Question: At home centers and home shows, I've seen video tapes about home repairs of different types. I have a VCR at home, so I have a means for viewing the tapes if they are worth having. The problem is, there is no way to find out about them before you buy. The cassettes are sealed and, so far as I know, there is no way to preview them or rent them. And unfortunately, they are priced at about $20, which is a sizable investment. Can you comment on this?
Answer: I have not seen all of the tapes that are on the market, so I can't provide a comparison of one tape as opposed to others. I am aware, however, that some of the tapes cover only one subject and, as you say, are priced at about $20 each.
The one tape I have previewed is called "The Home Repairs Video Library," Vol. 1. It has a two-hour running time and covers repairs in plumbing, blacktop, concrete, electrical, drywall and stucco. Vol. 2 of this two-volume set focuses on heating, air conditioning, insulation, ceramic tile, carpentry and painting.
For persons who are not adept at fixing things, the tapes can be very supportive, because, on your video screen, you will see two hands actually making the repairs that's are being considered.
Believe me, however, it's not "Saturday Night Live" as far as being fun to watch.
Further, the repairs shown are too basic for a natural-born do-it-yourselfer. For instance, Part 19, in the Electrical category explains how to change a light bulb. In fairness, though, it does caution the bulb changer to check the light fixture to find out the maximum wattage that the fixture can accommodate.
The narrative on the tape is certainly minimal. Here's an example of the words spoken while the two hands on the screen replace a faulty light switch:
"Turn off point-of-service breaker.
"Remove cover plate.
"Unscrew switch from wall.
"If wires are inserted in back of switch, use screwdriver to release.
"Insert wires in new unit as marked on back of base.
"Place unit back into wall and screw into box.
"Screw on cover plate."
Sounds pretty dull, and it is. Nevertheless, the visual portion with the concise narrative can likely do what the tape sets out to do: show someone who has never replaced a switch how to do it.
And in doing so, the cost of a professional electrician may be avoided, therefore making the tape the bargain of the century, especially if you have other repairs to make that are covered on the tape.
The Home Repairs Video Library tapes are available through Sonshine Homes Inc., P.O. Box 522, Sierra Madre, Calif. 91024. Allow three weeks for delivery. Send check or money order for $25 for one tape, plus $4 for postage and handling; $50 for both, plus $4. According to Steve Burkholder, president, there's a money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied.
IN THE MAIL: Carol M. Neal of Baker-Neal Fence Co. in Gardena comments about the Sept. 21 column in which a reader liked her neighbors, but would like to have some degree of privacy when they both are entertaining their own guests in adjoining backyards. Neal suggests Privacy Decorative Slatting (PDS), the colored (or white) metal strips that are threaded vertically into the wire fencing.
"PDS is very durable and can be installed in the fence by the homeowner or by professionals for about $4.65 a running foot with a minimum of 50 feet," Neal says.
So if the wood sunscreen didn't interest you, there's another consideration.