A Pretty Handy Girl – And a Lot More!

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Brittany Bailey pulls nails from a house built in 1900 that she restored during a 10-month project she named Saving Etta.

Brittany Bailey’s parents introduced her to tools and building during her childhood and instilled in her the belief that “I could do anything a boy could do—if not better.”

As an adult, the Raleigh, North Carolina, licensed general contractor who renovates and sells houses, along with managing PrettyHandyGirl.com and a lot more, is passionate about breaking down the stereotype that women are not handy and that not everyone can “do it yourself.”

Brittany’s mantra: “If a human being can do it, then there is a 95% chance you can do it too.”

She shares this self-empowering message through her popular blog, Pretty Handy Girl, instructional videos, and public appearances. PrettyHandyGirl.com features tutorials, with step-by-step instructions and photos, that demonstrate home improvement, home repair, décor, and crafts projects. She has hundreds of thousands of fans and followers on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.                            

Brittany’s college education included a BFA degree in illustration and classes in graphic design, photography, and art therapy. She has also taken general contractor classes, a lead abatement certification class and some professional tiling classes. She taught herself Web design. The rest she learned by research and asking professionals for help when she needed advice.

Brittany owned graphic design and baby carrier businesses when she started PrettyHandyGirl.com, but she closed the two companies to devote more time to the website. Currently she also owns a small real estate investing business, which is why she earned her general contractor license. After working on her own home and family members’ houses for almost a decade, Brittany restored and sold a house built in 1900 (Saving Etta project). Next she renovated a 1957 ranch style house to rent that she named the Millie’s Remodel project.

Doing It Yourself

Breakfast area before remodel.

Brittany's renovated kitchen.

The groundwork for the home restoration and remodeling projects began about 20 years ago when Brittany and her husband bought their first home in Raleigh. She learned quickly how to fix things – like a leaky pipe that turned into a major kitchen renovation and other repairs that also led to bigger projects. Her home has been featured in many national publications, including Better Homes & Gardens, Cottage Style, This Old House, Do It Yourself Magazine and Family Handyman.

Pantry before remodel.

Pantry after remodel.

Pantry interior. Wine bottle storage is hidden by a removable door at the back of the countertop.

Saving Etta

The Allen House before the Saving Etta project.

The restored Allen House, built in 1900 and listed on the National Registry.

In her Saving Etta project, Brittany restored the Allen House that was built in 1900. She meticulously documented her progress through narratives, photos and tutorials during the 10-month project. In her introduction, Brittany wrote:This is the true story about a house built in 1900 that is in serious disrepair. It’s also the story about my journey toward becoming a general contractor and my attempt to save a home from being bulldozed. I hope you’ll follow along as I embark on a journey into the unknown perils and rewards of flipping a home in downtown Raleigh, NC.”

In addition to a host of obstacles, including mold and asbestos that had to be dealt with, Brittany also opted to follow her architect’s advice and remove and replace an addition on the back of the house to “fix the crazy rooflines.” Finally, on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, Brittany hosted an open house to show off the newly renovated house. (View the project at prettyhandygirl.com.)

Allen House kitchen from the north side prior to restoration.

Full view of Allen House kitchen after restoration.

Brittany Offers Advice about Tools

“Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a few power tools,” Brittany explained. “I enjoy the surprised look on faces when I explain that they are actually my power tools and I don’t usually let my husband (affectionately referred to as Pretty Handsome Guy) touch them.”

Tools are important to Brittany, and she has included a My Toolbox section on her website, inviting the viewer to: “learn about the must-have tools in my toolbox and how to invest in quality tools without breaking your budget.” Brittany begins with a guide to choosing and purchasing power tools, and also provides tutorials for using individual power tools. She includes lists and pictures of hand tools needed by the homeowner, the committed DIYer, and for electrical DIY.

Brittany scrapes lead paint off a board during the Saving Etta project.

