Home renovation, woodworking and other do-it-yourself tasks might seem like solitary activities, but a growing number of Web-savvy DIY types...
Home renovation, woodworking and other do-it-yourself tasks might seem like solitary activities, but a growing number of Web-savvy DIY types are taking breaks from their drills and saws to build lively online communities devoted to documenting projects and sharing ideas.
In blogs, discussion groups and specialized Web sites, do-it-yourselfers are trading tips about birdhouse construction, detailing drywall skills with photo essays and documenting the restoration of historic homes with video clips.
Nowhere is this in more evidence than in the genre of Web log known as the houseblog. Like typical blogs,houseblogs are composed of a stream of dated, diarylike entries. But housebloggers, instead of churning out a hodgepodge of personal opinions and stories, have a narrow focus — a home-renovation project.
You read these blogs, replete with their quirky mix of how-to tips and amusing anecdotes, and you can’t help wondering where these enterprising how-to types find the time and energy for blogging and building.
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Tips and tales
Take expirationdates (wrightideas.typepad.com), a blog about a couple who set out to build a house in Washington state with the help of friends and relatives. The house is finished, or mostly so (“some flooring and tiling needs to be done”), and you can witness the results online in a photo gallery covering everything from house plans to a “deck building party.”
Typical blog entries are titled “Window Sills” (“they were much harder than we first thought”), “What an Ordeal” (trees requiring removal) and “Gutters” (they have trees growing in them). Like other houseblogs, this one blends stories about the ups and downs of home improvement with nitty-gritty guidance. A blog entry on the home’s bamboo flooring, for instance, provides pointers for avoiding a split between floorboards. Photos, of course, document the problem.
An uber-houseblogging Web site, Houseblogs.net, will connect you with other houseblogs, as will the “blogrolls” at houseblogging sites linking to other renovators and home improvement sites.
The online DIY world isn’t just about all-out home renovation projects. Far from it.
Today’s do-it-yourselfers turn to the Web not just for tips, but also for community. Sure, if you want to tear down your walls and reconstruct your home, you will find comrades to help you with those efforts, but you will also find tips on building Adirondack chairs or painting walls with a faux finish.
That’s the spirit behind Refurber (www.refurber.com), a new site that’s all about home renovation, gardening and other home-improvement projects. Currently in a “beta” (or test) phase, Refurber lets members rate and tag each other’s advice on topics like slate tile floors, squeaky hinges and cast-iron radiators.
But much of the action can be found at blogs, where DIY enthusiasts, if not blogging on their own sites, often post comments and otherwise contribute to the dialogue.
At the Wood Whisperer (www.thewoodwhisperer.com), woodworking expert Marc Spagnuolo doles out advice about using exotic woods, making veneers and the like. He does this with written entries and video podcasts, generating plenty of comments about his techniques. Unless you know your stuff, these discussions can sometimes devolve into indecipherable woodworking-speak (“do you have to always check the drift angle when the blade has been removed?”), but the insider feel is also part of the attraction.
Competition for “This Old House”? Sort of, but if you visit the Web site for “This Old House” (www.thisoldhouse.com), you will find several blogs there, too.