Author Topic: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?  (Read 6075 times)


  • Stubble
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Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« on: March 26, 2013, 08:22:39 AM »
I'm 41 and never mowed the lawn in my life.  Growing up it was dad that took care of the outside.  Married early (big mistake), former husband took care of the outside.  Single for 3 years, living in apartments with lawn care, before meeting second husband.  He loved the yardwork, and I was more than happy to let him do his thing.  Now I'm six months widowed and the grass will be starting to grow soon.  I look at the mower, the weedeater, the blower... and don't have a clue.  Which one needs regular gas and which needs mixed.  And what is mixed, anyways, what is the ingredients and ratios?   The propane tank is empty on the gas grill and even that seems daunting.   Don't laugh.

And it's not just that, basic plumbing when needed.  There's an outside light that shorted out so I keep the lights off (and it's very dark in my corner of the world).  Hired someone to complete the fence, and it's not a good job, even I can see that.  The latch on the gate is a joke and will need to be replaced with something that I won't have to walk through the house to latch the other side.  Have to pay to get my oil changed because I don't know the first thing about changing my own oil.  Had to pay for someone to replace the washing machine hose and hook up the vent properly because I'm clueless.  The list goes on and on....      Have always been the 'chick' and let a guy do these things.  But....   I'm SICK of paying someone to do these things!!!!   It's usually a piss-poor job and it's expensive.  That and being taken advantage of, I'm just really PO'd about it all.  Had my nephew help on some things but he seemed to tear it up worse. 

Yes, I have family, but they are either away or super busy.   There are things I need to learn to do on my own, so help!!!  Is there a point of just trying it yourself and run the risk of expensive repairs when I mess it up beyond fixable?  Is there a basic DIY book I should try to find?   Should I attempt to find a somewhat honorable handyman? 

Need best Mustachian advice please. :)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2013, 09:04:23 AM »
youtube!  I have learned how to do so many things, a google search will help you too.  I'm in a similar boat- husband takes care of most things or I call someone, but we fixed the dryer a few weeks together mostly based on what I had found online and it was a great feeling!  I'm 40 and also have never mowed the lawn, guess I need to have dh give me a turn this summer.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2013, 09:13:15 AM »
Deep breaths....  "Wanting to" figure out this stuff is the part that makes it possible. 

Your greatest source is right there in front of you: the internet.  A few googles and a few questions on this (or more specific forums) and you'll be headed down the right path in no time. 

It sounds dumb, but all of those home shows on TV (or youtube or hulu or ...) are also a wealth of information.  If you ignore the fact they're taking a nice middle class house and turning it into a high end 4000sqft monstrosity, you can see how lots of various things are done.

You might also offer to pay a little extra to a handyman/plumber/electrician to "show me how" for next time.  No one ever did any of this stuff "right" the first time without information from someone else!

As for specifics: as far as "what takes gas" and "what takes a mix" on your lawn equipment... that varies wildly by make/model.   If you don't have a manual, you can probably google to find the info.  Typically blowers/trimmers are a gas/oil mix (but not necessarily!).  And different companies have differing oil/gas ratios.

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  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2013, 09:38:39 AM »

I second the idea of hiring a handyman/woman and telling them up front that the job was really to teach you how to do everything.    Many people really enjoy sharing knowledge.

I think you'll be laughing one year from now, when you realize how many of those big mysteries were absolutely simple once you had done them even once.



  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2013, 10:44:38 AM »
Another single homeowner here: 
First, find the right handy person.  Ask for recommendations in your neighborhood, where you work, etc. Walk around your neighborhood and ask construction workers/repair people who they use for different jobs.  Actually go see work they've done if possible.  Meet them and interview them.  The price range for such work is huge and the variation in quality is huge, but in my experience the two are not necessarily linked. 