Sometimes Brittany finds herself high up and framing timber.

Brittany cuts boards for the Millie’s Remodel project.

Dust Collection

One facet of working in any way with wood is dust collection. Since Brittany is featured in the August 2020 Woodcraft catalog, which has a dust collection theme, I asked her to share how she deals with protecting herself from wood dust.

It depends on the job,” Brittany explained. “Because I am always moving around from project to project or house to house, my dust collection has to be portable. And I have to admit I use a low-budget solution: while woodworking I usually hook my saws or sander to my shop vac. Or I work outside on a nice day. For lead paint removal I use a HEPA vacuum and take all necessary precautions for myself and appropriate cleanup. I always wear appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). I love my GVS SPR451 Elipse P100 Dust Half Mask Respirator or Working Comsy.”

As far as her workshop is concerned, Brittany explained, “My garage is where I work on woodworking projects. But, it also has to function as storage for my family, so it’s not a beautiful organized dedicated workshop. Because my projects move around the house and my investment houses, I don’t work in my ‘workshop’ all the time. Thus, the use of a shop vac for dust collection. Of course, someday, I'd like to upgrade my dust collection system, but for now, this helps keep the sawdust at a minimum.”

Her dust collection advice: “It's safer to use a dust collection system like a shop vac than nothing at all. And always wear a mask or respirator”!   

Best Fit Face Mask

Although PrettyHandyGirl.com projects are usually about home improvements, décor or crafts, Brittany’s “Best Fit Face Mask” tutorial with a pattern has been one of the most popular topics to date. She designed the mask over a weekend at the end of March and posted the tutorial April 6, 2020.

Brittany explained:  “After a weekend, I designed this easy sew Best Fit Face Mask Tutorial for use by the public and medical professionals trying to protect N95 and surgical masks while also staying safe during the COVID crisis. (These are not a replacement for N95 or surgical masks. These masks are designed to add an additional layer of protection.)”

Brittany's Best Fit Face Mask

Making a Difference

With so many social media fans and followers, Brittany receives a lot of feedback. I asked how she kept up with all the personal emails, and she replied: “I try to answer questions in 48 hours, but it depends on my workload and of course the needs of my family.”  Her family includes her husband, two teenaged sons, and her dog Bandit.

“Some projects get a lot more comments than others. My current video tutorial for the Best Fit Face Mask has me spending at least an hour a day responding to questions and comments,” Brittany explained.

“That being said, I have always felt the personal emails I get about how one of my tutorials helped someone are my true payments for the days I put into creating tutorials.”

She described one of her favorite responses from a woman whose husband was terminally ill. “They had just moved into a fixer-upper to try to save money, since his medical bills were piling up. The wife was stressing over how she would keep up with all the repairs on the house after her husband passed away (because he’d always been the handy person in their marriage). Somehow she stumbled onto my site and stayed up late reading tutorial after tutorial. In the morning she felt an enormous weight lifted from her, knowing she'd be fine and could find all the repair tutorials on my website.”

Advice for Discovering the “Handy” in Yourself

A visit to PrettyHandyGirl.com reveals the huge amount of content that Brittany makes available without charge to anyone searching for how to fix something, repair something or make something “from scratch.”

“I've been the main voice behind PrettyHandyGirl.com for ten years,” Brittany said, “and it’s been one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had (besides being a Mom). I thrive on learning new things and sharing them with my audience. I've met so many people who tell me they wish they were handy like I am. It all boils down to the mindset. If you say you’re not handy or you can’t do something, you probably never will. But, if you allow yourself to think you can do it and seek the resources to learn, it will happen.”

If you are among the wannabe handy folks, adopt Brittany’s motto: "If someone can do it, then there is a 95% chance that I can do it too!"  

And remember, Woodcraft has the tools, products and advice and how-to content on woodcraft.com or in your local store to help you learn to work wood, to improve your woodworking skills, or to manage your home maintenance and improvement.


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