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Put hammer to nail with tips from pros in area home-improvement classes

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Interested in home improvement, but lack the skills to make your vision a reality? Home-improvement classes abound in the metro, and spring is the perfect time to take domestic matters into your own hands.

Warehouse of learning
Technically speaking

Learn how to turn a humble abode into a posh palace " and boost home equity " with a lesson from the pros that will save on costly contractors and give chipped tiles, lackluster landscaping and tired interiors the heave-ho.

Warehouse of learningThe world's largest home improvement retailer is also a leader when it comes to workshops and classes aimed at teaching customers DIY skills. Born from mid-aisle demonstrations by The Home Depot's store associates, classes were offered after employees noticed crowds gathering around the impromptu how-to sessions. Before long, formal classes were requested by customers.

Today, in-store workshops, typically offered on weekend mornings, teach skills like simple electrical wiring, spring lawn preparation and deck building.

"Our workshop program was developed to help consumers with small weekend projects regarding repair and maintenance," said Craig Fishel, spokesperson for The Home Depot. "Our most popular classes are tiling, paint and how to install a ceiling fan, and our classes on lawn care are very well-attended."

Geared toward the novice, the classes are open to anyone seeking how-to info on projects around the house. Spring topics include classes in lawn preparation, water conservation and planting a vegetable garden. Online clinics are also available.

"The response to our workshops has been terrific," Fishel said. "We have seen an increase in attendance over the past few years as more customers do projects on their own, rather than have someone do it for them."

Another big name in home improvement, Lowe's also holds regular workshops, and both chains hold classes for children, including Lowe's "Build and Grow" clinics and Home Depot's monthly kids' workshops. Kids tackle fun projects like building birdhouses, kaleidoscopes and toolboxes.

In May 2003, The Home Depot expanded its offerings with women-only "Do-It-Herself" workshops. According to company statistics, women account for $11 billion in spending power when it comes to home improvement. Hoping to attract those dollars, the retailer holds special sessions with topics tailored to female interests.

Technically speakingNeed more than an hour of instruction? There's plenty to learn at area vocational and technical schools, including extensive classes at Francis Tuttle Technology Center. Topics vary each session, but include subjects like ceramic tile-setting, furniture-making, light welding and deck construction.

"The largest percentage of people enrolling in our home-improvement classes are do-it-yourselfers, but we also see some that have been in the industry and want to learn more about something specific," said Jeff Knapp, Francis Tuttle communications manager. "We also see those who have some knowledge, but want more so they can get more experience in a particular area and start a business."

With a participant age range of 18 to 70-plus, enrolled students are as varied as the classes. And Francis Tuttle is seeing an increased interest from women, as well. A series of basic classes created specifically for the ladies is on tap, with emphases on electrical and plumbing. Most classes are offered in the evenings, and instructors are qualified industry pros.

"Instructors can help with the ins and outs of certain materials, pros and cons of different brands, and the best tools for the job, as well as advice on tools which might intrigue you, but that you won't necessarily need," Knapp said. "We put classes together based on interest, and when we get a lot of requests, we research the industry and seek qualified individuals that enjoy sharing their experience."

For other home-improvement education opportunities, browse options like appliance repair and cabinetmaking at Metro Technology Centers; container gardening and concrete staining at Moore Norman Technology Center; and classes from area experts in landscaping and furniture refurbishing at community centers like the Multipurpose Activity Center at Mitch Park in Edmond. "Andrea Miller

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