Saturday, June 4, 2016

Book review: Creative Home Improvement, by David and Jenny Lee

Published by Backwoods Home (2014) and available here for $14.95 plus shipping. Bought with my own money. I don't get paid to do reviews, nor do I do affiliate sales.

I expected to be surprised several times over while reading this book, and I was. David Lee--Jenny is listed as a co-author, but the entire book is in his voice, as far as I can tell--has many years of experience in building and tinkering with houses, along with a strong bent toward owner-buildability. He shares a number of techniques that he has developed over the years, with tips based on his experience. The book has many color pictures, which illustrate his points well, along with a few, clear drawings where needed. The buildings exhibit a unique aesthetic, which I would call Extreme Storybook:  shaggy shake siding, unusual roofing patterns, towers, solid wood doors with elaborate handmade hinges, quaintly painted floors, and bits of colored glass in unusual places. It would be a bit hard to integrate this style into an existing house built in the Boring Shoebox style, but many of the techniques described could be carried over.

The book also gives the outlines of a substantial backup water system, along with a very DIY heating system, including the chimney. I was curious whether the stove designs would meet current EPA regulations. From a cursory search of the internet, it appears that they would, but only on the basis on being owner-built. (Some areas have more stringent regulations.)

Some of the projects are suitable for a beginning DIY-er, with a limited skill set and tool set. Others are more ambitious, and require basic construction skills. The more massive projects will require consultation with a structural engineer beforehand...seriously. You don't need your whole house falling down on your head. Warnings are given at appropriate points, but the reader is assumed to be a competent and responsible adult. Building codes are mentioned occasionally, but clearly they haven't constrained the Lees' creative home improvement process much.

The project  instructions given seem to be clear and sufficient, but without excessive hand-holding. After each procedure described in step-by-step detail, he has a summary section, which gives a quick review of the steps in the process. I found this a nice touch that makes the book much more readable and usable.

There are a couple of points where I am a bit skeptical of his claims, such as that panels containing colored glass (while blocking much of the available winter light) can cure seasonal depression. He may be right, but I want to test that one for myself. The book lacks a chapter on homemade doors, but some hints can be gleaned from the pictures.

For me, the book was well worth the price, if only to learn the details of making a Forever Floor (which is related, but only distantly, to the old floorcloths), and to add several more ideas to my Future Home list.

1 comment:

  1. why is it that i always fall in love with the most expensive option? Best Panini Press