The Complete Guide to Home Carpentry

Carpentry basics for new DIYers.

Carpentry is arguably the most fundamental skill used in constructing a home. Whether a DIYer wants to remodel a room or replace individual components such as countertops, carpentry is an essential skill to have.

The problem is that not many people have it. The array of saws and other tools may be intimidating to the beginner. Where exactly do you start? The Complete Guide to Home Carpentry From Black & Decker hopes to provide an answer to that question.

The book covers all the aspects of carpentry that those who possess little or intermediate knowledge will need to get their carpentry projects done. As with any serious project, the first step is the planning. The planning phase stage is the point where the DIYer will need to determine which tools are necessary and the demands of the project. The Complete Guide to Home Carpentry advises that the plan be carefully laid out and such aspects as materials and building permits be considered.

Early on in the book, the whole issue of safety during the project is covered with DIYers being advised to pay attention to their equipment and their environment to minimize the dangers. The book covers the basics of the home workshop and offers safety advice on that too, which includes the necessity of having fire extinguishers and smoke detectors along with tools.

The Complete Guide to Home Carpentry includes a section on choosing the right lumber for a project, which is a skill that not many beginning carpenters will have. Readers are taught how to assess the grades and categories of lumber used for different purposes. This part of the book comes with pictures and infographics to help provide greater clarity.

Overall, this book is perfect for those who would like to handle more of their carpentry projects but have no idea where to start. It provides a thorough and straightforward introduction to working with wood as it relates to constructing or remodeling a home.    

The Great American House

A guide to restoring classic older American homes while retaining their character.


When it comes to restoring an older home, the challenge is to retain the home’s natural classical appearance while making it a comfortable place for people to live in the present. Blending a home’s historical character with the modern lifestyle is not easy. The goal of Gil Schafer‘s The Great American House is to teach readers how to do this, or more specifically, the author’s take on how to do it.

One area in which older home-design often conflicts with modern needs is in the area of kitchens. The author points out that houses used to be built with tiny kitchens but immense living-rooms because kitchens were solely for the servants. Servant-less modern homeowners, however, may want more spacious kitchens but without losing any of the home’s historical charm.

Author Schafer is an architect with a love of older homes. He states this in his introduction to the book and points out that his love for older homes was started in his childhood. Schafer‘s childhood allowed him to view multiple home-designs and helped to forge his tastes in architecture as an adult. He stated that it was in his childhood that learned the value of such aspects of a house as landscaping and interior decoration.

Schafer covers the elements that make for a great house, these include an update that melds perfectly with the home’s character. The author describes work that his firm has done such as utilizing outdated parts of a home like servants’ quarters and eliminating dining rooms to make for larger living rooms. He has used both long passageways (“enfilades”) and stairways to remove the disconnect between the formal front parts of a house and the informal back areas.

Overall, the book is a guide for those with larger, older homes to renovate them for modern use; it comes with lots of photographs to provide inspiration.  

Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook

How to prepare your home and family for natural disasters.

The effects of Hurricane Sandy on the east coast of the United States have once again brought home the importance of disaster preparedness. The fact is that no matter how much warning people have, hurricanes still manage to catch many off-guard.

While it is impossible to prevent certain types of damage (a tree crashing through a wall of your home, for example), it is possible to mitigate the harm and ride out the aftermath with relative comfort. Preparation is key. To that end a book like Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook is particularly useful in preparing your home and your family to face events like hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.

The book starts out with instructions on how to prepare for the most common type of disaster: the short-term ones. Author Peggy Layton describes what to do in the event of something like a forest fire or chemical spill headed toward a home, namely, evacuate. The various steps involved in a good evacuation plan are covered.

The most basic needs like water and food also factor in to a disaster-preparedness plan and she covers those as well.  Non-perishable items such as canned goods, rice and dried beans (along with other items) are all on her list of things to have on hand in the event that there is no access to food after a disaster.

How likely is it that grocery stores will run out of goods in the event of a storm? Anyone who has lived through a hurricane can tell you that it can happen in a matter of hours to a couple of days. The author points this out as another reason to stock up.

She covers the contents of different emergency kits depending on the nature of the disaster and how long recovery is likely to take. The Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook is useful for everyone, but especially those living in areas prone to natural disasters and who realize that they may need some help getting ready for them.


The Handbuilt Home

A guide to DIY woodworking.

One of the benefits of being a DIYer when it comes to furniture projects around the home is the amount of money that can be saved. In tough times, this is even more important, but there is one major obstacle that stands in the way of many people: skill.

