Things Get Philosophical With Mr. Fix It

Lou Manfredini talks DIY, fame and being everyone’s go-to guy for home improvement advice.

Who would have thought that talk of construction and home improvement would have you questioning the millennial generation’s need for an on-demand society? But talking with TV host, radio personality and author Lou Manfredini led to just that.

Manfredini’s rise to fame wasn’t at all planned for or expected - it just kind of happened. “My wife worked in human resources for a big company and she’d bring me along to all these corporate parties,” says Manfredini. “Someone would find out I was a contractor and, just like that, I’d end up talking to people about their homes for over an hour. It started out as this kind of joke, but my wife made this comment to me about how I should become a consultant, and I really began to consider it.”

Before the age of Pinterest and YouTube, there was a major gap in the home improvement and contracting market. The only place your “Average Joe” could find information for themselves was in industry magazines.

“The opportunity really presented itself,” recalls Manfredini. “I started in on the radio at WGN in 1995. By 2000, I was approached by websites, which were launching like crazy back then, and they really wanted me to work as their spokesperson and were offering a lot of money. I realized, there’s a market for this.”

Taking a leap of faith, each step Manfredini took led to a completely different career than he was ever expecting. “We had three kids, and my wife was working full time,” says Manfredini. “It’s been a lot of work, a lot of traveling, a lot of paying attention to the details. But I’m thankful for all of it.”

Since his start in the entertainment industry, Manfredini has seen some major changes, the most remarkable being the access to information that homeowners now have. When he worked as a contractor in the 1980s, Manfredini says that most people got their inspiration from magazine articles. As builders, they’d take that and make it their client’s reality. Now, homeowners are trying to figure out how to do a lot of the projects in their homes themselves.

“Pinterest is certainly part of the conversation,” says Manfredini. “Homeowners see people doing creative things, or beautiful examples of architecture, and people often aspire to want to do it themselves. But the Internet is also overwhelming. You can drive yourself crazy with Pinterest. If you give people too many choices, they’ll never make a decision.”

When it comes to more major projects that require a contractor, Manfredini says the biggest mistake people make is lacking patience. Many people meet one contractor and commit right away, but it’s important to remember that there are a handful of good contractors in every market no matter where you live.

“Those good contractors, you have to wait for,” says Manfredini. “The vast majority of the time, people don’t plan for their projects. They want it done next week. But really, they’re months out from that project being done. Before you even commit to a contractor, you need to find as many third party endorsements as possible and you need to get lots of bids. Think of it as a business proposition. Detach yourself from the emotional side.”

But in the age of on-demand and 24-hour service, waiting is a challenge. Manfredini comments on the fact that in our immediate society, we expect everything right away. But he urges homeowners to remember that when it comes to your home, it’s still a man-made proposition, and that takes time and energy in order to create a quality, long-lasting outcome.

As for DIY (do it yourself) projects, Manfredini urges homeowners to understand their own limitations. While DIY home improvement can be enticing, it’s important to start off small and build from there. “You can pull up a YouTube video on your phone and you can learn how to tile your floor,” says Manfredini. “You think it seems so easy, but there’s way more to it than that 3-minute video. So while that’s empowering, you need to get as much information as possible to say, I’m really able to do that.”

The real beauty that comes with the patience needed for quality home improvement, according to Manfredini, is that it forces millennials out of their immediate society and takes them back to a time when people appreciated things because they weren’t immediate, but took time and energy. Manfredini has found that home improvement and construction have a way of keeping us from taking our privilege, and our beautiful homes, for granted.