- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2006

CHICAGO (AP) — The staff at his neighborhood hardware store can spot John Carter from a distance.

He is the slightly befuddled guy who often comes in declaring, “I have no idea what I’m doing. Can you at least get me through tonight?”

The 26-year-old Chicagoan, who has been slowly rehabilitating the condominium he bought last year, is part of a generation of young homeowners who admit they often have no clue how to handle home projects.

For them, shop class was optional. It also was more common for their parents to hire contractors, leaving fewer opportunities for them to learn basic repair skills.

With low interest rates allowing more young adults to buy property in recent years, many inexperienced homeowners are desperate for advice when the furnace goes out, the roof leaks or when a home project that seemed doable goes terribly wrong.

Contractors say it’s not unusual for them to get frantic calls from young do-it-yourselfers who get in over their heads.

Sometimes, the mistakes are silly.

Michel Hanet, who owns Interior Door Replacement Co. in Scottsdale, Ariz., has arrived at homes to find doors hung upside down. He has also discovered more than one sliding pocket door that won’t open because someone nailed a picture on the wall and into the door.

“The younger generation are more likely the ones that are getting into trouble,” Mr. Hanet said. “The baby boomers have the money to do it, so they just call and say ‘I don’t like my doors; just come and replace them.’”

Kirsten Pellicer, the 30-year-old vice president of Ace hardware stores in Longmont and Boulder, Colo., sees many young customers wanting to tackle projects on their own, often to save money.

“We rarely get requests for ‘Do you know a good handyman?’ from the younger set,” she said.

For Mr. Carter, the young Chicagoan, it’s all about being brave enough to try — and sometimes fail.

With the help of a buddy who has rehabbing experience, he has put in hardwood floors, knocked out a wall and completely remodeled his condo kitchen.

Increasingly, hardware professionals and others are addressing the need for know-how.

Some community colleges and stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot offer classes in projects from changing a faucet to tiling and putting in a dimmer switch.

“It gives them some exposure, so if they want to do it on their own, they have a starting point,” said Peter Marx, a remodeling contractor who teaches home repair at North Seattle Community College.

Others find help online, including at the Ace site, where Lou Manfredini — the Chicago hardware store owner — answers questions.

Home-centered television networks, including HGTV, are also in vogue. HGTV executives say shows such as “Design on a Dime” and “What’s Your Sign? Design” — a show that builds on the unlikely combination of astrology and home decorating — have helped boost its recent ratings among young adults.

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