When someone mentions home repair, if you imagine a man with a hammer, it’s time to change the image. Tool belts wrapped around female waists are becoming increasingly common. How-to videos and blogs geared to do-it-yourself (DIY) women abound on the Internet, power tools are available in pink, and Home Depot’s monthly “Do-It-Herself” workshops are offered in all 3,000 of its stores.

A 2013 Ace Hardware survey of 1,000 households found that in 62 percent of them, women had a hand in home repairs and projects. Single women are the second largest group of homeowners, after couples, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Lori Holt Pfeiler, executive director of San Diego Habitat for Humanity (SDHFH), suggests that women are buying homes more than single men because women know the importance of a stable home. House repair is the next logical step.

“The economy drives a lot of things,” she said. “Maybe there’s not enough money to have something around the house done. You think ‘I have to do this myself.’ ”

Not that the concept of women using tools and fixing things is entirely new. Home Depot established “Do-It-Herself” a decade ago, and drew more than 350,000 participants in the first 18 months. SDHFH, which has trained volunteers of both genders from its inception, is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

“When you volunteer at a job site, you may not know how to lay tile, but superintendents will teach you,” Holt Pfeiler said. “From hanging dry wall, putting in fences to laying pavers, almost every aspect of building goes on every single day.”

In order to purchase a home through SDHFH, families are required to complete 250 hours of “sweat equity” per adult homeowner, in lieu of a down payment.

Kristine Tendvahl put in those hours, about half on her own home and the other half for various SDHFH projects. A substitute teacher and tutor, Tendvahl, 43, now lives with her husband, Don, and their two children in the El Cajon home they acquired through SDHFH.

“Among other things,” Tendvahl said, “I used a sawzall to cut pipes for the irrigation system in the front yard, assisted in the wiring and installation of my Rinnai tankless water heater, measured and cut lumber to install a floor in my attic, and installed vertical foundation bolts to earthquake-proof my new home.”

“I’d been doing simple handiwork since I was an adolescent, so it was easy for me to hammer nails, use a drill, and screw in screws,” she added. “Wiring the water heater and installing the foundation bolts were nerve-racking for me. However, the construction crew with Habitat For Humanity were knowledgeable and patient teachers.”

She and her husband have completed several projects on their house, including installing an irrigation system and laying a brick and paver patio.

“I believe more women are doing home maintenance rather than hiring someone to do it because, first and foremost, it’s less expensive,” she said. “Not having to rely on a man to take care of basic home repairs or maintenance gives women a sense of empowerment and accomplishment.”

For women who want to go beyond home repairs into business for themselves, San Diego’s Cindi Lapio is an excellent role model. A licensed contractor for more than 15 years, Lapio owns Dream Green Builder. Now 53, she started out in her 20s as an employee with a pest control company.

“I was asked to interview for the manager position, which was unheard of back then — a woman in pest control management,” Lapio said. “But the (departing) manager said, ‘if anybody should manage this place it’s her.’ It was beautiful that he was confident in me. I couldn’t go back, once someone like him believed in me.”

Lapio left the exterminator business dreaming of becoming a contractor. She skimmed the yellow pages calling property management firms, hoping they needed handy work done. She had a ledger book prepared for clientele.

“My girlfriend at the time asked, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m getting ready for my clients.’ But I didn’t have any,” the now successful contractor recalled with a chuckle. “It takes a lot of gumption to try something you’ve never done, but the payoff is self-respect and accomplishment. … Women call and ask me for advice. I usually walk them through their projects over the phone.”

More women are experiencing the satisfaction that can come from DIY.

“Being able to decide every detail about a home project and having the freedom to create something unique … is super fun and extremely rewarding,” Kristine Tendvahl said. “In addition, knowing that we built our own deck, among other things, instills an immense sense of pride in our forever home.”

Article by Beth Wood, Featured in the San Diego Union-Tribune

Photo by Eduardo Contreras/U-T