For years, I've been reading The Family Handyman, a magazine dedicated to just what you'd expect from that title.
Mainly, I read it for the do-it-yourself tips, usually conventional but often reader-generated ideas that are … let's call them inventive.
Those tips, by the way, were the genesis for what loyal HouseWorks fans may recognize as Homeownering 101.
Well, The Family Handyman has gone me one better, collecting years of magazine tips into a book, "100 Things Every Homeowner Must Know."
Most of them are pretty basic, as they should be for a general homeowner's manual:
• Eliminating pests from the home, such as termites, mice and ants.
• Servicing and repairing such standard household gear as dishwashers, clothes dryers, air conditioners and furnaces, toilets and sinks.
• Remodeling basements and attics.
• Painting a home's interior and exterior.
• Using starter tools, such as a measuring tape, drill, jigsaw and hammer.
My favorite pages are what the book calls "bonus sections," which come right out of the magazines. I remember reading some of these in past issues.
Creative ideas are offered for increasing storage space, always at a premium in even the largest homes. I've suggested several of them myself, but I'll admit I never thought of attaching electrical junction boxes to a wall in the shop as miniature catch-alls or repurposing an office file organizer to rack up cookie sheets and cutting boards in a kitchen cabinet.
The great goofs pages are filled with confessions from red-faced do-it-yourselfers, proving once again that even the most experienced handyfolks can make monumental, and often dangerous, mistakes. Personally, I've never painted myself into a corner or knocked down the ladder that got me up on the roof … but I've come close.
The section on problem-solving commercial products includes wall liner (sort of heavy-duty wallpaper for particularly wonky plaster) and socket lube (a special grease to make light bulbs easier to remove). It was in this section that I discovered "drain zippers," which are simple barbed plastic wands designed for fishing gunk out of sinks, showers and tubs.
The "easy fixes" pages offer directions for cleaning the filters of kitchen vent hoods, patching laminate floors and adjusting shower doors. I wish I'd had those last tips a few months back. I still have owner's manuals for things I haven't owned in decades, but do you think I could find the directions for that shower door I put in eight years ago?
The entire book is profusely — even beautifully — illustrated with hundreds of photographs and drawings, and explanations and directions are concise.
I admit "100 Things Every Homeowner Must Know" is a tad pricey, but that cost would be paid back easily if it saved you from making just one phone call to a plumber or appliance repairman.
And it will.
Many times over.
"100 Things Every Homeowner Must Know," The Reader's Digest Association Inc., $29.99 (large format hardback).
(Send your questions to HouseWorks, P.O. Box 81609, Lincoln, Neb. 68501 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)