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DIY Decline: Are Men Less Handy Than They Used to Be?

Filed Under: Know-How

A new study shows that less men are doing their own home repairs. Could DIYers be an endangered species?

DIY projectsA walkway and house addition, both built by the writer's father -- Steve -- at her childhood home. Photo: Courtesy of Nikki Pepper

I grew up with a dad who could do everything -- and I'm not exaggerating because I'm his daughter. He built our beds and dressers; he designed and landscaped our yard; he even drew out and built an addition to our house. When it came to fixing things, my dad was the go-to guy, not just for us, but for friends and family, too.

Fast forward to my own home -- a city apartment that I share with my boyfriend. Now, I know that not everyone can build and fix like my dad. And don't get me wrong -- I love my boyfriend just the way he is. But he's just not a Mr. Fix-it kind of guy. At all. We managed through the IKEA boxes, but when it came to buying the right energy-efficient lightbulbs and adding shelving to our closet, I knew who to call.

Luckily, my dad likes being my DIY go-to. But seeing the divide between his home improvement skills and my boyfriends' made me think: What other Gen X-ers out there can't tell a back saw from a jab saw?

Apparently quite a few. AA Home Emergency Response conducted a study that shows a new breed of "techno-sexual" men has surfaced. Home repairs are being ditched in favor of technological prowess. Which leaves me -- and the girlfriends and wives of these techno-sexuals -- with amazing HD TV...but also a leaking sink.

Over the past 40 years, the percent of men able to perform home maintenance needs has steadily decreased. In 1970, 71% of men had a full DIY arsenal, compared to just 44% now. Why the decrease? Two main reasons: Fathers aren't passing down the skills needed and tech savviness has become more desirable.

So how long before DIY goes the way of the dinosaurs? AA estimates that at this rate, DIYers will be "extinct" by 2048. Because the more masculinity becomes more tied up in wires and pixels, the less confident men feel in their ability to conquer DIY projects.

I don't know how accurate this prediction is. After all -- who exactly will be painting fences or installing new windows in 2048? While studies like this one are best taken with a grain of salt, I think it's worthwhile to use it as an excuse to stop and reflect the next time something breaks down in my home. It might just be the perfect opportunity to encourage my dad to pass down his fix-it skills to me.

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  • Tamara Ann

    Well Yeah! I can do more than most of the men I know. It is sad men just hire some one to do the fixing up of the home. Alot of men do not know even how to work on a car this day and age. I have noticed men today are realy prissy.

  • John

    Do It Yourself is actually easier these days. I'm 24. My dad isn't handy at all. I actually learned everything from a combination of my grandpa, mom, and the internet. But, to be honest, there aren't many DIY opportunities around my house (so I just make wood carvings :P). Oh yeah, there's absolutely nothing wrong with guys being financially and electronically efficient. God knows women aren't. Also, the reason for the "sissiness" of men? Feminism. Typical girls: cause a problem, then complain about it.

  • joenivark

    I'm in my 50's and pretty handy, although I do turn over the larger projects to the professionals.

    I think a large part of it has to do with the reduction of interest in "traditional" (i.e. older) hobbies -- wood working, building model planes and cars, model railroading, etc. I learned how to use tools because of model trains. To build the platforms, I needed to be able to saw, drill holes, make joints, etc. To make the trains go, I needed to know how to wire a circuit. It was a pretty easy extension from putting a 12 volt light inside a model building to being able to change a 120 volt switch or fixture.

    Additionally, without the distraction of the computer and video games in the 60's, I was more willing to participate in projects my dad had to do, so I watched and helped when a new screen door was replaced, when a door needed to be hung, or if the float valve in the toilet needed to be replaced.

    I did insist on my kids taking a tool box to college with them, but I am sure that I'll be receiving plenty of calls from their own homes once they have them.

  • DH

    Smart man... whether he is well educated in school or not. They are two different but overlapping situations.
    Keep showing and telling others that being a man (young guy coming into adulthood or already there) does not require one to make excuses for being male in answer to someone's snarky remarks.

    Women and girls admire a man (young or adult) who acts like a man: self esteem, doesn't tolerate insults, accepts his shortcomings and doesn't parade them, and looks for females who are working at being 'real' and who discard childish habits and sarcasm.

  • jayde1958

    This definately depends upon the individual. My father could do it all. He passed those most of these traits down to my brothers and I. I on the other hand had to learn more. Mom died at an early age (12) so taking care of my younger brother (9) (we were latch key)) had to leard to cook, required to clean. Joined the service other skills learned. The bottom line: it depends on the person and their internal drive.

