8 of Our Favorite Bob Vila Quotes of All Time
Watch any interview with the grandaddy of home improvement, and you’ll see a guy that shares openly about what’s important.
1. “The purpose of our series is to show you the many steps involved in taking an old house that’s fallen on really hard times and saving it, turning it back into a home the family can be proud of.”
From the introduction of Bob’s very first episode of This Old House in 1979, this statement sums up so much of what he—and by extension, we here at BobVila.com—are all about. From the beginning, Bob has enjoyed not only salvaging what others might discard, but also sharing skills, uplifting spirits, and inviting us along on the journey. In 2022, Bob and This Old House were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 49th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards.
2. “The wardrobe was kind of weird, the hair was kind of long, but it was real life.”
Today, Bob is known for his closely trimmed beard, but when he was the host of This Old House, Bob looked every bit the 80s. For him, the colorful sweaters, corduroy pants, and work boots were his daily gear, but once he was on TV, he did feel a little self-conscious. “I didn’t feel like I looked right,” he said in his interview for This Old House: 40th Anniversary Special. The audience disagreed. In fact, Bob’s fun persona became a big part of the reason the show was an initial success.
3. “My dad built the house that we grew up in.”
Bob’s parents arrived in Florida from Havana in 1943, and Bob grew up in Miami. During his childhood, the family made frequent trips back and forth to Cuba, where he was exposed to early 20th-century architecture. His father built their house and shared the process with young Bob as he worked. This tradition of passing along skills is one Bob still continues today with both his own family and his extended family of fans.
4. “I got the community together to help me.”
Bob was a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama after he graduated from college in the late 1960s. “Being a Latin American, I looked at the possibilities of spending two years working in a Latin American country as something really, really exciting,” he told CNN. He constructed his first house, a one-room building where he lived, with the help of his new neighbors. This was his earliest foray into working side-by-side with others to create a home, showing by example that DIY is a group effort. When he returned to the U.S. that little house became a community center.
5. “I hate to say goodbye but it looks like we’ll be able to say hello again…”
At the end of the first season in 1979, This Old House won an Emmy Award, and next thing they knew, Bob, Norm, and the crew went national. “I do remember feeling somewhat embarrassed because, what am I doing on television?” Bob said on This Old House: 40th Anniversary Special. Suddenly, the guys were getting recognized on the street and had unexpected careers as public figures. Thankfully, after completing his 10 years on the show, Bob didn’t say goodbye. He went on to appear on shows including Bob Vila’s Home Again, Bob Vila, Guide to Historic Homes of America, Restore America for HGTV, and as a correspondent for Today and The CBS Early Show. Today, the editors at BobVila.com have the pleasure of carrying on his work and helping him say hello to a whole new generation of DIYers.
6. “It’s always been important to me…to try to promote healthy lifestyles and good ideas, not just good design.”
In an interview with the Television Academy, he talked about how important preservation and conservation have always been for him. It’s not just about rehabbing a house; it’s about recycle, reuse, and repurpose. From the beginning of his career, Bob endorsed green practices. In the first years of This Old House, the crew implemented solar and other conservationist processes. The longer he was in the industry, the more Bob endorsed environmentally friendly approaches to building, renovating, and daily household living.
7. “A job worth doing is a job worth doing right.”
This quote from Bob’s first appearance on the TV series Home Improvement, irked Tim ‘The Toolman” Taylor, but gave the rest of us a neat way to sum up Bob’s approach to home DIY. His focus on quality, on learning the right way to achieve the best results for a project, is a hallmark of his legacy. Bob appeared on three episodes of Home Improvement with actor Tim Allen, plus a few cameos sprinkled in here and there. Held up against Tim’s constant striving for “more power” and funny attempts to one-up the home improvement legend, Bob seemed even more like the steady, positive guy we all knew and loved.
8. “I like the idea of being remembered as the granddaddy of home improvement.”
In his interview with the Television Academy in 2010, Bob was asked how he’d like to be remembered. He was about to become a grandfather, so the idea of being our home improvement grandfather was on his mind. He shared his pride in a long career. “The whole idea of having inspired a lot of people to bring new life to old houses is something that I’m proud of. I’m very happy that it’s taken that turn.” But he is most humbled by the influence he’s had on younger generations. “I get stopped very often by a young man or young woman who will say ‘You’re the reason I’m a contractor, architect, interior designer, or a plumber.’ I had the opportunity to inspire a lot of people to go into building professions, and that’s very satisfying.”