When I browsed “Home Improvement All-in-One for Dummies” at my favorite bookstore, I knew it was a great book and I had to buy a copy. It is a “whole house” repair and improvement manual. It is actually six home-fix-up and repair books from the fabulous “Dummies” series all in one.

The general topics explained in this best of the home improvement reference book are Planning Your Home Improvement Projects; Basic Home Maintenance and Improvement; Painting and Wallpapering; Bathroom and Kitchen Remodeling; Carpentry, Woodworking and Flooring; and Plumbing.

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Each section of this unique book includes a very short “table of contents.” For example, the first section on planning home improvements lists topics such as do it yourself or hire a pro, gearing up for your home improvement adventures, safety and preparedness, and working with (and within) a budget.

Having read and reviewed most of the individual Dummies books compiled into this massive volume, I recognized the distinct six major books, which were abbreviated in the compilation. It is a great credit to the Dummies editors and the consistent style of the authors that it almost impossible to determine where one author’s material leaves off and another’s begins.

The humorous style of the Dummies books continues to show through in this great compilation. Each section begins with a cartoon by Rich Tennant (yes, that’s his real name). But even the headings of the hundreds of topics are often humorous. For example, “Is there a fungus amongus?” begins the section about cleaning up foundation fungus problems.

The book’s illustrations explain what words cannot. To illustrate, when repairing a shingle roof, the three drawings show how to cut the anchoring nails, install two new nails into the replacement shingle, and align the new shingle. There is no way words could explain that “how to do it” as well as the three simple illustrations.

This is a great reference book to have on your home bookshelf when you need to make an emergency home repair or you are considering a significant home improvement. By first consulting this authoritative book, you will know if you are involved with a major project or a simple minor repair.

Although the book credits don’t mention the illustrator for the hundreds of drawings that illustrate the various projects, he or she should be commended for the simple, easy to understand drawings. Especially in the electrical section, the illustrations make me almost eager to tackle an electrical project.

However, the book’s third section about painting and wallpapering seemed either beyond my abilities or maybe I just wasn’t interested in learning. But I enjoyed learning all the complexities involved. After finishing this section, I decided to hire paint and wallpaper experts rather than attempt these complicated tasks myself.

This great book’s real value is to show homeowners what is involved with their repair and improvement projects. A quick consultation with this book, starting by scanning the wonderful index, will reveal what is involved in virtually every home repair or improvement. Then it’s up to the reader to decide if it is a do-it-yourself or a hire-an-expert project.

As a long-time book reviewer, I’ve never seen a real estate home improvement source book that is so complete as this one. The obvious reason is there were seven co-authors who are experts on their topics.

You probably won’t want to read this great book cover-to-cover. Instead, use the table of contents and the superb index to find the topics which interest you and read just those sections.

This massive book cannot be praised too highly. In addition to the explanations, the drawings make the topics come to life and seem simple and easy to understand. Although this is primarily a do-it-yourself book, it warns when to “call a pro” if the situation is beyond ordinary home handyperson skills. On my scale of one to 10, this superb book rates an off-the-chart 12.

“Home Improvement All-in-One for Dummies,” by Roy Barnhart, James and Morris Carey, Gene and Katie Hamilton, Don Prestly, and Jeff Strong (Wiley Publishing, Inc., Hoboken, NJ), 2004, $29.99, 646 pages; available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and www.amazon.com.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center


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