Learn New Skills at London's Goodlife Centre

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The Good Life Centre
••• The Good Life Centre

Have you ever wanted to try a home maintenance job but just don't feel you have the skills? There's a wonderful place in Waterloo called The Goodlife Centre where you are instantly made to feel welcome and you come away with the skills to tackle DIY/decorating/carpentry/furniture restoration and much more.

Courses are for men and women and for all levels of ability so lose the frustration and learn some new skills.

About the founder, Alison Winfield-Chislett

Alison is the founder of the Goodlife Centre and was our teacher for the one day class I attended: 'DIY in a Day.

When I asked Alison how she ended up running a DIY and home improvement learning centre she explained that as a child she had renovated her doll's house and it all started from there. She has run her own prop-making business and started teaching carpentry to women in New York back in the 1980s.

In 2009 she started teaching a Basic DIY Skills course in London but it wasn't until 2011 that she found the permanent home for the course and created the Goodlife Centre.

DIY in a Day

This course was definitely the one for me as I had lost all confidence in doing home maintenance jobs after a few disasters.

Alison knows not only the practical skills and how to teach them but also the history of just about every tool we used which kept the course varied and entertaining (plus equipping us with "pub quiz" material for the future) while we also got hands-on practical time to work on our own and in pairs.

We soon discovered a lot of analogies with home maintenance tools and kitchen equipment that we were all already comfortable using regularly. A drill is not so unlike an electric whisk and the importance of sharp tools, especially for a beginner, is true again for both.

Throughout the day I kept having 'Hallelujah!' moments when I suddenly realized what that tool I already have in the back of the cupboard was actually for and how to fix those problems around the house.

Alison joked that DIY is like the Da Vinci Code and we were getting all the secrets. She certainly did her best to condense all the tricks and mistakes of 30 years of DIY experience into a manageable course.

Use Good Quality Equipment

We all got to try a variety of cordless drills from a selection of manufacturers and the difference was vast. Yes, a cheaper drill saves you on the initial outlay but what it can do and the smooth use certainly comes with buying better tools.

We tried drilling holes in wood, masonry and hollow walls (plasterboard) as well as tiles which I had always thought was something you had to leave to a professional. But we all did it without a problem and no-one cracked the tile – one tile was shared by the class just to prove 10 holes in a line is not a problem when you use a sharp drill bit.

We finished the morning by fixing a baton and coat hook to a temporary wall so we could have a look at the other side and see how neat our work was.

After lunch we looked at cutting and measuring and the co-teacher David taught us the art of 'zen sawing' which simply means use a sharp saw, relax, don't try too hard and let the saw do the cutting.

The final module was basic plumbing and we got to take apart taps (faucets) and some basic plastic pipework as well as discovering the tools to fix a blockage and therefore save ourselves a fortune on a plumber's call-out charge.

There were so many excellent tips during this course but one I will share with you is to take photos on your cameraphone before and during each job so as you take things apart you have a record of what goes back first and where.

We ended the class by finding out how to remove sealant from around a bath and then using a mastic gun and sealant to reseal. This was the only time I saw the teachers look nervous as we had been warned the sealant can stick to everything so we worked slowly and with plenty of paper towels.

All the students were given really handy tools guides (with pictures) and a glossary of terms at the start of the day, and the plumbing notes were emailed out shortly after the course.

The whole day is about building up confidence and I did go home and fix a few things that have needed doing for years but I didn't know how to do it.

Contact Information

Address: 122 Webber Street, London SE1 0QL

Use Journey Planner to plan your route by public transport.

Tel: 020 7760 7613

Official Website: www.thegoodlifecentre.co.uk

Booking online is simple and all the FAQs you may have are on the website too.

It's a really friendly company and you feel welcome as soon as you open the door. 

As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.