resources: watch, listen, learn
- The Internet
- The Worldwide Web can be a wonderful resource for many home improvements. Focus your Web search
on established and reputable sites; sure, sites that show you how to, say, make permanent repairs
with duct tape are entertaining, but serious work requires serious resources.
- There are plenty of good home improvement shows. Most programs on
DIY Network (Comcast channel 121) are quite
helpful. My personal favorite is
Ask This Old House,
which you can find on your local PBS station.
This Old House has been around for a long time and is full of good information, especially if
you want to remodel your whole house. Ask This Old House focuses primarily on smaller projects
- Every Saturday morning from 6:00 to 9:00, you can tune in to Mr. Fix-It with Lou
WGN (720 on the AM dial). Lou is Ace Hardware's "Helpful Hardware Man"
and has been a contractor and builder for many years. I've picked up many hints from
Lou's call-in show and agree with one of his rules: "happy wife = happy life." A listener
asked Lou about his view on a solid surface counter top. He and his wife disagreed on
Granite, Corian, Quartz, etc. The caller had a litany of reasons his preferred product was
better than his wife's. Lou agreed with every point the caller made, but ended the
conversation by having the caller repeat, "happy wife = happy
life." (After all, it's just a counter top!) Lou
also makes appearances at many home shows.
There seems to be a magazine for any conceivable business, hobby, or activity, be it selling
records, playing golf, and even walking. Of course, there are handyman magazines among them, and
they can be quite helpful. A down side to these publications, however, is that you often need to
factor in a multiple of 3. For example, if an article says you can do a project in one easy
afternoon, expect it to take three afternoons. The articles' writers have the luxury of a fully equipped
shop and don't have to move a bike or wagon out of the way before starting a project. Also, they
have someone to answer the phone for them, they don't have to walk the dog in the middle of the day...well, you get the point.
- I've subscribed to The Family Handyman
for decades and have found almost all of their articles to be outstanding. The pictures and
directions are full of helpful information, and after more than 30 years there's still something
worthwhile in every issue.
published by Handyman Club of America, is
another good magazine.
If you were to have only one book, I highly recommend Better Homes and Gardens'
Big Book of Home How-To. Though I've only discovered it recently, I've
found it very thorough with easy-to-follow instructions and many pictures.
If there is a downside, it's that this book lives up to its name: it's big;
my wife's 5-pound cast iron skillet is a pound lighter than this book!
- Hardware Stores and Home Centers
The people who work in hardware stores are usually more knowledgeable and helpful than the kid on
summer break whom you may find working in a home center. I'm not saying that there are not
knowledgeable and helpful folks in the home centers, but they are not as common. When you do find
someone who is helpful, make a note of it so you can seek out that person the next time you go to
that store. I always looked for Henry at my neighborhood Ace Hardware and the guy with the roadmap
nose at Handy Andy, both of whom helped me through many plumbing adventures in my early days as a
- Community Colleges
Check your local community college for basic home maintenance and repair classes.
here in Chicago, for example, will be offering such classes starting Summer 2012.
- Your Local Handyman
Have a question? Ask your local handyman!