Those have no experience with woodwork or with the handling of power tools are often intimidated by the learning curve. That is where a book like The Handbuilt Home comes in handy. Not only does it have a selection of projects for a DIYer to attempt, it provides instructions for those who are entirely new to the hobby of woodworking.

Author Ana White starts the book out with a list of the many benefits that a DIYer can get from their furniture projects including customized furniture, and then quickly moves on to the tools that will be needed to get started.  The expense of woodworking tools may discourage some would-be DIYers from taking up the hobby, but the tools White lists are all basic and readers should find that they either have them already or are able to afford them.

They include pliers, a tape measure, a hammer and a drill.  She also provides the reader with basic safety instructions for handling their equipment. The book includes instructions on everything from basic shelf-building to guidelines for more advanced projects like Adirondack chairs and picnic tables.

The Handbuilt Home is perfect for those who have always wanted to go into woodworking but lack knowledge of the basics.  It provides the kind of from-the-ground-up instruction that can turn a beginner into a skilled woodworker as long as they are willing to put in the effort. 

Staying Put

A guide to renovating your present home instead of buying a new one.

This book was written to help homeowners create the home they want instead of going out and purchasing a new, even more expensive home. As the title of the book implies, the philosophy behind it is about working with what you have instead of going elsewhere.

This is especially relevant in light of the last few years when being able to move to a more expensive housing option was not necessarily the wisest financial decision of most people. Smartly remodeling a home can be done for a far lower cost than the price of a new home.  

Of course, attempting drastic remodeling is not the kind of thing that should be done without careful consideration of what the homeowner wants and what they are working with. This is where Staying Put attempts to help by providing the homeowner with advice on what is possible and how to accomplish it. The book is written by Duo Dickinson, an architect with some 30 years experience in the trade.

The book starts out with an explanation of why staying in their present home might be a good idea for some American families. It also points out some of the many reasons people may want to change homes, ranging from expanding families to just a general dissatisfaction with the set-up of their home. Then it proceeds into a detailed explanation of what a homeowner must do in order to improve the condition of their home.

Since moving is not a workable option for most homeowners, Dickinson advises them to focus on renovation and/or remodeling. They will need to consider such factors as cost as well as getting a home that is right for their lifestyle. There is advice on everything from choosing the right site, to designing the perfect home office.

Staying Put provides the perfect general guidelines for homeowners who have chosen to work with what they have until they can afford something better. 

Knack Organizing Your Home: Decluttering Solutions and Storage Ideas

Reining in the mess in your home with a few simple guidelines.

De-cluttering a home does not necessarily mean that you will be called upon to lose your prized possessions. Rather than simply being about getting rid of stuff, the process involves making your home more efficient so that finding the things you want will be made easier.

Among the factors that may scare those who have cluttered homes and may cause them to procrastinate when facing the task of organization, are the decisions that have to be made. De-cluttering is primarily about being decisive. What do we keep? What gets tossed? The question of whether or not something is essential changes with each item.

People often fear getting rid of something and then not having it when they need it. The goal of Knack Organizing Your Home: Decluttering Solutions and Storage Ideas is to help the reader develop the skills for making these decisions. 

Author Emily Wilska provides some guidelines to follow when attempting to remove clutter from your home. The guidelines help to make the clutter-free lifestyle a learned skill, not unlike any other type of learned skill. She provides a set of questions the householder should ask about each item when attempting to decide on whether to keep or discard.

A whole section of the book revolves around creating systems for eliminating clutter. These systems are mainly methods of storage for various household items. For example, a pot rack for your kitchen; one that allows easy access to cookware while also eliminating the chaos in your cupboards. These systems involve finding the most appropriate methods of storing those possessions you decide to keep.

The book is aimed at those who find their homes so chaotic and disorganized that they are having trouble even getting started with a cleanup effort. It provides genuinely helpful blueprints and ideas for homeowners who may struggle with keeping a tidy home and therefore may provide some amount of motivation to get things organized. 

Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love

How to create a yard you can feel at home in.


Home is important to most of us which is why we strive to improve the interior of our homes. Most of home decoration focuses on exactly that: interiors and creating the perfect sense of home for those who are indoors, but what about the outside? The exterior of a home, beyond the walls that comprise it also contributes to how people enjoy their living space. The outdoors creates the first impression visitors will have of your home, and for many people it will be where they spend much of their time, whether grilling steaks in the backyard or simply relaxing on the patio.

Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love educates readers on viewing the exterior of their homes, meaning the yard, as a part of the home and therefore in need of all of the attention that a homeowner gives to their interior. The goal is to create an atmosphere that is as comfortable as the one inside the home.

