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The secret to building our classy little tin-roofed garden shed? The batter boards. Don't know what the heck those are? Not to worry. We show you exactly what they are (with an identifying arrow on the photo) and then tell why they're important.

That tip and more than 33 other specific hints and secrets for success are built right into the article, along with highly colorful, easily decoded complete plans. These real-life helps come from actually building the garden shed — from start to finish, and all the steps in between.


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Home Improvement Projects

Buying a home is like getting married. You have no idea what you're really getting into.

But the paradox is, in either instance, if you make it a matter of thoroughgoing rationality—learning everything there is to know before your heart makes a passionate commitment, you're going to suffer even more tension and disappointment. More than if you at least start with your heart, that is.

A marriage built on strict rationality alone, with none of the irrational passion we call love, is going to be a very long, very tough haul.

It's the same when you buy a house. No, I don't mean you should gamble all that money on your dream house without paying someone to look for termites first. I'm not talking about losing all rationality here. I'm merely suggesting that a little passion, a little falling in love with that house of your dreams, is well worth the surprises that will come.

Believe me, they will.

Painting a house

Home Safety

"Carbon Monoxide" is a timely report on a toxic gas that can turn your safe, secure home into a deadly trap.

Without special testing devices, carbon monoxide leaks are virtually impossible to detect. Dangerous concentrations of it can build up without any noticeable change in the performance of your home's furnace or appliances.

The telltale symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include garden-variety complaints like tiredness, headaches and nausea. When was the last winter season someone in your family didn't feel that way at least some of the time?


Someone very nice and courteous, a newspaper reporter from Cleveland, asked me the other day, "Can every homeowner be a do-it-yourselfer? Can anyone learn how to use tools?"

It depends, I should have said, on how desperate they are.

I myself love everything about home improvement, everyday maintenance and repairs around the house. Planning the new garden. Painting the upstairs hall. Even unclogging disgusting drains.

None of these activities ever drags me into the surging, ever-changing seas of modern morals (sex and drugs), modern ethics (sex), or other high school, college and graduate school dilemmas (the meaning of life).

Thank you, God, for simple things like locksets, faucets and shelves! I can hope to win when wrestling inanimate objects like those. And if I don't, the most I'm out is a few hours and a few bucks.

Can anyone learn to be a do-it-yourselfer? Of course.

Will everyone who tries enjoy it? Nope. But if you're one of the lucky ones, you'll get great pleasure and satisfaction out of working with your hands. It's the cheapest therapy you can buy when you're about to go crazy.




Basement humidity and moisture

Take heart, weekend warriors. There is a solution for wet basements. It may not turn out to be easy, or cheap, or for the faint-of-heart, either. But then, neither is marriage!

Miscellaneous indoors

Last month I had 25 sheets of drywall stacked against the wall in my half-remodeled home. And it struck me that in the presence of 800 lbs. of drywall panels, all of us — presidents and traffic cops, janitors and physicians — are equal.

The drywall doesn't care how well we dress, what we do for a living, or how our kids are turning out.

And what a relief that is.

One of the very best things about working with our hands is that it takes our mind off our big troubles (kids, relationships, unpaid bills) and focuses our energy onto smaller, bite-size troubles (changing the utility knife blade, getting the drywall solidly attached, using a measuring tape).

My problem with the really worrisome issues (family, relationships, unpaid bills) is that I start imagining myself on the road to catastrophe. And pretty soon, anxiety takes over.

What a joy to get back to reality and devote a few hours to a world where things are clearly more manageable. Where the crackle and whiz of the measuring tape as it pulls itself back into its case, the aroma of cut pine and drywall, and the feel of good, lively tools in our hands are relaxing, reassuring and so simple.