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How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding and Maintaining Your Home, Updated and Expanded [Paperback]

Charlie Wing
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 28 2012 RSMeans (Book 81)
Understand how to maintain everything in your home—including the kitchen sink

How Your House Works, Second Edition reinforces the fact that it pays to be an informed consumer. Knowledge of your home's systems helps you control repair and construction costs and makes sure the correct elements are being installed or replaced. How Your House Works uncovers the mysteries behind just about every major appliance and building element in your house. Clear, full-color drawings show you exactly how these things should be put together and how they function, including what to check if they don't work.

Covering topics such as electrical systems, heating and air conditioning, plumbing, major household appliances, foundation, framing, doors, and windows, this updated Second Edition has considerable additional information, with new chapters related to sustainability in and outside the house, as well as new topics, including clock thermostats, ventless gas heaters, moisture and mold, and passive solar heating.

  • Illustrated guidance on electrical systems, heating and air conditioning, plumbing, major household appliances, foundation, framing, doors, and windows
  • Includes a wealth of additional information, with new chapters related to sustainability and outside the house
  • Features new topics that include clock thermostats, ventless gas heaters, moisture and mold, LED lamps, motion-activated light switches, and passive solar heating
  • Presented in a richly illustrated with full-color drawings

With see-through, cross-section drawings that show you how things are put together and how they function, How Your House Works supplies you with the knowledge that just might save you having to call in a professional.


Frequently Bought Together

How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding and Maintaining Your Home, Updated and Expanded + Home Maintenance For Dummies + Black & Decker The Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair: With 350 Projects and Over 2,000 Photos
Price For All Three: CDN$ 51.36

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Product Details


Product Description

From the Back Cover

An easy-to-understand, richly illustrated guide to how everything in a house works

Why is my faucet leaking, my toilet running, or my dishwasher refusing to start? Can I fix it myself? What's causing the heating system to smell bad or the foundation to crack? Do I need an air filtration system? Is the new "engineered lumber" as good as conventional wood? These are just a few examples of questions homeowners face when repairs are needed or when a new house or addition is being planned.

This new edition of How Your House Works uncovers the mysteries behind just about every major appliance and building element in your house. Clear "exploded" drawings show you exactly how these things should be put together and how they function—what to check if they don't work, and what you can do that might save you from calling in a professional.

The easy-to-understand pictures and explanations on every page get right to the point, helping you understand how things work, what can go wrong, and how to troubleshoot a problem.

Virtually everything in your house is included:

  • Electrical – circuit breakers and grounding, service, outlets, lamps, and fixtures

  • Heating and air conditioning – gas, electrical, and oil, ductwork and piping, thermostats, central and window AC units, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, and air filtering systems

  • Plumbing – kitchen and bath fixtures, piping, water heaters, traps and vents, septic tanks, and pumps and water softener systems (even sprinkler systems and swimming pool filters/heaters)

  • Major household appliances – from kitchen to laundry

  • Foundation, framing, doors, and windows – including issues like drainage and radon, types of framing and how it supports the house, and all types of doors and windows

  • Sustainability and beyond – covers sustainability and issues outside the house, as well as clock thermostats, ventless gas heaters, moisture and mold, and¿¿passive solar heating

This quick and easy guide will save you time and money, answer nagging questions, and help you keep your house running smoothly.

