The Thinking Person's Guide to How a House Works
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 ``,'' says New Yorker staff-writer Owen (The Man Who Invented Saturday Morning, 1988, etc.), ``feel a paralyzing a lumberyard or hardware store.'' Fortunately for the jack-of-few-trades man (or woman), courage--and the knowledge it's based on--can now be gleaned from the author's literate, lucid, and witty guide to home building and repair. Owen's own house, a Connecticut Colonial built around 1790, serves as his model. Needing to repaint the house, for instance, he sets off to find the ultimate paint, winding up at the firm of Keeler & Long, which makes paint for nuclear power plants (``It would probably be expensive,'' muses Owen, ``but it would last practically forever. Using it might even turn out to be a pretty good move, in the event of nuclear war''). There, he learns much about paint--including that the firm's epoxy-based product won't do for him (``epoxies [tend] to deteriorate in sunlight,'' warns proprietor Henry Long)--and passes that information on here, along with his own know-how on the history, nature, and uses and abuses of paints: We learn, for example, the pros and cons of latex paint, the best ways to keep paint from peeling off a house, and, in the sort of unexpected detail that livens every page, the trouble with letting a cow near a freshly oil-painted house--it will lick the paint, which contains flaxseed. Fascinating explorations of walls, roofs, kitchens, bathrooms, electricity, lumber (and its enemies: the stethoscope from a kid's toy medical bag is useful, Owen tells us, for detecting the munching of carpenter ants) follow, and come together in a detailed description of how, using power-tools, he adapted an extra bedroom into a custom-built study. Owen transforms even the repair of a leaking hot-water pipe into an enticing adventure: his congenial guidance will likely enthrall those who enjoy home repair--and, marvelously, many who don't. (Thirty-five line drawings--not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1991
ISBN: 0-394-57824-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Villard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1991


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