Interviewing Mr. Fix-it

When we were offered the opportunity to interview THE Mr. Fix-it, Mr. Lou Manfredini, we just couldn’t resist! You may have seen him on the TODAY show as a Home & Garden Contributor, or if you’re from the Chicagoland area… on WGN News, WGN Radio 720, or as the host of Home Talk TV. 
If you’re not from the area, allow us to give you a quick run-down of how these shows work. As the host, Lou offers viewers the chance to call in to ask him questions about DIY projects around their home. He coaches the viewer and gives them his hall-of-fame advice.  
As DIY Rookies, we were thrilled with the chance to pick Mr. Fix-it brains and share all of his insight with you, our favorite readers. So with no further ado.. here’s what we learned in our rookie interview with the ultimate DIY MVP.

Name some basic tools that a new DIY’er needs to buy.
“Now the one thing I want people to know is when it comes to tools, you’ve got to play a little extra for good tools. If you’re going to build a small tool set, it’s really important to look for name brand tools that come with a lifetime guarantee.”

“So in your kit, you want to get a really good toolbox that you can store it all in.  You want to get things like a good set of screwdrivers, a good set of wrenches in both standard and metric sizes…A good utility knife, a good hammer, good tape measure, at least 25 feet long, a small level would be great for hanging pictures or doing any kind of work where you have to line things up, and I would do a one foot level which would be a pretty standard and could be used for a lot of different projects.  And then a saw of some sort, like a small hand cutoff saw, as a starter, and from there you build.”

Toolbox Essentials

What about power tools?
“If they’re going to buy a power tool, would probably be a decent cordless drill, and I would look for one that has a lithium ion battery.  And the reason is, the lithium ion battery, though they cost a little bit more, the battery holds its charge longer, and so once it’s charged, it will hold the charge for 18 months.  So when you need the thing to work, it’s ready to go!”

How would you determine whether a project should be hired out or whether a DIY’er can tackle it on their own? 

“This is a big one because you really do need to know your limitations.  I use the analogy of home improvement as a train ride.  So your first stop on the train is painting, ‘cause that’s something that you can do, there’s not a lot of risk.  You might spill some, maybe you don’t do a great job on the paint job, maybe you choose the wrong color.  Well, that’s okay, it’s just paint.”

when to diy and when to hire a pro

“Then from there, you graduate to carpentry, light carpentry work.  You know, whether it’s changing out some cabinet doors, or changing the hardware on the doors.  And then you go to plumbing.  But you have to ask yourself when you look at a project, wow, that’s big.  Could I make this worse if I try it myself?  Could I harm my house or damage it if I try this myself?  Or could I hurt myself or people around me if I tried this.  If you answer yes to one of those questions, chances are you need a professional to do this job.”

This is something that really challenges the new DIY’er.  A lot of times just pure intimidation keeps us from tackling a new project.  Do you have any advice to overcome that initial intimidation? 
“It’s all about building your confidence.  So, use the resources that are out there, that are available to you, the web, magazines, television shows, radio shows, whatever it is, and really try and learn as much as you can.  Like anything in life, knowledge is power.  And pay attention.  The great thing about the internet industry is the picture’s worth a thousand words.  I can read all the things in the world, but if this guy shows me how to change a tile and I see exactly how he’s changing that broken tile on the floor, that’ll give you the confidence to say, hey, I can do this.  And just really try not to bite off more than you can chew, and take your time.”


PS. Thanks to 3M for providing us the opportunity to interview Lou. The experience was so much fun, and these DIY Rookies really learned a lot along the way!

The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.