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Stan the DIY man

He’s become a social media celebrity and recognised as a DIY legend for his Mitre10 home reno videos, but Stan Scott doesn’t just help people out around the house. He was dedicated to passing on valuable life-skills well before the rise of YouTube. Andrew Ashton reports . . .

Prior planning and asking for building advice are the two things social media sensation and long-time builder Stan Scott says are key to successful DIY renovations and learning new life-skills.

After fronting some of New Zealand's best- known renovation television shows Stan has more lately become a YouTube hit, where his home reno videos have reached legendary status.

Born in the Manawatu, before his family moved to Auckland when he was five, he finished his schooling at Edgewater College in Pakuranga. It was there his proficiency in woodwork and photography emerged.

“The one thing I was passionate about was woodwork. I started an apprenticeship when I was 15, and I've just turned 51, so it's been 36 years of building and I still absolutely love it.”

Stan is now living at Okitu, with wife Natalie — her family is from Gisborne — and their two children Rio and Vienna.

“I have a lot of family from Gisborne, from many generations ago. I bought a house here about seven years ago and moved in permanently about three years ago,” he said.

Before moving here Stan spent 30 years in the building trade in Auckland, before he decided to ask the question that would set him on a new trajectory.

“I'd been building for about 18 years and was starting to get a bit bored with doing the same old thing. It was back at the start of all the DIY shows like Hot Property and Changing Rooms and DIY Rescue. So I just rang up the production company.

At that time the celebrity builder on New Zealand's screens was John “Cocksy” Cocks.

‘“I asked him if he needed a hand and was told I could start tomorrow.”

Dan started renovating Cocksy's house for him and did a lot of work behind the scenes on DIY shows.

“Then I ended up fronting a few of them as the head builder on DIY Rescue and Trade Wars and a few others.”

After that he got a call from TVNZ to audition for a TV advertisement for Mitre10.

“I was literally under a house re-piling and walked into the studios with cobwebs and mud all over me and went for this audition. They called me back about three times and it turned out it was for a series of DIY videos, and that was 10 years ago.

‘For the first few years I carried on renovating houses and doing the Mitre10 thing, and then the Mitre10 thing really took off. The videos became more and more popular and we were shooting a lot more. So I had to choose one or the other and I took up the Mitre10 work, and it's just got more and more popular.”

Stan's videos have now racked up millions of views but he is still a fairly grounded Kiwi.

“I'm pretty low-profile. I just keep my head down but I'm always happy to take people's calls. I do a radio show every second Friday, with Jesse Mulligan, and I have my own radio show, which I've been doing for about 15 years on Magic Talk on a Saturday morning, where we take people's calls and give DIY advice. It's good to be able to have some knowledge you can pass on to other people.

“It's like anything, if you don't know what you are doing some people just don't want to start. I've been restoring a Model A Ford and I didn't know anything about that. It's not until you meet other people who know about that sort of thing and you can ask them.

“Most people are happy to give advice and it's the same with me. If I can help someone out, I'm more than happy to.

“It's a good thing, it's just passing on knowledge and ensuring someone does it right. It's a good feeling when you build something and you can stand back and look at it, knowing you have done it yourself and it's quite rewarding for both parties.

“I think nowadays in this throw-away society, we have lost a lot of our skills and the need to fix things. (But) now that things cost so much and many people are more environmentally aware, they don't want to throw things away.”

That meant people were more aware of the value of having life-skills to fix things.

“It's a great achievement just knowing how to change a door lock. It's just a great life skill, it makes you feel like you are capable in life to do things on your own and survive on your own, and just keep building your knowledge.”

People asking for advice come from “across the board”, Stan says.

“Over the past six or seven years, I've seen a massive switch to females getting into the trade and being more proactive around the house. Women don't have any inhibitions coming up and asking for advice, whereas sometimes, men feel a little bit coy about asking because maybe they feel they should know how to do it.

“Sometimes Mitre10 puts on “ladies' nights”and a thousand women will turn up and there's always a lady who will drag her husband up and say ‘go on, ask him,' how to do this and that.

“But it's so good to see a lot more females getting into DIY or carpentry, or anything in the trade sector.”

Stan was also happy to pass on some DIY nuggets for the Gisborne Herald.

“If there's a project you want to do, make it very clear to yourself about exactly what it is you want to do.

“First thing, maybe check with the council to make sure you are allowed to do that thing without a permit or a consent.

“Don't be afraid to ring up a builder or someone in the construction industry and ask for advice. You'll find there are a lot of people who will freely give you advice.

“Building materials are getting so expensive now, make sure you do your research about what you are doing first because you don't want to stuff up the materials.”

And, “order your materials midweek, so you don't waste your weekend”.

Stan Scott with Coco Picture by Liam Clayton
HAPPY PLACE: Stan Scott in his workshop. Picture by Liam Clayton