Women armed with power tools take on DIY projects in growing numbers
Sara Gardner of Cranberry bends over a plank and concentrates as she uses an electric multitool to chip away at the wood.
Through her safety goggles, she checks out the crevices she quickly and effortlessly made with the power tool, which she was trying out at a Home Depot.
“That's pretty neat,” says Gardner, 27. Her husband gave her a pink tool bag for Christmas, but there's no need to be distinctly girlie with Gardner. She is a handy woman who likes her power tools as much as the man of the house.
“We kind of cross function with the tools,” she says.
Power tools, once tagged exclusively for men's work, are drawing more and more female buyers and users, industry observers say. Many women, just like their male counterparts, love and swear by their power tools, and the do-it-yourself projects they can complete with the tools.
Because so many women are home-owners today — there are nearly twice as many single-female home buyers as single-male buyers, according to 2011 data from the National Association of Realtors — it's no wonder that many are tackling household projects themselves, say Rob Marguriet and Kevin Siedl of The Home Depot in West Mifflin, where about half of the employees in the tools and hardware department are female.
Today's power tools — electric drills, screwdrivers and saws — are more user-friendly, lighter in weight, stronger and longer-lasting, Siedl and Marguriet say.
Many female customers will watch a how-to YouTube video for a project, then come in to the store to buy the tools after trying them out at demo stations and realizing they aren't as scary as they thought, says Siedl, the store manager. The women come alone, or with their husbands and/or kids, or maybe a female friend.
“They're just becoming much more educated and less intimidated by it,” Siedl says.
Hanna Rosin — author of “The End of Men: And the Rise of Women” — says that women's increasing interest in power tools reflects their increasing self-reliance in society.
“A lot more women are homeowners,” says Rosen, co-founder of Slate's Double X blog. “With a lot of single women, the reliance on a man to fix the broken sink is a lot less obvious than it was.”
Calling a professional to fix household problems can cost a lot of money, and for homeowners — male or female — learning how to fix things themselves makes good financial sense, Rosin says. Also, cultural trends have led to growing acceptance of women doing aggressive, physical activities, like playing sports, Rosin says.
Do-it-yourself projects have a gender-neutral feel to them, she says; think of Martha Stewart, the female face of DIY household projects.
Jackie Mitchell, head of the tools and hardware department at the West Mifflin Home Depot, says she sees a lot of single moms shopping for power tools — and she is one of them.
“I can't afford to hire somebody” to work on the house, Mitchell says. “A lot of stuff that needs done around the house is small.”
Do-it-yourself projects are not only inexpensive, but gratifying, she says.
Female power-tool enthusiasts don't fit any stereotype, say Mitchell and Rosin. They could be tough, muscular and jeans-clad, or they could be soccer moms in a skirt.
Some handywomen just do their own jobs around the house, but others have made a career out of it. Corri Pranevich — a Finleyville handywoman who calls her business “Fixin' Vixen” — works mainly as a concrete contractor, but does a lot of fix-it jobs, especially during the winter. Pranevich enjoys doing projects with power tools around her own house.
“If there's a tool that Home Depot has, I probably have it,” says Pranevich, 39, who is the fourth-generation concrete worker in her family. “You name it: drills, drill drivers, impact guns, jackhammer.”
The tools aren't scary to Pranevich, but some of the bigger ones — like a brick cutoff saw or table saw — are “downright dangerous,” so you have to know what you're doing.
“You've got to have a clear head,” she says.
Pranevich sometimes amazes observers, who may not be used to seeing a woman do the heavy-labor tasks.
“It's pretty common now for women to be carpenters and know their way around certain things,” she says. “When I'm on a machine, they say, ‘Wow, you know what you're doing.
“I think it's become more acceptable,” she says.
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7824.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.