  • SwimDude

    What a ridiculous article. I am a 50 year old man. I Cook, Clean, do Laundry, clean the windows, vacuum the carpet, cut the grass, trim the shrubs, trim the trees, change the oil, replace alternators, replace batteries, do brake jobs. I also have an incredible Home Theater system that I put together myself, and a Computer that I built from the mother board up. I also raise my 15 year old daughter who is a 3 time National Honor and National Junior Honor Society member. Now if I could just find a woman that would do one thing..... "Not Cheat on me". Did I mention that I earn a Six Figure Income and am darn close to a Seven figure Net Worth???

  • Doug H

    It should not surprise anyone if fewer men are 'handy'. The boys' fathers have been struggling to make ends meet and do not have time to spend with sons in the home, divorce rates rising (leaving the kids with mom who seldom can do physical tool-related skills), and television shows and commercials that portray adult men and young men as incompetent goofs who are chided and scolded by a wife or girlfriend. Add to it the exodus of physical and technical jobs to overseas manufacturing and what are you left with?

    And that's just what a socialistic government wants: learned helplessness with less resistance. And has it gotten better or worse since dems took over congress and the presidency since 2006?


  • Handywithall

    I have been in the trades for 40 years , I can repair almost anything and probably have saved thousands and thousands of dollars over the years in car and home repairs, and I am self taught ,with help from from my dad. a daughter of a good friend of mine got married to a tech geek ,who would rather play WI games then do anything else, and I see this over and over. they bought a house about a year ago , then a lawn mower, my friend had to go over and show him how to start it, only after watching him struggle and pull the cord for 15 minutes, he simply went over and showed him where the on, off switch was and with one pull it started , these are the men [ boys ] that are the future of our Country ................GOD HELP US

  • Jo

    I see a lot of those guys in my area. Such a shame. They don't even WANT to learn to do anything.

  • martin

    I am a pretty handy DIY kinda guy, but am afraid of breaking some code and losing any insurance if I do plumbing (water damage) or electrical (fire hazzard) even add on's etc. (structural integrity)
    if this world was'nt so lawyer sue happy, i'd be dong more!

  • MoonBeamWatcher

    PLEASE, if not tooooo LATE, grow a pair!

  • TIM

    Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. Yes, denigrate men which has been in vogue for a good twenty years since women think they're so amazing at doing everything. Much of this blame comes from Feminism over the past forty plus years. It's great that women want to pursue their own careers out of desire or economic necessity. Today we constantly hear of "women and children", or women's health care issues as if there are no single fathers out there struggling. Feminism has made many women ugly b's and no wonder many men are confused since a court will overwhemingly favor a woman in a divorce only because she's a female. Comments about men being eternal boys and never growing up are insulting in and of themselves. Women today want to invade and control every aspect of a man's life. Men encourage women to have fun with their girlfriends and allow them their space. Women generally try to manipulate and discourage men from having their time with their friends. Women wanted equality which is fine. My point is if you're making money then you can also open your own doors and pay for the dinner also instead of wanting men to constantly treat you like princesses. How many women can't clean or cook for that matter? That would explain why the top chefs in most of the premier restaurants are MEN! Frankly, The same complaints women had about men can also apply from men to women when they see they're not appreciated or respected. I see it constantly in articles, movies and TV shows the constant digs about men. If a man wrote the same it would never fly and he's be shut down and sued. As far as women complaining about standards of beauty being defined by men, another excuse to blame men since you dress to impress each other first and you know the men come later. You put this on yourselves to tear each other apart with your cattiness and insecurities since it's part of the female DNA. Since many women say they can't figure out why men don't ask or notice, or lie to a woman by never calling her when he says he will;perhaps it's because WOMEN largely can't handle honesty from a man if he's not attracted to her or a marriage, dating relationship doesn't hold fire. I'm glad women are doing their own thing. Now many of you realize how rejection feels since not every man is after what you think he is!

  • Joe

    I don't agree with most of what you said because you come across angry, but I do agree with you that there are a lot of women Gen-Xers who do not know how to cook. But they can down load the latest apps and manupilate the latest techno equipment.

  • Mandingo

    Nikki- How about a new 'study' titled : Why do the women these days have so little class compared to years past... To me, a much more appropriate way to spend your time 'writing'

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