8 best do-it-yourself websites

Find trusted advice on tools, materials, project plans

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Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 11, 2011

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Find trusted advice on tools, materials, project plans

Paul Bianchina
Inman News™

Simply put, the Internet has created an absolute revolution in how we search for and locate information on just about any subject imaginable. Used wisely, your computer can now be as helpful a tool for your remodeling and repair projects as a hammer or a saw.

But pay attention to the words "used wisely." While there's a phenomenal amount of information that's just a mouse-click away, not all of it is accurate, safe or even legal! So as you wander about the Web, pay attention to the sources that you're looking at. Be skeptical of outrageous claims, products and tools that seem too good to be true, or remodeling and repair suggestions that don't make practical sense.

Also be very aware of sites that suggest you ignore building permits, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, manufacturer's instructions, safety requirements, or other legalities and regulations.

Beware of websites that are obviously just reprinting information from other sites -- often word for word and without regard for copyrights -- or that are simply printing manufacturers' press releases. As you find sites that you know have practical and reliable content, bookmark them for future reference.

What follows are some sites I've selected that have some useful information or products that you can rely on. They include some government sites, nonprofit organizations and a couple of reputable commercial sites:

Energy-saving tips (www.energysavers.gov): This site is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, and it offers a wealth of information on energy-related topics and products. The site offers a 36-page booklet, called Energy Savers, about weatherization and other energy-saving tips. It's both useful and free to download. The site also offers information on energy-related rebates, tax credits and financing.

Free and low-cost publications (www.pueblo.gsa.gov): The Federal Citizen Information Center is a huge site, and you'll find a great collection of books, booklets, pamphlets and other information published by the federal government. To help you navigate through it all, look at the menu of choices on the left side of the opening page. You might try clicking on "Housing," then "Home Maintenance," to get yourself to a very nice collection of useful material.

Miscellaneous tools and products (www.amazon.com): Amazon.com is pretty much the granddaddy of product websites, and it has just about anything you need for remodeling and repairing your home. It's obviously a commercial site, but many of the products offered there are at fair and often bargain prices; shipping is fast and some products ship for free; and they have a no-hassle return policy.

Perhaps best of all, many of the products have reviews from real people, so you can compare products and learn from their experiences.

Organizing help (www.onlineorganizing.com): Is your New Year's resolution to get yourself organized? Then this site should help. It's designed as a common forum for professional organizers, product manufacturers, and people like you and me who need some organizing help. There are articles, tips, products, books and even blogs to help you fight your way out of the clutter!

Plywood and engineered lumber (www.apawood.org): This is the website for the Engineered Wood Association, formerly the American Plywood Association. This is a nonprofit association that oversees just about anything having to do with engineered lumber and sheet goods.

There's a wealth of information here about plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), engineered beams and much more, along with lots of free publications that you can either download or get by mail.

State contractors boards: Never hire a general contractor or subcontractor without first finding out the contractor's laws for your state, then verify that the company or person you want to hire is properly licensed, bonded and insured. I can't list all of the various state contractor boards, so you'll need to search for this one on your own. In Google or whatever search engine you prefer, just type in "(your state name) contractors board" and it'll take you where you need to go.

Woodworking and construction plans (www.freewoodworkingplan.com): Would you like to build a new vanity for your bathroom? How about a barbecue cart or a new deck? Perhaps a bat house or a kid's dinosaur puzzle? A ramp, a raft or a radiator cover? From cabinets and furniture to helpful household items, carving projects and gift ideas, this is a great site for finding useful plans and ideas -- and they're free!

Woodworking products and hardware (www.rockler.com): In my opinion, Rockler Woodworking and Hardware is one of the best commercial sites out there for woodworking and construction tools and products, as well as hardware. Rockler offers a selection of innovative products they develop themselves, and is also a great source for things like kitchen drawer slides; hinges, pulls and other cabinet hardware; veneers; and finishing products. I also like the fact that they provide honest, unbiased consumer reviews on a lot of their products.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com. All product reviews are based on the author's actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

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