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More and more women are picking up a hammer


GULFPORT, Miss. - Whether it's out of necessity or a desire for new wallpaper, women are heading to home improvement stores in growing numbers.

"We probably get as many women as men customers," said Donna Guthrie, an employee of the Home Depot in Gulfport, Miss. "Basically, women are doing their own painting, tiling floors, doing minor plumbing repairs and hanging their own ceiling fans."

A new survey by Home Depot and Yankelovich Partners found that more women (37 percent) would rather spend their weekend leisure time gardening or painting than shopping or strolling through a mall (28 percent).

Artist Georgia Byrne Kuhner said she enjoys making small improvements to her home and has even built a simple plywood house for her cats.

"I don't have great skill, it's just really fun," she said. "And my friends say the same thing."

Familiar faces

Kuhner often sees familiar faces when she roams through the cavernous home improvement store. "I run into a lot of people I know, and I'm surprised to see them there," she said. "They're just wandering around looking at the stuff."

Home Depot and competitor Lowe's offer classes to draw newcomers into the lucrative world of home decorating, repair and maintenance.

Lowe's customer Jennifer Cochran declared herself "an amateur dabbler in everything" who is learning from trial and error as she fixes up her 90-year-old Gulfport home a room at a time. Cochran said she tackles one project a month and shops every couple of weeks for paint and other materials.

At the store weekly

Fredna Netterville of Gulfport said she visits the local Home Depot about once a week to buy paint, garden supplies or plumbing supplies. On a recent Tuesday, she was looking for "drain unstopper" to clear up some stubbornly clogged drains.

"I'm going to try one last effort before I call someone in," she said.

The survey found that self-satisfaction is one reason women and men tackle home improvement projects.

Anita Cook of Long Beach, Miss., is hanging new wallpaper in the bedrooms of her two sons and she's painting her den and dining room.

"We always have projects going," Cook said.

Saving money

Saving money is another reason do-it-yourself projects are so popular.

Steve English of Coastline Paint and Hardware Inc. in Gulfport said that over the past several years he has seen more women doing their own painting to cut costs.

"Why pay a painter when they can tackle it themselves," he said.

Even homeowners who don't mind hiring someone are having to do the work themselves.

The strong economy is keeping professional contractors busy. "It's hard to get someone in to do a little job," Kuhner said.

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