ST. CHARLES – Although his title is Mr. Fix-It, Lou Manfredini will admit that he doesn't know how to fix everything.
The home improvement expert and radio and television personality will broadcast his "HouseSmarts" radio show from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Feb. 9 at the 35th annual Old House New House home show at Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles. Manfredini, who also is a home contributor on NBC's "Today" show and WGN-TV's morning news, will then meet and greet fans in the Perma-Seal booth #505 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. that day.
Joining him at the show will be Clint Harp of Harp Design Co., carpenter and craftsman from the show “Fixer Upper” on HGTV and “Wood Work” on DIY Network. He will give presentations at 3 p.m. Feb. 9 and at noon Feb. 10.
Approximately 10,000 people are expected to attend the Old House New House home show, which is billed as the largest and longest-running home show in the Chicago. Show hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 8, 9 and 10. Manfredini's radio show will be broadcast in the New Orleans Ballroom at Pheasant Run Resort.
Adult admission is $7. Senior admission (over 62) is $4. Children under 18 attend free.
Parking is free. A portion of the ticket proceeds benefits Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley and their ReStores in Elgin and Chicago.
Kane County Chronicle reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to Manfredini about his upcoming appearance. The interview has been edited for style and length.
Eric Schelkopf: Of course, you will be doing a live broadcast of your "HouseSmarts" radio show at the Old House New House show. How many years have you been appearing at the show?
Lou Manfredini: That particular show I have appeared at for many years. I bet I've done my radio show out there at least a half a dozen times.
That number could be more. I've been out there quite a bit. We always get a really nice turnout. We're lucky that WGN Radio has a lot of listeners in the western suburbs.
I think really, quite frankly, they come out for the free pastries and coffee. They could really care less about me.
Schelkopf: That's not true. Does it make it special the fact that you are actually meeting people instead of taking their questions over the radio?
Manfredini: I am always super jazzed to meet our listeners and to help them face to face. It's a great ego boost to meet people and to hear from them about how you have helped them over the years.
Not that my ego needs any stroking, but it's just nice to meet people and help them on a personal level. And to entertain them. We have a lot of fun when we do live shows and so I'm always excited about participating in that.
Schelkopf: So as far as the knowledge that you've gained over the years, where does that knowledge come from?
Manfredini: I spent the vast majority of my career as a homebuilder. I started in the construction business when I was a teenager. I started my own business with a partner back in the '80s and spent about 25 years building or renovating homes.
I just sort of really became a student of the industry. I was just really curious, you know. I think I would have made a very good engineer because I really enjoy understanding how things work.
I've always been very curious. I ask a lot of questions. And for some reason, the industry around the home has such a great interest to me that I'm able to retain that knowledge.
I've had the opportunity to work with such great professionals in their field over the years and have asked them questions, professionals like a master plumber or a master electrician. I ask them, 'How did you do this?' or "Why did you do this?'
I am by no means an expert in all things about a home. But I have a way to use the knowledge of the different aspects of a home and then tie it all together so that for the most part, homeowners and do-it-yourselfers, who I have always kind of really focused on, can make a decision on whether they can do something themselves or if they have to hire a professional.
Schelkopf: You say you're not an expert in all things but you've been given the title Mr. Fix-It. Is that both an honor and a burden to have such a title?
Manfredini: It's not a burden. It is an honor, and I take it very seriously.
This March, I will be at WGN Radio for 24 years. I am both humbled by that and a little bit frightened, because it means I got old.
My goal is to always be as honest and as forthcoming with my listeners and also my viewers, because I host a television show as well. I have a lot of fun with it. I don't take it too seriously.
I'm not performing surgery. But I also do take the responsibility to heart in the fact that I want to give people the right answer to help them make the right decision.
Schelkopf: You and your wife also own two Ace Hardware stores, one in Chicago and the other in Villa Park.
Manfredini: I was working with Ace Hardware, and still do, as their media spokesperson. And I was meeting all these hardware store owners across the country, many of whom were husband and wife teams.
I said to her, 'Why don't we open up a hardware store in case this thing all fails so we have something to fall back on?' She agreed, and it's been one of the best business decisions I think we've made.
We have a really dedicated staff and really good people who we are impressed with every day.
Schelkopf: So what's the best part of what you do?
Manfredini: I am fortunate enough that I've been doing this for a long time. If my wife and I or my family goes out to dinner, I'll get recognized.
And I don't say that to be full of myself. They will come up and say, 'Hey, I like your show. I have a question.'
That to me is so cool. I think the most fulfilling thing for me is when I am able to help somebody.