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. [mappress]

BEC Green

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