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A little TLC for the house

Home improvement wiz shares his know-how with residents

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Whether it was the base guitar that Brian Schnee made when he was 15, or the work he does on his 1906 Victorian home in Rockville Centre, the 67-year-old has spent much of his life building things and fixing them up. But it wasn’t until Schnee became a New York City Teaching Fellow in 2003 that he began to share his skills and knowledge with others.

The NYC Teaching Fellows program, run by the city’s Department of Education, connects public school students with professionals so they can learn skills for a variety of careers.

Schnee — who has decades of experience in construction, maintenance and engineering — found that he had a knack for teaching others, so after he completed the fellowship program and earned his home inspector’s license in 2014, he decided to start a new teaching venture at the Freeport Memorial Library. There he debuted his TLC For Good Home Health courses, in which he teaches local residents a wide range of home- improvement techniques.

After nearly six years of running the course and expanding his reach to other Nassau County libraries, including the Baldwin Public Library, Schnee set up a new location for his classes in January, at American Legion Post 246 on Grand Avenue in Baldwin.

“All I want to do is teach people how they can take care of their homes,” Schnee said. “I want people to know that I may not know you, but I do care about you and your home because I’ve been through it all.”

Schnee’s love of repairing everything he comes across came at a young age, when he helped his grandfather and father around their home in Long Beach. By the time Schnee was 18, he knew all about home maintenance, so when he left for the University of Arizona in 1970 to earn a degree in marketing, he naturally found himself helping the landlords of the 250-room apartment complex where he lived. They eventually offered Schnee a job overseeing maintenance work at the complex.

“He enjoyed the work there, and they even offered us a two-bedroom apartment,” said Hope Schnee, 68, Brian’s wife. 

By 1977, the had couple moved to Rockville Centre, and Schnee began working at Trans World Airlines in New York City, overseeing operational planning and aircraft maintenance. Even then, repair work filled Schnee’s life, as he and Hope completed renovations on their house, and when they joined the Hempstead Bay Sailing Club in 1978, Schnee offered to fix up the docks that had been destroyed by a series of storms.

Schnee left TWA in 1989 to work as the senior construction project manager for Pathmark Stores Inc., for which he oversaw construction of stores, despite not originally knowing how to read blueprints. He moved on to similar positions at Foodtown Stores Inc. and Whole Foods Market.

When he decided that he wanted to teach home improvement courses, Hope, who works at the Freeport library, helped him set up the classes there. Schnee’s course consists of eight in-depth lectures and hands-on workshops on various aspects of the home, from basements to roofs. He even constructs cabinets, walls and other models for his students to work on.

William Hager, 72, of Freeport, first met Schnee during one of the classes three years ago. Hager has since taken nearly all of Schnee’s classes, and has even repeated some. Hager said that Schnee is helpful. He even helped install a new toilet in the second floor of Hager’s house to replace one that has been broken for nearly three years.

“He came to my house and showed me exactly what I needed to do,” Hager said. “It’s nice not having to go downstairs to use the bathroom at night.” 

Deborah Hayman, 63, another Freeport resident and a fan of Schnee, said she came across the course when she spotted a flier on his air-conditioning repair class. Hayman’s own AC unit was broken at the time, and although she had owned her house for more than 21 years, she admitted that she didn’t know much about home repairs. She found Schnee’s course easy to follow.

“Even if you can’t fix something yourself, the class gives you what you need to speak with professionals, using their vocabulary, so they know what you want,” Hayman said. “It really cuts down on time when you know what you’re talking about.”

Throughout his nearly six-year run, Schnee estimates that he has helped more than 270 people through his classes. As he settles into his new location at the American Legion post, Schnee still holds his classes at various libraries in the county, including a recent workshop on wall repair at the Freeport library on Feb. 20. Those interested in joining the next class on home insulation, on March 5, can register at klhinspection.com, or call (516) 458-4676.