Beth Allen fixed her first faucet at the age of 17. Her family never had enough money to hire a professional, her parents were arguing over how to do the job, and Allen decided she could do it herself.
Years later, Allen would channel her DIY-know how into a growing business, DIY Hip Chicks, and to empower other women to do home improvement projects themselves.
More and more women are doing just that, research shows.
More women are getting involved with all aspects of construction and home improvement — women make up roughly 10 percent of all construction workers, a figure likely to increase by 6 percent by 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Lowes and Home Depot report that more than half their customers are women, and they initiate 80% of home improvement projects.
Among them are Northampton resident Jessica Nyce and her mother, Mary, who recently took a home improvement course conducted by Allen.
Nyce said she took the class because she wanted to make repairs and renovations to her home. Learning side-by-side with her mother was a bonus and helped strengthen their relationship, Nyce said.
“Both my mom and I decided to take Beth’s first introductory class to DIY. I had heard about it, thought it was interesting and told my mom about it and she was on board as well,” Nyce said. “So we took that first class which lasted for a few weeks.
“Beth taught us how to pick out, hold and use certain tools that would be best for us, and about which projects we could manage at home,” Nyce added. “She also taught us what we should leave up to the professionals, and if we are going with a professional, Beth taught us how to handle them and what to look out for as the (home improvement) project goes on.”
Allen, who is an author and has appeared on NBC, ABC, PHL, FOX and The Rachael Ray Show, said the women who seek her or her class come from myriad backgrounds.
“I find that most of the time, the women seeking me out are either divorced, on their own or has a husband who is working full time and doesn’t have the time or interest” in doing the project, Allen said. “And they find themselves with wanting it done but can’t wait on him. And also, they might not have the income to hire a contractor.
“And some are struggling financially and need to do it economically, something I can relate to,” Allen added. “Everyone wants a home that look looks nice, but a lot of women end up walking away from the program more moved by the confidence-building that comes with this.
“They are thrilled they saved money (by doing the home-improvement project themselves), and they blossom with confidence.”
Allen said her family survived paycheck-to-paycheck and “DIY was a way of life because we just didn’t have extra money” to hire people.
“I grew up hitting yard sales then fixing or refinishing things to save money,” Allen said. “I still shop thrift stores looking for something that needs to be saved. DIY is a hands-on, self-reliant way of life.”
Allen teaches a five-week home improvement program at Bucks County Community College, during which women are taught about tools, plumbing, painting and electric basics, as well as learning weatherization techniques.
“I think Beth is truly an inspiration and she really knows her stuff,” Nyce said, noting that before enrolling in Allen’s course, she had deep doubts on if she could do any repairs to her home at all. “She really gives women the knowledge to do things you think you can’t do, and gives you the confidence to go do it.”
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Allen began teaching her class at Bucks County Community College in 2016, and interest in DIY, particularly among women, has only increased since then, said Donna Kirn, director of Continuing Education and Community Programs at the college.
“Women have embraced the program more; it was a little skewered due to the pandemic,” Kirn said. “These women come from all walks of life. And it has been simply amazing, watching these women grow every day and to see that spark of joining together with other women and learn from them and help them.”
Allen typically enroll 20 students in each course she gives.
Kirn herself has taken Allen’s class and also enrolled in Allen’s Home Improvement Hero Academy. Attendees of the academy receive 10 pre-recorded DIY video tutorials, lifetime access to content and printable resources, an invite to a private Facebook group, biweekly group coaching calls and personal mentoring.
“It is very empowering to have that knowledge and understanding,” said Habitat for Humanity Bucks County Executive Director Florence Kawoczka “We don’t want anyone pulling out their electricity, but it does give them the knowledge, too, that if they have to call an electrician or plumber, they know what they are talking about.”
Habitat for Humanity Bucks County offers several women-centric home improvement courses as well, and there has been a noticeable increase in women enrolling in the nonprofit’s homeownership program.
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Habitat builds and rehabilitates houses with the help of the future homeowner. Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit and financed with affordable loans. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are used to build more Habitat houses.
“The cool thing is lately — and we serve families of all shapes and sizes — but recently a string of single moms have put in a lot of hours of sweat equity, usually 100 to 200 hours,” Kawoczka said. “That way, they can get a firsthand look at what’s behind the walls, make sure they are comfortable putting up sheetrock, patching holes and understanding what’s going on with electricity and plumbing.
That empowerment manifests itself when current homeowners make return visits, often showing off the additions and improvements made to their house.
Kawoczka said Habitat settled a home last June for a single mother with four kids. The mother made a purchase at Habitat’s ReStore, and excitedly showed pictures of her home and the cabinet work she completed and “was so rightly proud” of what she had accomplished.
Kawoczka also noted that, during another home dedication in December, this time the recipient being a single mother with two teenage children, one of the children rose and spoke of his mother’s positive transformation.
“One of the teenagers got up to speak, and she spoke about watching her mother through the prior months working hard to not only to make sure her finances were in order, but that her (new) house was as well, by painting it and doing everything else to make it a home,” Kawoczka said. “The teenager was so proud of her mother.”
This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: DIY expert Beth Allen leading courses at Bucks County Community College
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