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Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License,

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Top 7 DIY Tips from Ty's Tricks Book, by Home-Improvement Guru Ty Pennington

By Vicki McClure Davidson


DIY Book Review: Pennington, Ty, Ty's Tricks – Home Repair Secrets, Plus Cheap and Easy Projects to Transform Any Room, Hyperion, NY, NY, 2003.

Ty's Tricks, by frugal DIY-er Ty Pennington


<em>Ty's Tricks,</em> by Frugal DIY-er Ty Pennington

How can you not love a how-to book when its first chapter is titled "How I Built a Champagne House on a Beer Budget"?

Ty Pennington, Emmy-winning TV host and hands-on carpenter for the popular DIY home improvement shows Trading Spaces and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, has written a funny, irreverent how-to-renovate-your-home book, with a keen eye on recycling and repurposing. Filled with great photos, the book shows how he accomplished many of the one-of-a-kind renovations in his own home.

Keeping to a strict budget, and maintaining his distinctive tropical-Asian theme, Pennington explains how he used old construction materials he's found near trash heaps, toilet plungers, clip boards, old bamboo, and beat-up paint cans to design and create casual, quirky elegance. He encourages readers to be imaginative and consider using materials that would typically be thrown out in the garbage.

Pennington gives detailed information on what kind of tools to use for construction projects, what kind of woods are appropriate for walls vs. floors, how to make beautiful, unique furniture, how to effectively use color, and how to save money on projects. He also has a strong sense of safety, and his book emphasizes many precautions to avert dangerous situations and when to leave a repair to the professionals. He offers myriad suggestions and tips for anyone who wants to renovate their own home, or a portion of it, on a shoestring budget.

Pennington writes to his reading audience, never down. He even details mistakes he's made in the past, making the book just that much more enjoyable, refreshing, and informative. He has another book that will be published soon.

This book, published in 2003, is a must-read for any thrifty do-it-yourselfer or fan of Pennington's TV shows. While not many people would want or be able to accomplish what he has done with his fixer-upper home (his retaining wall koi pond with waterfall and Buddha statue is breathtaking and serene), Pennington gives simple, common-sense solutions or advice on many potential problems all DIY-ers face at some time when engaged in home repair or renovation.


Most of his techniques and instruction, while inexpensive, are too involved to include here, so you need to read the book. Here are seven of my favorite, simple Ty's Tricks:

  1. Always use a corded power drill when drilling metal, brick, or concrete. This job takes too much juice for a cordless drill—unless you're dealing with a material such as thin sheet metal. While cordless drills are convenient, they don't have the steady flow and torque that the corded ones have.

  2. You can get more machine for your money by renting over the weekend. If you pick up on Saturday and return on Monday morning, most tool rental places won't charge you for Sunday.

  3. Keep a little motor oil handy for when things eventually get smoking hot. Drip a bit onto the spot you're drilling to prevent your bit from overheating.

  4. Protect your eyes when you're operating a power drill—wear safety goggles. I can't drill this in enough: power tools = safety goggles. Your vision will thank you.

  5. To temporarily stop a leak until the plumber arrives, jam the sharp point of pencil into the hole. Dry the pipe with a towel and wrap it tightly with electrical tape. Or, slice a section of old garden hose or bicycle inner tube length-wise, wrap it around the pipe, and secure it with pipe clamps.

  6. Measuring twice and cutting once is a good way to cut down on the "fudge-it factor." My advice for any carpentry project is: "Measuring twice is good advice, but when you're in a pinch, add an eighth of an inch."

  7. When replacing bathroom floor ceramic tiles, be aware that people walk on the floor in their wet, bare feet. So, choose a tile that has a little texture to it to avoid emergency brain surgery. Shiny glazed tiles are nice for walls, but can be a killer on the floor. Because they are walked on, floor tiles are usually a little thicker, too. Buy floor tiles, not wall tiles.




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