Remodeling 101: The All-Women Team at Matriarchy Build Empowers Women to DIY It All
A while back, Lacey Soslow teamed up with her mother, Audrey, to overhaul Lacey’s fixer-upper. The two had other full-time jobs, but found the experience so satisfying they made a practice of it: see How to Avoid 9 Rookie Remodeling Mistakes from Mother-Daughter House Flippers. They called themselves Matriarchy Build, and, after doing their own project management, materials buying, and specialist hiring, soon had a bigger goal in mind. “We want to get tools into the hands of women,” Lacey told us.
Years in the works, the new incarnation of Matriarchy Build is devoted to just that. Lacey and longtime friend and fellow renovator Gabriella Ainslie have the turned the business into an online platform offering consultations by Zoom with women in the building trade. “The two of us have always talked about the jobs we’d love to undertake in our own homes if only we had the right person to guide us and ask for advice along the way,” they explain on the site. “We built Matriarchy Build because we wanted to create a space to talk with a diverse group of women about renovation, design, and DIY projects.” No #skillz required: the idea is to offer guidance to everyone, from hands-on types to the “do-it for-me set” (those inclined to hire help). Lacey and Gabrielle also hope to inspire more women to go into the trades.
The site currently represents a roster of 28 licensed professionals, including carpenters, plumbers, tile setters, and electricians, and invites people working on their own places to peruse the Matriarchy Build directory and book time with an expert. These one-on-one video sessions start at 25 minutes for an average price of $55 (the specialists set their own rates) and are designed to be productive: clients are encouraged to fill out questionnaires in advance and to share photos and specs (looking these over is factored into the fees). You can request general help, such as where and how to get started. Or, if desired, you can actually get to work while being coached from afar. The website also a DIY and Inspiration section of free advice, including a series of “Get To Know Your Tool” tutorials on hammers, stud finders, and power saws.
Here, meet six members of the Matriarchy Build crew and read about the remote help they stand ready to offer.Above: Trying to make sense of four different bids and timelines from contractors? Or wondering whether to tackle the whole house or just the kitchen? Gabriela Narvaez of Guild Properties, a general contracting company in Washington D.C., can advise.
“Sometimes it can be incredibly helpful to talk to an expert who you’re not hiring,” says Lacey. That said, all of these pros run their own businesses and can be hired should they happen to be located near you—see links to their own websites on Matriarchy Build.Above: Schannon Yodice calls herself That Tile Chick. She runs a Houston tile-contracting business and offers instructional videos on Youtube, such as “How to prepare a wooden subfloor for tile.” In a Zoom session, she can answer questions about remodel timelines and what to expect from the process. She can also instruct on how to tile a backsplash or shower yourself.
In a recent Matriarchy Build consult with a couple who’d had a shower added in their basement but weren’t happy with the results, Schannon diagnosed a faulty shower pan installation, and then explained how to put in a new pan and curb, and do the retiling —and encouraged the handy couple to do it themselves.Above: Char Miller King of Atlanta, Georgia, has more than 20 years of carpentry experience. A mother of four, she’s a wood shop teacher, and, notes Matriarchy Build, “can meet you at your experience level, whether you’ve been building furniture for a few years or are new.” Some specifics you might ask her: tips on using a jigsaw and other power tools, suggestions for making a table or bench, and how to build a raised garden bed. Above: Ayrica Walker of HERS Electric in Baltimore, Maryland, is a licensed and insured electrician. She followed her father in the trade: “The joy and happiness of putting things together, taking things apart, and figuring things out has always fed my soul,” she says. In consultations, Ayrica can offer guidance on tackling basic electrical projects, such as how to turn off your breaker, change a light fixture, and add a dimmer–and, she stresses, how to do it all safely. Above: The runner-up in America’s Next Top Model in 2006, Joanie Sprague discovered carpentry 12 years ago while working on several HGTV home improvement shows, including Run My Renovation. She’s now, as she puts it, a “handy ma’am” and woodworker in Huntington Beach, California.
Her favorite DIY projects for beginners? “If you’re comfortable using a miter saw, consider putting up an accent wall with batten strips and a chair rail. Or flip furniture: taking things apart and then sanding them, filling holes with putty, glueing and clamping them back together and refinishing them—these are all great skills to have.” And Joanie can, of course, talk you through each step.
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