For a nominal cost, the novice to-it-yourself remodeler can obtain professional advice on every home-improvement task from replacing a washer on a leaky faucet to adding a room or two.
Expert advice is available from the hundreds of self-help books distributed by publishers each year. Generally, these books are written with the novice in mind and great care is taken to provide basic information such as tool selection and use, as well as the safety precautions and materials required for a particular task.
Many of the titles are available at public libararies, but if you're into a major project that's going to take considerable time, it's more convenient to purchase the appropriate books.
Here are some of the better volumes available:
"The New Complete Book of Home Remodeling, Improvement and Repair" by H.H. Watkins (Charles Seribner's Sons, $15.95). A primer on locating and remodeling a good old house, how to avoid remodeling traps, redoing the kitchen and bath and how to convert a basement or attic to living space. There are chapters on cutting fuel bills and everyday maintenance.
"Reader's Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual" (The Reader's Digest Association, $19.95). Many experts consider this the best book in its field. It covers every aspect of the home, inside and out, tool selection and use, electricity and plumbing installation and repairs, and working with concrete. Separate chapters deal with insect and rodent control and appliance repairs.
"Home Repairs Made Easy" by Dick Demske (Consolidated Book Publishers, $9.95, softbound). Nearly as complete as the Reader's Digest Manual and it costs less.
"Doors and Windows" (Time-Life Books, $7.95). The Time-Life Home Improvement Series, some 20 volumes in all, is outstanding. "Doors and Windows" removes the mystery of dealing with wood rot, sticking doors and windows, installation and repairing shuters and blinds. You even get detailed instructions for cutting through brick siding to install a new door or window.
Some of the other Time-Life volumes are "Adding Up," which includes details for adding a dormer or a room above a garage, and "Floors and Stairways," which deals with every phase of the subject from correcting squeaky floors and steps to installing them yourself.
"Do-It-Yourself Roofing and Siding" Max Halth (Hawthorn Books, $4.95, softbound). Halth says you can save 63 percent of the cost of reroofing or re-siding if you've got the patience to do it yourself: "So what if you can't do the job in a single weekend. There's no pressing need to it in one weekend." He covers it all -- from determining which type of siding or roofing to use to estimating costs and selection and use of tools, ladders and scaffolds.
"How to Build Kitchen Cabinets, Counters and Vanities" by Don Gerry (Reston Publishing, $12.95). Another good buy if you're serious about building these objects from scratch. Expensive tools aren't needed, but a power table saw or circular saw would make the task much easier.
"Homeowners Encyclopedia of House Construction" by Morris Krieger (McGraw-Hill, $19.95). This isn't a do-it-yourself manual in that it does not provide detailed instructions on how to make repairs or add on. But Krieger vividly describes everything that went into constructing your house, various building methods and how to check for structural defects. This information could aid you in deciding whether to tackle a job yourself, and if you decide otherwise, it will assist you in dealing with contractors, particularly in cost estimates and understanding construction methods. "It helps to know enough about your house to talk sense to these gentlemen (contractors) and know when they are talking sense to you," Krieger says. "The Renovators Primer" by Meryl & Jeffery Bennett (Drake Publishers, $6.95, softbound). This Long Island couple, who "couldn't even wield a hammer or distinquish a wrench from a pair of pliers" and didn't have much money, purchased a 100-year-old Victorian house in need of renovation. Their highly entertaining and useful book describes the five years they spent refurbishing the house. They also give good advice on when to forsake doing something yourself and call in a professional instead.
"How to Remodel and Enlarge Your Home" by M.F. Daniels (Bobbs-Merrill, $11.95). A good guide to gaining more space or rooms either by adding on or by redesigning the home's interior. A half-bath can be added in a closet as small as 2 by 5.5 feet. More ambitious projects include an addition containing two bedrooms and a den or building a garage.
"Tools and How to Use Them" by Hlbert Jackson and David Day (Alfred H. Knoff, $15.95 or $8.95 softbound) and "The Complete Book of Home Workshop Tools" by Robert Scharff (McGraw-Hill, $15.95). Two of the most complete and up-to-date encyclopedias of hand and power tools and how to use and care for them. If you want to know what tool is best for pounding, pulling, turning, sanding, fastening or measuring, you'll find it in these books. Also recommended is "VNR Guide to Power Tools" by Rudolf F. Graf and George J. Whalen (Van Norstrand Reinhold, $18.95), a guide to selection, use, servicing and safety precautions for nearly every power tool that could find its way into your home -- from battery-operated shears to bench and radial saws.