Home study

Home study

This is a time of belt-tightening for most of us. Homeowners, in particular, face many challenges to property maintenance on a limited budget. Here are a few new books that could help:

"In-Laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats: Your Guide to Turning One House Into Two Homes," by Mike Litchfield (Taunton Press, $24.95), takes into consideration the reality of many families doubling up in this economy.

Whether you need space for a disabled or elderly parent, for kids returning home or maybe just a small space to rent out to help pay the mortgage, this book can guide you through the process. From dealing with local planning authorities to making the best economic selections, Litchfield gives concise and detailed guidance.

He presents 30 examples from real life, including attic and basement conversions, garage conversions, add-ons and small, backyard houses. It is a visually beautiful book, as to be expected from one of the founders of Fine Homebuilding magazine. It also features a section on design for the elderly and disabled.

"AARP Guide to Revitalizing Your Home: Beautiful Living for the Second Half of Life," by Rosemary Baker (Lark Books, $24.95), specializes in teaching homeowners to improve the livability of their homes to accommodate changes in physical abilities. It also features an extensive section on "universal design." Scattered throughout are quick fixes for common problems and an explanation of future needs, such as nonslip flooring and adequate lighting to reduce the risk of accidents and falls. It includes extensive checklists to evaluate what you have now and features outdoor design ideas.

"Spend-A-Little Save-A-Lot Home Improvements," by Brad Staggs (Betterway Home, $24.99), deals with common home-maintenance problems, from fixing a hole in the roof to gutters, concrete cracks and chips, insulation problems, window screens and squeaky floors. Staggs offers detailed instructions with full-color photos of each step. It is written for those who have never attempted these types of repairs.

Ever dreamed of building your own home but thought it was too difficult? "The Barefoot Architect: A Handbook for Green Building," by Johan Van Lengen (Shelter Publications, $17.95), might change your mind. This is the English version of a book first written in Spanish. The Mexican government bought 40,000 copies to ensure there was one in every library.

Van Lengen says the book was written both "for people who dream of building ... also for those in the building trades."

Multiple drawings grace every page to make the text easy to follow. He starts with the basics of how many rooms you need, the flow throughout the house, construction techniques, materials choices and siting. The section on how to plant trees and bushes to control breezes is amazing. This is a thorough and easy-to-understand book.

"Better Homes & Gardens Home Upgrades Under $600" (Wiley, $21.99) is a project book explaining how to make your home more livable and energy-efficient and increase its value. It features detailed instructions with numerous photos and exploded-detail drawings. It takes you through the house room by room with simple projects such as painting and adding moldings, wainscoting and chair rails to more complicated ones such as changing out sinks and faucets. Tiling, floating-floor installation, tub surrounds, hand showers, grab bars, towel racks, shelves and closet organizers — almost any project you can think of — will be found here.

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