Do-it-yourself books are like tools: Buy one when you need help with a specific chore and, if you choose properly, you’ll use it for years to come.

The most helpful books explain things with clear, complete pictures and illustrations. If you’re considering a book, pick it up and flip through it to a chore you’re familiar with. Could a novice follow the graphic instructions, based on your experience? If so, you’ll probably be able to follow the advice for something new.

Here are three books we’ve found especially helpful:

• “The Reader’s Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual.” First published in 1973, it was last updated in 2005. A great all-around book. It sells for $35 new, but you can find used versions online.

• “Home Depot’s Home Improvement 1-2-3” (Meredith Books, 2003, $34.95). Clear, helpful visuals, which is true of all the Home Depot how-to and home-improvement books.

• “Home & Garden Television’s Complete Fix-It” (Time Life, 2000, $29.95).

Take a class, hire a pro

If some of these chores seem too much for you:

• Take a class. The short workshops offered by home centers provide basic skills for a wide variety of projects. There are projects for children, too. Schedules are posted online: or

• Hire someone. The best way to find a tradesperson is through a recommendation from a friend or neighbor. Or, check out the roster of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, where contractors are posted by specialty: Check out Angie’s List at, or Home Owners Clubs of America at

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