety: how to prevent injuries, including and especially the proper use of tools, as well as proper safety gear
  • Skills: perhaps the most important part of this program is the ability to practice hands-on building with qualified instructors there to help you.

One of the more interesting aspects was that Jim emphasized that while the quick workshops offered by the big box stores provide some introduction to building, they tend to build products that are perfectly square, whereas if you live in a house that’s 30 or more years old (or even three years old like mine), the walls and ceilings are rarely square. The limited building knowledge you might have picked up will not help you deal with crooked walls. At the Learning Centre, because the courses are taught by people with years of practical experience, they will help you deal with most common obstacles (including overcoming a fear of power tools).

After the course ends: Another unique feature of these programs is the support offered after you’ve completed your course through the online services. Once you’ve taken a course, you will have access to online videos to refresh your memory if you want to go over a certain skill or health and safety topic again. That means if the course is offered at one time but you’d planned on doing the renovation at a later date, you can take the course and refer to the instructional material online when you need it.

The BiY Learning Centre opens its doors on Saturday May 1st, 2010. If you’re at all interested in learning about how to tackle small (or large) renovation jobs, visit the website for a more detailed look at the course options available. There are currently two locations in Toronto: Downtown is a 5000 square foot space designed for teaching smaller jobs, and a 10,000 square foot space in the north end of the city for tackling larger jobs like deck building and roofing.

For a selection of courses, click here.

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