Saturday, December 8, 2007

Books: too obvious to think about

Usually, the Internet is the best source of information - at least, quickest accessible.

But it has a drawback - you won't find the information you're not specifically looking for. Maybe only as a collateral, but even in this case you have to know that it is relevant to the problem you're resolving - and this may not necessarily be obvious.

A while ago, I was trying to figure out whether it is safe to drill a 1 1/2" hole in a load bearing support beam. The consequences of a wrong decision would be catastrophic - the second floor will come crashing down, and no insurance would help. So I started looking for the solution, but, surprisingly, different sources were giving different advices.

It so happened that I visited a bookstore at the same time. By accident, I was passing by the section with all sorts of DIY books in it. Just out of curiosity, I decided to take a look.

Well, now I'm writing this article. Thanks to many of those books, now I know how to do wiring, framing, drywalling, texturing and painting, investigating installing windows and doors, flooring, all kinds of woodworking, will take a look at tiling when the time comes.

It's not that they are the source of ultimate wisdom. It's that there are things in every business that you simply have to know in order to do things - and those books give you the necessary headstart so you can looks ahead standing on the shoulders of giants. Or at least those who passed this road before you.

Another advice - don't rush buying those books - you'll spend a fortune. Each book is anywhere from $20 to $80. Make friends with your local library instead.


  1. So *can* you put a 3/2" hole in a load-bearing beam? :)

    Unrelated anecdote: When I was a teenager, my father renovated a 150-year-old converted schoolhouse, including an addition. To wire the ceiling lights, he drilled 1" holes in the ceiling trusses, which is what someone who should have known had told him to do. The building inspector was *not* happy and was threatening to make him replace them, which would have meant tearing down the entire addition!

    My dad called the truss makers, hoping to find a simple way to fix this (reinforce the trusses in some way, for example). He talked to an engineer who said a 1" hole was smaller than what they allow for knotholes in a truss, so he was fine!

    However, it was a tense week or so, until the building inspector accepted the engineer's approval and passed the inspection...

  2. Well, I decided not to tempt the fate and routed the cables around the beam - with the added benefit of ripping apart the staircase on the other side of the wall and making a server room out of that space. Worked out just fine.

    With the exception of being flabbergasted by shoddy quality of work that I uncovered inside of that space - not a single stud plumb, not a single nail not crooked, not a single structure member that is not cracked when nailed, and some more. I'm sure I can spend a day enumerating problems that I've encountered, and that would go well beyond anyone's "give a damn" scale :)