It’s an instant reflex to Google everything. But sometimes you just want to reach for a trusted book instead of scrolling through search results. Like when you need to know the best way to unclog the kitchen sink right now — or simply don’t want to pay a plumber to do it.
So whether you own a home or plan to soon, it’s smart to build your own do-it-yourself reference library.
To that end, we dug deep into all those search results for you and found some of the best DIY books on home maintenance, repair, organizing, decorating, and gardening. What do we mean by “best”? The authors are first-rate, professionals in the various fields give their thumbs-up, and reader reviews are full of stars and enthusiasm.
These books will more than pay for themselves when you don’t have to call the plumber, paint the dining room the perfect color on the first try, or avoid a renovation mistake.
Here they are in no particular order. Enjoy!
Painting is one of the cheapest yet most transforming home decorating projects you can do. But it can also be daunting. Benjamin Moore alone offers 3,500 colors, and with custom matching, the choices are virtually limitless. It’s enough to make you default to “simply white.” So here’s internationally renowned decorator Kevin McCloud to the rescue. He’s turned more than 700 color chips into 60 palettes, illustrating each palette with a beautiful photo of an actual room. But the colors aren’t the only inspiration — there’s also a lot about the history of color in interior design.
Want to be an informed homeowner and consumer? This book isn’t a repair manual so much as, to quote the subtitle, “a visual guide to understanding and maintaining your home.” It covers the mysteries of plumbing, heating, sewer systems, major appliances, and so on. You’ll find plenty of drawings and diagrams. “It actually makes you want to read about systems that aren’t even in your house,” writes one Amazon reviewer. Author Charlie Wing has written more than 20 books on home repair and improvement and was tapped by Home Depot to develop its 1-2-3 books.
This all-around DIY manual by Home Depot, a big favorite among homeowners, is praised by professionals too — This Old House recommends it. It’s written for beginners, so there are plenty of pictures alongside the step-by-step instructions and a “skill meter” for every project to give you a better sense of what you’re getting into. It will help you handle everything from making a good pilot hole to putting up drywall.
The fact that this is a fourth edition tells you something. Author Michael Litchfield, a founding editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine, has a dozen other acclaimed books to his name. For this one, he interviewed 100-plus contractors and architects and added their wisdom and experiences to his own. Says one of many five-star Amazon reviews, “What makes a good reference book? When you look up what you want to know and you find it quickly. What makes a great reference book? When you find yourself reading it for fun. Best DIY book I have read in years.”
Martha isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no denying that the woman knows “homekeeping.” And she shares it all in this broad 752-page guide that is, naturally, as glossy and gorgeous as it is heavy. It covers the upkeep of your entire house, room by room, with tips on comfort, cleaning, maintenance, and safety, plus an A to Z guide to caring for the wide variety of materials we have in our homes. Quite the reference. Not to mention, a beautiful addition to your coffee table.
Got clutter? Try professional organizer Julie Morgenstern’s time-tested entry in the decluttering genre. Researchers say that clutter stresses us out, so if you want your home to be a true refuge from stress, yet your stuff tends to get out of hand, this one’s for you. Alternatively, check out The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or read our quick intro to clutter busting here.
The idea here is to make your outdoor spaces as inviting as your living room. The team behind Gardenista.com and Remodelista.com takes us on a tour of beautiful, livable gardens around the world and then shows how to “steal the look” with plant palettes and stylish objects. If you need an excuse to buy this book, we can tell you that besides expanding your living space, these projects will probably build equity. Here are even more ways to increase your property value with smart landscaping.
A lot of us think about landscaping as a beautification project. And it is. But it can also either expand or shrink your carbon footprint. This comprehensive book helps you be part of the solution to climate change by making sustainable — and beautiful — choices in your own backyard. You’ll find hundreds of practical, doable actions in here. Many cost next to nothing and can even save you money. Plus, much of what you do in your yard to help stem climate change will also protect it from climate change.
For some of us, buying a home means a chance to finally have a vegetable garden. This book of “24 no-fail plans for small organic gardens” from the dependable DIY experts at Storey Publishing is a great place to start cultivating your green thumb. Awarding-winning author Barbara Pleasant delivers illustrated layouts for all sizes of backyard, tips on enriching your soil, planting schedules, how to fight pests, and more. When you’re ready to graduate, try her more in-depth book, Homegrown Pantry.
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