As information becomes more readily available through the Internet, home improvement shows and "how-to" magazines, women are taking up the tools and tearing down the myth that home improvement is man's work. A new series on Discovery Home Channel challenges women to say goodbye to "honey-do" lists and tackle home improvement projects on their own. "The difference between this show and the others is I want to empower women," says Norma Vally, host of "Toolbelt Diva." "Women aren't as inclined as men to pick up tools, but fixing things can be a way for a woman to take charge of her reality."
As the host of Toolbelt Diva, Vally pairs up with female homeowners to tackle a variety of home-improvement projects. "It's not about design, it's about doing a project that people can really do," Vally says. "There are a couple of things I can suggest if you're doing a home improvement project: having the right attitude, believing in yourself, practicing proper safety and getting the right tools." On her show, Vally guides female homeowners in painting, sawing, nailing up, and tearing down. Unlike other home improvement shows that have revolving designers and carpenters, Vally is the only on-camera craftswoman. The show features small, manageable and relatively inexpensive projects that are doable over the course of a weekend.
Vally has more than 10 years of experience, tackling everything from sweating copper to hanging drywall. "How I first got involved with construction goes way back to working around with my dad and grandfather's house," Vally says. She became familiar with professional construction while renovating 100-year-old homes for her cousin's contracting business. "My cousin, who I starting working during the summers for, says I've always been a doityourselfer."
Vally says that any woman can take on just about any home-improvement project. The first thing a woman has to realize is she can do it and not to be stymied by a lack of upper body strength. "We don't have the natural ability, meaning a lot of upper body strength and small hands, but there are ways around brute strength," Vally says. For example, women can gain leverage by extending the length of a wrench, requiring less brute strength, by adding a long piece of metal pipe over the wrench's handle. By doing this, they can loosen a fitting in no time. That's why a pipe is often called "a persuader" by plumbers. "If you need extra umph, get more leverage, but be sure to know which direction to turn screws and other fittings. The general rule is, right tight, left loose." She recommends inviting some friends over for larger projects when a little extra help is needed.
Vally has several tips for the amateur do-it-herselfer. She recommends knowing where the main shut-off valves for all your utilities are located. Women need to know how to turn off the main power sources for the gas, water, and electricity in their homes. This is critical in an emergency. "Sometimes you open up a wall and -- 'oops' what's back there?" Vally says. "There can always be a couple of surprises."
Go into a store if you need to get more educated. Try to go online and have an idea of what you're looking for before you go into the store. A lot of stereotyping by salespeople can cause them to react differently to women. It's good to be as knowledgeble as possible when going in to a home improvement center, but don't be embarrassed to ask for help from the staff. They are often retired tradespeople and can offer a wealth of information. Don't forget to bring along any old parts that you may be replacing when you go to the hardware store. It's much easier for you and the sales staff to find replacement parts when you bring in an example of what you're looking for. If you can't bring it with you, try to find a serial or ID number from the original part. "A big diva do is bring in the part model and serial number," Vally says.
Vally also recommends that the beginning do-it-herselfer ask a lot of questions when at the stores, and most importantly, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. Take the proper safety precautions. Start out your projects slowly with smaller, less dangerous tools. Don't get a table top saw right off the bat. Identify the project and have the right tools. Don't waste a lot of time by working with the wrong tools. Good tools are worth investing in up front and will save you money in the long run, since they won't need to be replaced. They'll also save you a lot of aggravation -- and not being aggravated is priceless. Be sure to mark your project materials before cutting them. The old adage goes, "Measure twice, cut once." Organize your work space and keep it clutter-free. Clean up as you work to keep the area safe and free of potential hazards, especially anything that you can trip over.