Survey Reveals How Handy Americans Really Are

By HomeAdvisor

Published September 14, 2021

couple hanging photograph on wall

As a homeowner, all those tasks your landlord used to do—and your parents did before them—are now on your shoulders. You’ve either got to figure out how to do them yourself or pay someone else to do them. Either way, it would help if you knew how to do a few things around the house. But do you?

The truth is, many homeowners don’t have a clue about how to fix household issues themselves, even if it’s something as simple as draining a water heater or restoring power after blowing a fuse. If you don’t know your way around a toolbox, well, at least you’re not alone.

In fact, we surveyed Americans to find out how handy they are when it comes to things around the house and got the following answers.

Key Takeaways:

  • Millennials think they’re the handiest generation, rating themselves a 3.8 out of 5.
  • Nearly 3 in 4 said they’ve had to either abandon a project or call in a professional.
  • Millennials were the most likely to abandon a project or call a professional (77%), while baby boomers (63%) were least likely.

How Handy Are Americans? 

Americans consider themselves pretty handy. Of those we surveyed, 19% reported that they were extremely handy. On average, Americans gave themselves a 3.7 out of 5 handiness rating, with men (3.8) considering themselves to be slightly handier than women (3.6).

Millennials think they’re the handiest generation, checking in at 3.8, while baby boomers think they’re the least at 3.5. 

how handy are americans

Most respondents (43%) picked up their home improvement knowledge from their parents. Their partners were a distant second at 18%, followed by the internet at 16%. Others looked for help elsewhere, including how-to books, trial and error and even their first boss.

But even though most Americans trusted their parents to show them the ropes, they tend to get their home improvement inspiration elsewhere. More than three in four turn to social media and 82% even said they were satisfied with the result of a project they tried after seeing it on social media. In our survey, 85% said they enjoy home improvement shows on TV.

Even when Americans don’t consider themselves handy, it doesn’t stop them from trying and succeeding: 85% said they enjoy doing home improvement projects, and more than one in four have never had to abandon a project or ask for professional help. Moreover, nine in 10 say they’re comfortable in home improvement stores.

Do People See Home Projects Through?

Despite the confidence level of our respondents, they were willing to admit there were times when DIY tasks got the better of them. In fact, nearly three in four said they’ve had to either abandon a project or call in a local handyperson.

Men are more likely to throw in the towel than women (77% vs. 68%, respectively). Millennials were the most likely to give up at 77%, while baby boomers were least likely at 63%.

how often americans give up on home improvement projects

What Projects Are Americans Most Comfortable Completing?

People are most likely to unclog a toilet or drain or build a piece of furniture themselves, according to our results. However, they’re likely to hand off projects that require a bit more work, like mowing the lawn or mounting a TV on the wall. Respondents were likely to leave the more difficult jobs to professionals: installing wood floors, replacing an entire toilet and retiling a shower.

home improvement projects americans can do

Changing a lightbulb topped the list of projects people in our survey most often said they’d succeeded in doing on their own. 

Other common success stories were:

  • Building a piece of “assembly-required” furniture
  • Unclogging a drain
  • Changing the batteries in a smoke alarm 
  • Unclogging a toilet

Projects people are most likely to try again include hanging a picture or piece of art, hanging curtains, using a pressure washer and steam cleaning a carpet.

And since you need tools to do many of these projects, here are the ones Americans are most likely to have in their toolkits. Pretty much the basics.

tools americans use most

What Home Projects Do People Avoid?

Some of the simplest tasks wind up being a sore spot for all ages. Nearly two in five millennials (35%) said they have never changed a lightbulb, and 24% of Gen Z said they wouldn’t even try to change one again. 

home improvement projects americans can’t do successfully

There are plenty of ways to find a stud in the wall, but nearly one in five Gen Xers said they wouldn’t attempt to do it again. 

A lot of baby boomers must have breathed a sigh of relief when they saw ads that boasted “no assembly required” because one in five of them won’t try to build an “assembly-required” piece of furniture again.

But most of the projects people are least likely to do successfully on their own are fairly involved and labor-intensive: replacing an entire toilet, retiling a shower, removing a popcorn ceiling, draining a water heater and installing wood floors.

Projects they’re least likely to try again, however, are less complex: changing a lightbulb, finding a stud, unclogging a toilet, changing the batteries in a smoke alarm or replacing the air filter on an HVAC unit. Better to leave those to the pros next time. 

home improvement projects americans have other people do

Fortunately, there are professionals out there who are ready and willing to do various jobs, whether you’re talking about more involved work like updating your home’s electrical system or more general handyperson services

But our survey showed that the American do-it-yourself confidence is alive and well, even if we do occasionally admit defeat and find someone else to fix that leaky pipe.


Between August 13 and August 28, 2021, we surveyed 2,084 homeowners about how handy they are using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service. Of the respondents, 60% were male and 40% were female; all respondents were 18 or older, with the average age being 39. 

Fair Use

Feel free to use this data and research with proper attribution linking to this study. When you do, please give credit and link to

No Comments Yet

Are You Familiar With This Topic? Share Your Experience.

Compare quotes from local pros Compare Quotes
Return to Top