My DIY ideas:  For plumbing, I have found enough info on the internet to do something like repair a leaky faucet.  You can google the brand of faucet you have and usually even see a video. Very helpful. (It took me 2 attempts, but I did it!) For hardware on a fence I would go to Lowe's, Home Depot, or my local hardware store.  Hate to be biased, but I look for someone over 50 and ask him (so far it's always been a guy) how to do what I want to do and what the best hardware/fertilizer/lumber is.  I even take notes.  This has worked very well.  I had the guy at the paint store tell me in detail how to paint my bedroom---came out great. (Before going, I researched paint on the internet--love Benjamin Moore Aura, low VOC) And I make a point of going back to thank these people when possible. 

For the yard: I found that I am much happier with an electric (with cord) lawnmower for my large yard.  It's light and easy to push and I don't have to fool with gasoline.  For trimming branches, etc, I bought a small saw--one that really fits me.  Get good tools, often available at estate sales.

Finally, someone suggested this on another forum, try to get a friend and make a deal to work together at one house and then the other---many tasks really are easier with two, and safer.  (I only go up on a high ladder with someone else present, for example.)

I was given a DIY book, but it was so general as to be useless.  Best of luck!

Mrs WW

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Re: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2013, 11:03:30 AM »
This book looks neat

Maybe for the younger crowd, but that makes it all the more entertaining i suppose!

Also, i would recommend just doing things, you'll be amazed as to all you can figure out on your own - leaning by doing!

Mrs WW

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Re: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2013, 11:15:01 AM »
Also, trade your gas lawn mower for a push mower, so much more satisfying as you get to smell the green grass as you mow, all while getting a good workout! It might seem dauting at first, but you'll quickly get used to it and wont ever want to go back to gas, and that problem is solved :)

If you wonder about what goes into what, just bring all the stuff you wonder about to a store that sells such equipment and ask them everything (and I mean everything) about the stuff - don't be embarassed, you're just being resourceful and honest. Most people like sharing their knowledge so take advantage of that! And I mean, pack that entire grill into the car, propane tank and all, and then go asking.

Good luck to you, and I'm sorry for your loss.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2013, 11:46:05 AM »
My husband and I are first-time home owners, and we inherited the previous owner's lawn equipment.  Google has been extremely helpful when it comes to finding manuals and repair instructions.  The internet is a god send.

I second Dee18's advice of going to Lowes/Home Depot and finding someone who looks old enough to have significant experience and asking them for help.  (ie, not just the kid who wanders around the garden section, offering to load your car for you).  My husband works for Lowes, and they do have some very knowledgable people - one of his employees is a master electrician. 

Also, are you friendly with any of your neighbors?  I'm lucky in that most of my neighbors are very friendly, and also DIY-ers.  Chances are, someone knows how to fix whatever problem I have, and has the appropriate tools to borrow.  Neighbors are also good at recommending repair men for when you really need to outsource the work.

I can't speak for DIY books, but "This Old House" is a show online, which also has a website with videos on how to do all kinds of repairs and renovations.  You might want to check them out.

Once you start doing some things, you'll gain a ton of confidence and it won't be so daunting.  Promise! 


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2013, 06:54:58 PM »
There's probably one of your neighbors that's very handy. I'm always willing to help my neighbors or friends.

Lots of sites on the internet have good basics. I really like -- there are a lot of friendly people in there that don't judge. Jump into the chat room and they'll answer questions live. Best yet is a forum that has a lot of experts or tradespeople. I really like the John Bridge Tile Forum regarding tile and stone issues, for example.

Take lots of pictures if you're asking people on the internet for problems. Pictures are really worth thousands of words.

