DIY Dads: The Rise and Fall of the Household Handyman


Give a dad an inch and he’ll take a mile.

You know the story: he moves from paintbrushes to power washers to piles of random wrenches with a growing hardware store addiction. This is the evolution of the “Household Handyman,” the dad-turned-DIY specialist. For my dad, the transformation started when our boiler broke one fall.

A banker, he had little business intervening but he wasn’t going out without a fight. Within minutes, the hawk in a suit and tie had donned his worst t-shirt and shorts (“in case it got greasy”) and was intent on finding the Household Handyman’s Holy Grail: the boiler instruction manual.

One problem: the boiler was ten years old…finding yesterday’s instruction manual is hard enough. So, he went a-rummaging through parts of the house I didn’t know existed to emerge from the garage a half hour later, manual in hand, ambition in his eyes. It was exciting to see him march into the dark boiler room.

But Dad’s momentum soon turned to confusion, not that he couldn’t have figured the boiler out, but the chances didn’t look great; his head turned to the side at the oversized manual, a random piece of metal in his left hand. He had one trick left up his sleeve, though.

It was an old trick that he learned from Steve. Steve was a neighbor of ours and also happened to be my best friend’s dad. He was great – always there with us to play catch, drive us to the movie theater, coach our baseball team. He was a very involved father so he took all of his household maintenance tasks head-on.

At the end of the day, Steve was a tad more successful than my dad with this stuff (though he never tackled a mighty boiler). His first fix was a broken kitchen cabinet then he moved on to greater things and, before the end of the summer, he’d build his own white picket fence.

Steve’s house became a DIY playground and his next project was his roof shingling. What I didn’t tell you is that I grew up in South Carolina and Steve was so hot up there that, when he was hammering nails, a bead of sweat ran into his eye and that hammer went down right on his thumb! He didn’t surrender easily but some twenty minutes later he realized that he was moving very slowly, and had no choice but to reach into his pocket for Plan B.

What do my father’s and Steve’s Plan Bs have in common? They both involved a couch, a Heineken, the game, and a cell phone. There’s much a Household Handyman can do…but not even a 12-piece Allen key can provide a household with the convenience of a professional. Our boiler was fixed and Steve’s roof was shingled within a day.

In observance of Father’s Day, give your dedicated dad a break: see just how easy TalkLocal can make finding local service professionals.

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