Licensed contractor Beth Allen will teach DIY Home Improvement & Empowerment for Women course
By Samantha Bambino
Beth Allen’s philosophy on life is pretty simple. If a woman can push a human being out of her body, she can sure as heck fix a broken toilet.
From March 14 to April 11 at Bucks County Community College, this successful contractor and interior designer will teach “DIY Home Improvement & Empowerment for Women” — a 10-hour course that will show local females how to be smart, capable and confident homeowners who don’t need a handyman to get the job done.
“Since 90 percent of women will live alone at some point in their lives, this course will help you learn how to live independently and not rely on a handyman,” Allen said. “You’ll learn to operate basic hand and power tools, as well as the basics of electric, plumbing, carpentry, painting, tiling and hanging items on the wall.”
Allen understands this is easier said than done. For those women embarking on a new journey of living alone, whether they’re a college grad renting a first apartment or a recent divorcee, figuring out why the power outlet isn’t working can be a daunting task. But as someone who initially entered the workforce as a nurse, Allen can say from experience that it’s possible to learn.
When her first son was born, Allen set her medical career aside to be a stay-at-home mom. Though she loved being present to care for her child, Allen found she had too much free time on her hands. Slowly, she began doing repairs around the house, fixing one thing here and redesigning another thing there. Without really intending to, she had found a new calling that was entirely self-taught.
After completing an interior design program at Temple University, Allen launched her own design business. Though she had a steady clientele of well-off women looking to revamp their homes, Allen couldn’t help but think about those who didn’t have the money to redesign a space, let alone pay for needed repairs.
“I thought, why not help those women out?” she said.
It was at this point that Allen’s career truly started to take off. Women flocked to her classes at schools and adult centers, seeking guidance in their own home improvement projects. Allen rejoiced in knowing most of her mentees were just like her. Growing up, her family lived paycheck-to-paycheck and didn’t have hundreds of dollars to spare on a contractor visit.
“I watched my parents figure it out,” she said. “I teach these women how to save money. It’s become a calling, a mission.”
Which is why she’s thrilled to teach a new group during her upcoming Bucks County Community College course. According to Allen, “DIY Home Improvement & Empowerment for Women” will incorporate a number of aspects, including power tool usage and tips and tricks for taking care of everyday home repairs.
“It’s an introductory class for women who want to learn the basics,” she said.
While Allen won’t be going in-depth about how to rewire a house (she encourages everyone to call a professional for that), she will teach the class how to change a light fixture, stop a leak and repair the toilet with a $5 part from The Home Depot.
During a hands-on project, students will work in teams to install anchors into drywall.
“Screw it up now so you won’t make any mistakes on your wall,” she said.
Women will also learn about the basic functions of their homes and apartments, such as the GFI outlet. For those who blow dry their hair in the bathroom, it’s probably a common occurrence for the outlet to stop working. Allen explained this issue can be solved by simply hitting a reset button. Not only does knowing this trick save time (and a bad hair day), but potentially hundreds of dollars wasted on an electrician.
Throughout the course, Allen will force her students to break out of their comfort zones and face their fears of what society deems “male-dominated” work. Women shouldn’t be intimidated by a broken toilet. It’s just a piece of porcelain bolted to the floor. If they try to fix it and things go awry, Allen said they can simply shut the water off.
For her, it’s all about problem-solving and not being afraid to get a little dirty. “These skills spill into everyday life,” she said. “Don’t just watch HGTV. Get up and make it happen.”
Allen has witnessed a shift over the years as more women aim to get involved in the industry, though she admitted many stick to the DIY decor scene rather than home improvement and repair. Not her.
“My focus is teaching women how to get to the pretty,” Allen explained. “You can buy a beautiful sink and faucet, but can you put them in?”
To drive home her point, Allen recently uploaded to YouTube the pilot episode of HIP Chicks Flips, which she described as the culmination of her work. In the 20-minute show, Allen and a team of fierce female volunteers revamp the home of a divorced woman with a $2,000 makeover. It’s not flashy or over-the-top, just realistic. New floors were laid down, needed repairs were fixed, and the woman came out of the experience with a brighter perspective on being a single homeowner. ••
If you go…
“DIY Home Improvement & Empowerment for Women” meets from 7 to 9 p.m. over five Wednesdays, March 14 to April 11, at the Bucks County Community College campus at 275 Swamp Road, Newtown. The fee is $119. This is a non-credit course. To register (course number RCEGN-6966-C01), visit bucks.edu/con-ed or call 215–968–8409. For information on Beth Allen, visit bethallendiy.com.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com