A few basic rules:
  • Things are supposed to fit. Somehow. If they don't, stop, sit back, and think for a little bit. Don't force things.
  • This is, in a way, anti-mustachian, but you should acquire lots of tools that you know how to use. The thing that makes a job easy is having tools and knowing what they're for. My fiancee "broke" the can opener tonight. It was stuck fast and you couldn't turn it. A little bit of 3-in-1 oil and a few minutes with a pair of channel-lock pliers loosened it up, and we saved the $7 or whatever it would've cost to buy a new can opener.
  • In the same vein, don't try to use a tool for something it wasn't designed for.
  • These things are really easy... if you take the time to do basic research and you are patient and willing to buy the tools to do the job right. You may have to do and then re-do some things. Experience and tools are two things you will collect lots of.
  • If patient and willing to acquire tools are two things that do not apply to you, then hire things out.
  • However, hiring things out does not absolve you of the requirement to know what the hell the person you're hiring is doing. You should research the task if you were doing it and keep an eye on what the person is doing, and you should tell them what you want done and how you want it done. Otherwise there's a good chance that something that you paid good money for will be utter crap and you will have to pay to re-do it, and then pay for the damage that was caused by doing it wrong in the first place. This is generally not because tradespeople are malicious -- although some are -- it's generally because they either don't know there's a "best" way to do something or don't want to put that much work into it for what they're charging you.
  • Oh, and don't ever choose the lowest bidder. If something's too cheap, it's too cheap for a reason. People who work for really cheap will completely destroy your home.

I know that I was fortunate to grow up with a father that was a DIYer. My fiancee and I are both DIYers. I have an entire garage full of tools, which is going to be difficult to move when I move, but I'm basically a one man construction company, which has allowed us and several friends to do some serious renovations that are pretty awesome ... including a $15,000 travertine bathroom for the $3,000 in materials, a complete gutting to the studs inside and out of the house I own in College Station, a lot of electrical work on a friend's house that was soooo screwed up, and a lot of little things here and there like the time a buddy's attic access ladder fell out... I don't know everything, but I do know where to look to figure it out.

Asking questions and wanting to learn are the first steps. I hope you find someone near you that's willing to teach. I'm available to Mustachians in the Houston area if anyone needs a hand with something.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2013, 04:07:45 PM »
Hi Threadyn,

Everyone here has given good advice. I'll chip in this: our public library has all sorts of books on things like automotive work, concrete, electrical, plumbing, etc. Forums are an amazing resource for specific questions and there are specific forums dedicated to just about anything you can think of on the Internet. There are a lot of people who have knowledge, skills, AND a desire to be helpful; there are also a lot of people who just have a desire to talk. Google should be helpful in figuring out your fuel mix ratios - you can try to enter the brand and model to see if you can find a manual.

A lot of your learning and building up your tool collection will come over time.

I'd say on the oil change, have a friend who has a vehicle come show you how it's done. I've changed the oil on two vehicles recently where the last change was done by a service shop and each filter was torqued on at about 2,000ft/lbs and each change took more time than I expected it to, plus an extra run to the auto store for extra tools. If I had drained the oil pan on my only vehicle just to find myself stranded, I would have been a very unhappy camper. My bike's not in riding shape right now, but if you can walk or bike to the store, I suppose you'd be OK to give it a shot on your own after some Google-fu on the weekend.

Having a digital camera on hand is great so you can take pictures along the way in case you need to figure out where something went when you're re-assembling things.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2013, 05:09:10 PM by FallenAway »


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2013, 10:16:04 AM »
First things first: if you have them, read the manuals for your tools.  Costs nothing and will give you the basic info on using them and full maintenance advice.
After that, hit the library: there is a book explaining almost all DIY things in the world.   
Most important: choose one thing at a time, or you will be swamped.  Get a basic landscaping book and practice until you have a satisfying result, then think about adding something else(plumbing? Car maintenance?).

I suggest you keep the oil changes and car repairs for last: a house has virtually unlimited DIY opportunities which will not leave you unable to go and fetch missing tools, materials or help. 


  • Bristles
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Re: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2013, 12:56:06 PM »
We picked up this book when we were about to put down our floors:

Haven't really looked at it since, but it seemed fairly comprehensive at the time (not just for floors, but for a little of everything around the house).

I would suggest seeing if the local library has it, or at least going to a physical book store so you can browse it a bit and see if its what you want.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2013, 01:58:02 PM »
Start with your propane tank. That is the easiest to replace. Do that for some confidence. You can always get electic blowers and weed trimmers too to simply things. Sell the gas ones if you like.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Is there a 'DIY book for Dummies'?
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2013, 03:03:21 PM »
Um yes.  It's called home maintainance for dummies:

While you are on amazon, might want to also pick up this gem: