Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

Becoming Green is a Process of Evolution

April 25th, 2012

For years, I gave myself “green marks” for buying tableware, décor and furniture at garage sales. But by shifting to online classified sites, I think I’ve taken a step to becoming even greener. Don’t get me wrong – buying second-hand stuff at yard sales is one the easiest, most economical ways to reduce your carbon footprint. I’m just not crazy about rising at 6 a.m. on a weekend to drive across town, only to return home without that special item I was searching for.

Kijiji Finds

I’ve tried several online selling sites, but have settled on Kijiji as a mainstay. It let me shop locally, and both “watch” an item of interest or be alerted when an item that matches my search term comes online. New categories, such as outdoor items, appliances and reno materials as distinct categories, makes searching faster and easier. Recently, I’ve had great success making home décor gems out of gently-used items easily found on Kijiji Take a look.


Individual plates can make interesting wall clocks.  Clock hands come in cute shapes, such as knives and forks, hammers and screwdrivers or fishing rods, so you can make a clock suited to an individual room or as a gift for a friend with a related hobby. Clocks hands and movements are available for less than $10 from Lee Valley , which also carries adhesive-backed numbers and dots.


Simply slowly and carefully drill a small hole in the centre of the plate. Place a piece of tape over the drill spot to keep it from cracking and add a few drops of water as you go along to keep the drill bit cool and lubricated (mineral oil works for that, too.) Okay, I admit it, I got the Man of the House (MOTH) to do this part!


Even a fabric remnant can create a one-of-a-kind vase

Used fabric can be put to good use. So don’t discount, then, that linen tablecloth just because it has a tear (although do factor that into what you’ll offer for it.) Imagine instead, as did I, making the still-good stuff into pillow shams, napkins, or tea and guest towels.







A bit of paint and some good tape – try ScotchBlue – and you have a one-of-a-kind pillow to match your other decor pieces


My secret weapon for crafting and painting!

Plain pillow shams can be dressed up with fabric paint. I tried two methods. One was to simply tape straight lines with Scotch Blue tape (my fave painter’s tape!) along a pillow and paint it out in cheery colours from Martha Stewart’s line of multi-surface satin acrylic paint (available at For another pillow, I made my own stencil by hanging a length of tape from a doorway and, using hole-punchers with two different sizes of holes, randomly punching a pattern. Fabric remnants can also turn an ho-hum glass vase into a stunning piece.




A little imagination – and a lick of paint – goes a long way. Good tape is critical for getting sharp lines so stick with a good name brand like ScotchBlue.

I couldn’t believe my luck when I found two cute little semi-circular occasional tables for $20. Perfect, I thought for my living room, especially after I painted them in an earthy Jute (Pittsburgh Paints), adding a thin strip of Charlotte’s Locks from Farrow and Ball. Now that they’re done, though, I’ve decided to cover them in exterior-grade varnish and use them on the back porch — a perfect perch for an after-work glass of wine with MOTH. What could be more stylish — and sustainable?







Vicky Sanderson

Having tried and tested just about every new home product, décor item and countertop appliance to hit the market in the last 10 years, Vicky Sanderson is an expert on all things home related. She shares this expertise in Hot Home Products, a widely-read weekly column that appears every Saturday in The Toronto Star. Follow her @vickysanderson


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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