Help me find a home improvement magazine aimed at a low-budget/DIY audience.
December 14, 2005 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Help me find a home improvement magazine aimed at a low-budget/DIY audience.

It's a Christmas gift for a buddy who's fixing up an old house. Most of the magazines I've found are glossy and pretty and not very practical. I don't want to give him tool porn, furniture porn, or real estate porn — I'd like to find something with information that he will use. Any tips?
posted by nebulawindphone to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Family Handyman
posted by Lokheed at 9:42 AM on December 14, 2005

posted by spicynuts at 9:54 AM on December 14, 2005

Do you have anything against the granddaddy of them all--This Old House? Most of the homes shown in that magazine are not even close to what I could afford, but their advice columns are very helpful and educating. A subscription entitles you to special online features too.

Taunton Press has a variety of publications, if your friend is really interested in fine craftsmanship. I own an old fixer-upper and Fine Homebuilding is one of my favorite pubs, along with Inspired House, also by Taunton.

Renovating Old Houses by George Nash is absolutely indispensable, if you're flexible on buying him a book rather than a mag.
posted by Sully6 at 10:09 AM on December 14, 2005

I have a subscription to Old House Journal because I've got an old house. The accessories and furniture they showcase are a little on the high end for me, but they have a great emphasis on D.I.Y. repairs and restoration. We just patched up a hole in the bathroom ceiling with the advice of a back-issue and have found most issues to be packed with useful information. Most of the directions are easy to understand even for a novice.
posted by Alison at 10:14 AM on December 14, 2005

I second the Family Handyman recommendation. It's absolutely perfect for me. It has lots of color, step by step photos, shopping list.
It's like home improvement for dummies.
Great, great magazine.
And if I remember correctly, less than $20 per year.
Check eBay for hellaciously low magazine subscription prices.
posted by willmize at 10:31 AM on December 14, 2005

A subscription to ReadyMade ruined the magazine for me. As issues rarely, if ever, arrived in my mailbox.
posted by clunkyrobot at 10:52 AM on December 14, 2005

Wow...ok, I rescind the suggestion then. I do kinda like the magazine though, as it is specifically focused on NOT spending outrageously for DIY projects.
posted by spicynuts at 10:58 AM on December 14, 2005

How about an on-line subscription? Dave Osborne has a great site full of information, with access to no-nonsense articles for $32/ year. I've been using it while building a workshop - an invaluable source. He even replies (promptly!) to emails asking specific questions.
posted by Neiltupper at 10:59 AM on December 14, 2005

I actually agree with you spicy, I think it's a cool magazine. I just totally got burned on the subscription. They were very apologetic and nice, but that didn't make the magazine arrive with any frequency, or as promised.
posted by clunkyrobot at 11:09 AM on December 14, 2005

i had trouble with Readymade too, when i subscribed--really disappointing. It's exactly the right magazine tho for the question. (maybe Make too?)
posted by amberglow at 11:48 AM on December 14, 2005

i can at least say the subscriptions to ReadyMade i know of around me are showing up as promised. maybe it's your area? your neighbors? but yours is fortunately not a universal experience. And it's an awesome magazine...
posted by whatzit at 11:49 AM on December 14, 2005

Family Handyman is a great read. Pay close attention to the call-outs they plaster all over the instruction photos. They definitely have a sense of humor there. My favorite was a call-out pointing to the model's work boots. The label read, "Painfully new shoes"
posted by Thorzdad at 12:00 PM on December 14, 2005

We've had trouble with Readymade too - a big bummer - great magazine, definitely recommended - we just get it at the bookstore now - though they still owe us at least a couple of issues...
posted by soplerfo at 12:52 PM on December 14, 2005

Make is really interesting, but maybe not always practical for home improvement stuff (but sometimes!)
posted by echo0720 at 1:18 PM on December 14, 2005

Oh, and budget living sometimes also has DIY stuff.
posted by echo0720 at 1:18 PM on December 14, 2005

RE: ReadyMade suscriptions
posted by clunkyrobot at 1:29 PM on December 14, 2005

Another vote for the Family Handyman. Great detailed projects building useful things.
posted by fhqwhgads at 2:27 PM on December 14, 2005

Family Handyman is really well produced, although they tend to stick to the same sorts of projects over and over again -- it seems to be more of an introductory thing, or maybe they just have a lot of subscription turnover as people get more advanced (or bored).

Old House Journal is simply a treasure trove. The articles cover different architectural styles and eras, and often detail very specific problems someone had, rather than focusing on "it's spring, let's build a porch". This is one that will be useful for years to come. Your friend may want to check if a local historical society or preservation committee has back issues. There's a comprehensive index you can get somewhere.

I will, by the way, advise against any use of the Handyman Club of America and their magazine Handy. The mag was fine, and the project-oriented books that you can get from HCA are decent enough as well, but the company seems to exist largely to push the crap at you, and the books are a negative-option thing with your "membership". My brother had a problem with his a few years ago, then we had a problem -- one book was sent back, with the paperwork misplaced, and it took months to get credited; then a video disappeared in transit and we were billed for it, wouldn't pay, so the books stopped coming.

Books I can recommend are the Time-Life series including their Complete Home Improvement Manual (getting a bit out of date) and the various Home Repair and Improvement series volumes (updated in the 90s). All are out of print (victim of the AOL merger). You can get them for a buck or so on Amazon. I guarantee he'll find them useful far beyond what you spend on them.

Taunton is top-rate: for books I'd recommend anything in their Build Like a Pro series, such as Building a Shed (or Deck). Up-to-date, superb, lots of photos, discussion of code and they give you options.

Reader's Digest has the New Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual, which covers home repairs landscape similar to the Time-Life book above, and the New Fix-It-Yourself Manual, which is more about appliances and household maintenance. The latter, especially, is invaluable for any first-time homeowner; the first is great for anyone contemplation renovations.
posted by dhartung at 11:18 PM on December 14, 2005

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