Author Julie Moir Messervy points out that many people ignore the outdoor aspects of their homes as a result of the greater role that technology plays in modern living. People spend their time indoors watching TV and playing videogames. The book provides advice on how to reverse this trend on your own property. Homeowners are encouraged to enjoy their ownership of the property. They are free to garden, or even to sleep outside if they choose. The key is to utilize the property in a way that is ideal for that particular site. She notes that in many cases landscape contractors neglect to do this. The goal of the book is to help the homeowner to accomplish this so that they can see their yard as being as much a part of their lives as the interior of a house.


Do It Yourself Kitchens: Stunning Spaces on a Shoestring Budget

Make your kitchen unique without hiring a designer.

The kitchen is the center of most homes, it is one of those areas where people tend to commune, and because of that a homeowner will want to make it as warm and friendly as possible. Decoration for a kitchen is as important as it is for the rest of the home. What many homeowners do not know is that they can redesign their kitchens without the help of an interior designer, and on a budget. All they need is a little guidance and motivation, which is provided by Do It Yourself Kitchens: Stunning Spaces on a Shoestring Budget by Better Homes & Gardens.

One of the first tips in the book is regarding using mosaic tiles for a backsplash instead of boring white. Not only can this add a unique touch to a kitchen, it can be easily done (by following the book’s instructions) and it can result in a functional element of the kitchen’s decor. Furthermore, tiles are affordable and available in a wide range of designs, so that a homeowner can add their own distinctive flair without going over their budget.

Is tiling all there is to kitchen design? No, and the book provides many more ideas including ones for storage spaces, cabinetry and plumbing fixtures. Readers get help in coordinating their appliance colors and the colors of their walls along with many other areas that impact how this room looks and feels. All of these designs are meant for those with budget restrictions.

Do It Yourself Kitchens: Stunning Spaces on a Shoestring Budget provides lots of color photographs to provide ideas to do-it-yourselfers along with detailed step by step instructions with more photographs that detail each step of the various design suggestions. There are also before-and-after photo sets that show exactly what kinds of transformations are possible.


Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live

A book about the case for remodeling on a limited scale.

Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live by Susan Saranka aims to show that not every remodeling project has to be big and expensive. If the right changes are implemented in the right ways, a homeowner can express their own sensibilities in their home’s decoration without completely gutting it and without completely emptying their bank account. The book’s main principle is that small changes can go a long way when it comes to home remodeling.

The author mentions her own home decorating experience after purchasing her present home in Raleigh, North Carolina.  She points out that the ideas that work for small-scale home remodeling are not necessarily the best in terms of architecture; rather, they should be geared at providing whatever the homeowner needs. The point is to create a home that serves the purposes of the people who live in it.

Saranka points out that the way to make the most of a limited budget is not only to keep the improvements simple, but also to keep them within the home’s existing footprint. She states that there are many potential improvements to a home that can be made without adding on or altering the basic floor plan. Adding on should only be done if absolutely necessary as it will usually cost considerably more than working within the interior of the home.

With her own Raleigh home, Saranka has made a series of changes that she categorizes as:

·         Changes to improve the home’s livability for her and her husband.

·         Changes to improve existing aspects of the home.

·         Changes made to the home because of changes in her and her husband’s lives.

Overall, Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live is perfect for new homeowners who want to make their home personal and suitable for their lifestyles without spending a lot of money. 

'Be Your Own House Contractor: Save 25% Without Lifting a Hammer'

A book about saving money by becoming your own general contractor

One of the secrets of the construction industry is that it is entirely possible for an individual with no construction knowledge to save as much as 25 percent of the cost of building a new home by becoming their own contractor. As improbable as this sounds, author and contractor Carl Heldmann says its true, and that it was so easy that he became a builder after doing it himself with his first home in the 1970s. He has been involved in thousands of contraction projects since that first house and claims that it is possible to save even more than 25 percent.

Of course, most people do not have the know-how to handle the complexities of construction on their own. There are many things that can go disastrously wrong when attempting to build a home with no training, how can an inexperienced do-it-yourself home-builder handle the potential problems?

That is where Be Your Own House Contractor: Save 25% Without Lifting a Hammer comes in, this book tells the reader exactly how to get it done. First of all, all of the crucial work will not be done by the home-builder, but by their sub-contractors. They become their own general contractor and hire all of the experts to come in and deal with the difficult elements of the job. Of course, if they know what they are doing they are free to take on some of the labor themselves for extra savings, but it is not necessary.  

This book will not teach you how to go about building a house, meaning hanging drywall or installing plumbing fixtures. That is not the point, the point is teach you how to find the people who can do all of that work and to get it done for less money than if you were to pay a general contractor.