Help for Your Honey Do List

Question: I’m looking for some good, detailed instructional videos on home improvement projects, such as electrical, plumbing, hot water tanks, ceramic tile, and drywall. I have experience with electrical, so I bought the electrical DVD from the Home Depot to check it out. I didn’t learn a thing from it! They show only a few very simple things (replacing switches, outlets, fixtures) that any idiot should be able to do. They didn’t show how to run wire, make connections, tap into an existing circuit, or anything.

Are the rest of the Home Depot videos on other trades the same way? Or are there better ones out there? My dad has a VHS electrical video from 1987, and I learned a lot more from that when I watched it a few years ago than I did with the new one from HD.

Answer: A better choice than videos are actual books. Stores like Home Depot and big box bookstores (Borders, B & N, Bargain Books) have tons of books on home renovations with lots of photos and exploded diagrams. I’ve collected them over the years and they are much more instructive than any video because you can keep each step with the pictures right in front of you as you work. And an illustration gives you much clearer information than any shot on a video.

I was already a licensed electrician when I started remodeling but I successfully taught myself to sweat copper pipe, install drain lines, frame walls, install cabinets, lay linoleum and wood floors and build counter tops using books. The Readers Digest book series is excellent. Sears used to sell an inexpensive home wiring book that was a very good all-around teaching guide. I used to use it when I taught first and second year electrical apprentices as a textbook.

It has been scientifically proven that you learn and retain knowledge much better through actively engaging your brain by reading it than by passively watching video of it. Even better, you will want to dice right in with something simple and gets your hands dirty. There’s nothing better for training than doing the actual work.

For instance if you need to do something like flush the water heater then just look at a few videos on YouTube and you should be able to get that done in an afternoon. But if you need something done like hot water tank repair then you might be up against more technical stuff than you should deal with as an amateur. If you are going to open up the plumbing or replace a leaking pipe then you will want to buy a basic plumbing book with plenty of images to show you what to do. The books are definitely more descriptive than many videos.