A how-to that shows what ‘doing it yourself’ really looks like

Special to The Times

MY first suspicion when a magazine publisher puts out a book is: Uh-oh, recycled magazine articles.

Even the subtitle of the book -- “Easy Projects to Transform Your Home Inside and Out” -- made me wary. As any DIY-er can attest, projects in books are rarely as easy and painless as book authors, editors and marketers would have you believe.

So it was with some surprise that I opened Taunton Press’ “52 Weekend Makeovers” to find my concerns unfounded. The projects are lavishly illustrated with large, clear photos of people who look like average homeowners (rather than expert craftsmen, such as those featured in Taunton’s Fine Homebuilding magazine) using tools to do the tasks the text explains. Considering some of the competition -- books that rely heavily on bland illustrations or that show the same expert at work page after page -- these photos are a joy.

Furthermore, the book invites homeowners to face reality with occasional sidebars titled “What Can Go Wrong.” How bold to suggest something can go wrong. And yet so much can.


When installing baseboard, for instance: “Walls don’t always meet at right angles. When the wall angle is off, a perfectly cut miter joint won’t fit.”

The text goes on to explain how to cut angles that fit out-of-square walls. The only suggestion I would make is to change the wording from walls “don’t always” meet at right angles, to walls “rarely” meet at right angles. But that’s a quibble.

The book is hefty, with 346 pages that are 9 inches by 11 inches. Not a bad deal for $24.95.

The text opens with the usual primers: safety tips, codes, tools and paint and tile basics. It then launches into “Prep Projects” that includes patching holes, fixing nail pops, and so on, and all with excellent close-up photos. Two women are shown putting down a patio, and two men are shown painting a bedroom wall red. Very modern thinking.


The bulk of the book is composed of 26 substantial projects such as refacing cabinets, tiling a floor, installing a cabinet organizer and tiling a backsplash. Each chapter has sections on “Tools & Gear” and “What to Buy,” again illustrated with photos so you can see as well as read.

After the illustrated instructions for each project are complete, the editors include photos of other similar projects, such as different types of walkways, or various sink and countertop combinations. It’s possible some of these photos were culled from in-house magazines. Some of them, according to the photo credits, were supplied by manufacturers. But no harm is done. The vignettes are inspiring.

There is something odd, though, in that there are 26 chapters in a book titled “52 Weekend Makeovers.” It turns out the editors are counting the prep projects at the front of the book in that total. So this makes me wonder: How long do these “Weekend Makeovers” take? A weekend for prep? And then another weekend for the project? It would have been good to know.

I also wish the table of contents had put the 26 projects in sections such as kitchens, baths, outdoor, garages or similar groupings instead of listing them in no apparent order. But I wouldn’t let those minor weaknesses in the organization of the book keep me from buying it. The book was created with a lot of intelligence, insight and effort.


If your goal is to get clear, savvy, illustrated guidance on fixing up your home, you’ll find this is a lot of book for the money.