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Wednesday 3 March 2010

Home Jane: Do you Do It Yourself?

What's your policy on DIY? Maybe you love getting right into it in with the latest power tools, or do those little jobs languish until a friend or flatmate cracks and volunteers to do the dirty or even hire a tradesman?

Home Jane is a network of professional handywomen who operate in the south-east and Manchester, who also run training courses. Last weekend we were invited along to their monthly "Tools For The Terrified" workshop in London. What's the point in buying those gorgeous framed prints that we keep showing you, for them to lay propped against the skirting board because you're afraid of hacking holes in the wall - or it falling to earth with a bang? I'm as guilty as anyone else, with solid concrete "walls from hell" in my flat which nearly had me in tears when we tried to put up curtains (and I know now why).

Home Jane's mission is to get people to confidently approach basic tasks such as hanging pictures, decorating and essential plumbing, improving their general knowledge about DIY in the process. As tutor Alison explained, "if a client asks us to put up some shelves, it's good for us to know whether the wall is plasterboard or concrete. It can mean the difference between taking an hour or three hours to get the job done." What are your walls made of?

Top tips during the workshop included
  • Choosing the best kit for the job - they showed us lots of basic tools like tape measures that they found in supermarkets and pound shops which are perfectly adequate for occasional use in home DIY
  • Wear an apron with pockets - useful for covering up and cleaning your hands, and get into the habit of putting small things like screws in there rather than leaving them down somewhere to get lost
  • Gloves - gardening gloves make your hands less sensitive, are grippy yet breathable, and fit women's hands better
  • Avoid multi-tools which are supposed to fulfil a number of roles, as they generally are good for nothing
  • New suggestions for white bread: use it to absorb grease marks from walls, or to pick up shards of broken glass from the floor
  • Know where your water stopcock is - well before you actually need it
We put up wall fixings, brackets and shelves. We safely cut wood to size using a jigsaw. We even took apart and reassembled taps. I'm no longer afraid of my hammer drill, or my flat's concrete walls. Screws and No More Nails are now my friends!

Interestingly, I also have a much better idea of what do to in terms of minor DIY issues, how to turn off the water into my flat, and when to call in a professional. I'd definitely ring Home Jane if I was considering major works or if I had an emergency involving the utilities, but this weekend I'll be brandishing my spirit level and getting ready to put up all those pictures. My neighbour is going to love me...

Oh, and the curtains - we were probably drilling into the steel lintel. No wonder it was so difficult. Have you had any DIY disasters? Or have you recently replumbed your bathroom? Tell about your triumphs and terrors in the comments!

Contact Home Jane for dates and bookings for future workshops in east London


  1. This course was brilliant fun!! I've already started an electrical job that I'd been putting off for months.

    I didn't know you were Gail from Domestic Sluttery! This site is my favourite desk-based procrastination aid, and I am therefore very excited about seeing a photo I took on here!

    Nona x

    Nona x

  2. Always wanted to try a course with these guys, now I might just!

  3. Hey Nona! Glad you enjoyed it - have you got your drill yet??


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