If you were seeking information for a home improvement project pre-internet (which wasn’t that long ago), your options were:
A. Ask a friend, family member or your local hardware store for advice.
B. Refer to your back issues of your Family Handyman or This Old House.
C. Crack open your home improvement books.
We think option C remains underrated even if sometimes outdated. There are plenty of instruction manuals available that offer guidance for most modern day home improvement challenges. All of the major publishers have book series that function like home improvement encyclopedias and cover all systems of the house. You can also find books that try to cover it all in one heavy hardcover. Many of these books also have great illustrations and photos.
Where to find these books? It does seem that the while the design and decorating section in bookstores continues to expand, the less flashy diy category is shrinking. The master bedroom makeover just sells better than a clogged sink troubleshooter.
Fear not as these great books have found their way to libraries and used bookstores. We enjoy stopping by Bookmans in Tucson whenever we are in town if only to peruse there enormous selection of home improvement books (it may sound weird but we’re home nerds).
One of our favorite reference books is the New York Times Complete Manual of Home Repair by Bernard Gladstone. First published in 1956 this book is a bible of home improvement tips. Bernard Gladstone wrote a do-it-yourself home repair column for The New York Times for 32 years and published more than 20 books on the subject. He passed away in January of this year but he left us with a plethora of information. Like many books published in this era we found the photos entertaining in a Mad Men sort of way.
Every city has a used bookstore where you can pickup these treasures for less than half and typically an 1/8th of what you’d pay at Barnes & Noble. Many of these books are out of print so they are only available used. You can also find these books at most garage sales and thrift stores. We think they make much better coffee table books than the latest from Taschen.