If you think a hammer and nails are tools only for men, think again. For that matter, these days, women aren’t afraid of tackling home improvement projects much more complicated than hanging a picture. And they’re doing more than fixing up their own homes. They’re also becoming leaders in the home improvement industry.
Sherry Schultz is one woman who works in the industry. She also sees plenty of other women who both work and tinker in home improvement.
“Men (in the industry) like having women work with them,” said Schultz, who is a former vice president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. “They find women respond to women better.”
Schultz, of Aurora, is a pro-sales manager at the recently opened Floor and Décor on the Naperville-Aurora border. She also previously owned a Chicago home improvement magazine.
Schultz, who works with architects, painters, designers, contractors, installers and flippers on a daily basis, has found being a woman an advantage in the industry in part because women initiate 80 percent of home improvement purchases, and therefore, tend to take the initiative to remodel or upgrade.
Schultz also recently joined the Northern Illinois Home Builders Association where she has seen a growth of women in their membership. She feels the business is very welcoming to professional women in the industry, as well as DIYers.
“What I have found, pleasantly so,” Schultz said, “is that I thought it would be an old pop network. But I never received any of that from anybody.”
Claire Benz, a Floor and Décor customer and Naperville homeowner, has taken on and enjoys all sorts of home improvement projects, from painting trim to remodeling bathrooms. She is installing slate on top of her concrete patio to update its look. It had begun chipping.
“We do a lot of things ourselves. I looked it up online. It’s pretty straight forward,” said Benz, who has laid indoor tile before but never anything like this type of project.
This undertaking, which has taken about two weeks of her full-time commitment, and is almost complete, has involved going through all the boxes of slate to find matching colors, setting aside broken tiles, putting down adhesive, then the tiles and then sealing it. The heat of the last few weeks has made the job a little more taxing.
“Once it’s done, I’ll be glad I did it,” said Benz, who has invested in knee cushions to protect her knees from the hard, hot slate.
Benz knows her strengths — she likes painting, but stays away from power tools and refinishing hardwood floors — and also likes that do-it-yourself projects can save money.
“(Power tools) are a little scary to me,” said Benz, who lets her husband, Jim, do any of the work involving those devices.
Women who take on home improvement projects are much more likely than their male counterparts to be actively involved in social media sites such as Pinterest, YouTube and Facebook. Benz is no exception; she used YouTube to see how to lay the slate and regularly goes to Pinterest for decorating ideas.
“I’m all over Pinterest,” Benz said. “I love that kind of stuff.”
Taking those ideas from online to in-home is the next step.
Schultz suggests that newbies start with a bathroom project, because it is a small space and most homes have more than one, so the inconvenience is minimal. Benz adds that if some research is done first, there should be nothing to fear.
“DIY projects give a great sense of accomplishment when you see the end result,” Benz said. “If you research it online first, you can decide if it’s worth attempting on your own or better calling a professional.”