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HOME IMPROVEMENT : Now, a Few Words on How to Do It Yourself : Both the novice and expert handyman can benefit from some very helpful books, ranging from general home repairs to specific topics, such as electrical work.


It's often hard to get good advice, especially when it relates to work that has to be done around the house. Which explains why there's been such a surge in the popularity of gardening and home repair do-it-yourself books. Several publishers have introduced some very helpful texts that can teach both the novice and expert handyman.

"A lot of these books are perfect gifts for someone with a new home or who's interested in their house," says Diane Wilkerson of Waldenbooks in MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana. "Even if you hire people to garden and fix things around the house for you, it doesn't hurt to have some kind of reference book around to know how it all works."

Robert Holtkamp of Brentano's bookstore in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa says that consumers should take a look at some of the series offered by publishers.

"Sunset and Reader's Digest have general reference books on topics such as home repairs and gardening," he says. "Then you can also get more detailed information on topics you're interested in through other books in the series, such as electrical work or growing shrubbery."

Here is a collection of home improvement and gardening books available at local bookstores that you might consider adding to your library:

Basic Wiring Techniques ($7.95, Ortho) uses color drawings to illustrate some of the basics you need to know about working with household electrical systems. There are helpful sections on common repairs, such as fixing a doorbell andrewiring a lamp, as well as more complex subjects, such as how to install a circuit in your house.

Bathroom Remodeling Handbook ($8.95, Lane) is part of the Home Improvement series from Sunset Books. Although it has some basic information on how to remove a tub or install a toilet, this is mainly an idea book when you're planning your project. It features a number of color photos and drawings and before-and-after pictures of various jobs, which can help you with the design of your project.

Bob Vila's This Old House ($19.95, Dutton) is a companion book to the public television series Vila once hosted in which a major rehabilitation/remodeling project was portrayed from start to finish. Although not really a reference book, Vila provides a fascinating narrative showing how a vandalized, rotted, century-old structure could be transformed (with a lot of work and money) into a showplace. The best part of this book is it makes the job you're thinking of look easy.

Building Decks ($11.95, Cy DeCosse) is an easy-to-follow reference on deck construction. A part of the Black & Decker library of home improvement books, this all-color guide takes you through design, lumber selection, construction and finishing. There's also a handy section on repairs should you decide to renovate an old deck.

Consumer's Guide to Home Improvement, Renovation and Repair ($19.95, Wiley & Sons) is another comprehensive do-it-yourself text like the Reader's Digest Manual, only this is slanted more toward repair than renovation.

Since it's published by the same company that sells the Consumer's Guide, which details the best values on merchandise and services, this manual is filled with tips on how to save money when doing work on your house. However, some of its suggestions, such as forgetting about a new garbage disposal and building a compost heap, may not be the everyone's choice.

It does have some helpful information on such topics as concealing cable in your house and how to see if masonry cracks are growing. Each section has a chart telling you roughly what you would pay a contractor to do a job and how much it would cost to do it yourself.

Container Gardening by Alan Toogood ($9.95, Quintet) is a great gift for someone without a yard. It covers the basics of caring for plants, as well as how to make window boxes, how to plant in wire baskets and create an interesting garden called a "mini-pond" in which you can grow water lilies and other aquatic plants.

Home Improvements Manual, by Reader's Digest ($25.95, Random House), isn't a condensation of do-it-yourself tips--what you'd expect from Reader's Digest. This hardcover, nearly 400-page manual is written in simple, straightforward language and covers the basics of remodeling and improving.

Because of its size, the Reader's Digest book has ample space to focus on topics such as whether your planned improvement will fit the architectural style of your home, how you can draw up your own plans, and even how to finance the project. There are also chapters on plumbing and electrical systems that show how to make simple repairs. It's filled with helpful line drawings of everything from popular moldings to the five different wrenches used in plumbing and what they're used for.

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