About the Author

The author of more than twenty books on home repair and improvement, Charlie Wing is perhaps the most credible house-building teacher in the world. His writing and illustrations make complex home issues understandable. An MIT graduate, he developed and hosted a national PBS energy conservation series, Housewarming with Charlie Wing, and served as primary editorial developer for Home Depot's branded 1-2-3 books.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most helpful customer reviews
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent sur toute la ligne ! Feb. 6 2013
By MFJ
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Le produit m'a été livré dans le délai prévu. La qualité mentionnée était exacte. Je suis très satisfait et je recommande fortement ce vendeur. Excellent sur toute la ligne !
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  67 reviews
50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How Your House Works: A Visual Guide March 31 2012
By Leif Sheppard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
What's problematic about DIY guides is that they're either much too technical for the laymen it purports to be written for, or the text leans to the other end of the spectrum and ends up an overly-simplified outline of the subject, never quite diving deep enough into the material. "How Your House Works" falls into the latter category, as the text covers a wide range of material but never rests long enough on one topic to be of much use. The subtitle "A visual guide to understanding and maintaining your home" is also somewhat misleading because the book offers much more in the way of 'understanding' and precious little in the way of 'maintaining'. However, the book is wonderfully packed with illustrations detailing how several dozen devices within your home operate. The maintenance and troubleshooting suggestions are relegated to a box on the side of the page. The material within those boxes range from utterly useless to reasonably helpful.

While I can understand how a dishwasher works, that still leaves me far from knowing how to maintain one. The brief tips on troubleshooting and maintenance are often helpful only to a small degree. The text recommends dishwasher owners periodically "Remove the spray arms and clean the spray holes" without offering help as to exactly how to clean them. There are a myriad of ways to do this, with some methods being significantly more effective than others, and the text often lacks clear detail in these areas. Other tips are even less helpful, such as "Make sure you are using dishwasher detergent, not dishwashing detergent". If that's your problem, toss the book in the trash and leave your home maintenance/repair to your local repair shops. In fact, perhaps you should hand wash your dishes.

Those buying this book expecting a "how it works" overview of a range of household items will be well pleased. But those buying this book based on the subtitle expecting detailed and extensive help in home maintenance are bound to be disappointed. That said, the book is still a good starting point for those interested in DIY home maintenance, as the text does give the reader a solid idea of how many things within the home operate. It just could have been so much more.
36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What are you looking for? March 30 2012
By maximum verbosity - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This book was exactly what I was looking for. I've been a homeowner for 17 years and I'm by NO means a DYI expert. But, I am more than willing to try to figure something out myself and THEN call a professional if I screw it up too badly. Thankfully, those times have been far and few between. I don't do electrical stuff, I leave that up to my husband who was trained in the Navy how to do that stuff. But will I take out an old sink and put in a new one while my husband is at work? You betcha. And yes, the sink works perfectly, not a drip or clog in sight. Have I knocked down the walls to our foyer closet because I was sick of the kids throwing all of their crap in there and never shutting the doors correctly (which were the 70's style sliding doors that were always falling off of their tracks anyway). Yes, yes I have done that. Now we have a much more open foyer and a nice, neat place to put shoes, book bags and jackets, thanks to my - - willingness to learn new things.

However, in my creative endeavors around the house, there have been times where I really needed a clear, easy-to-follow, well illustrated and straight to the point guide to help me understand what exactly was behind the wall I was getting ready to knock down. I bought a few books, I looked stuff up on the internet, etc. It got really confusing and I often got distracted by other clutter online and we ended up sleeping in a film of drywall dust that night.

This book is perfect for my needs. It has simple pictures and diagrams on how things work. Things like your garbage disposal, hot water heater, basic plumbing, what happens when you flush the toilet (and why the stuff might be coming back OUT instead of DOWN), etc. There aren't a bunch of blah-blah-blah hot air stuff that I won't read anyway, just the information you need.

Who do I think this book is perfect for? People who are willing to take a chance and try to fix something themselves before handing $75 to a plumber who you call desperately because the kids bathroom toilet is overflowing and he just walks in, reaches down and pulls your daughters iPhone out of the toilet. 2.5 minutes and he's out of there and you're $75 lighter. (not including the stupid phone). Or what about when you flush it and it keeps running and running. Why does it do that? Just turn to the plumbing section and it will show you what happens when you push down on the handle and what sorts of (very simple) things you can check and fix it yourself.

It does have safety tips, you do have to know when you're over your head.

-Don't mess with electricity unless you are professionally trained and qualified. The results could be tragic (or VERY embarrassing).

-Don't knock down walls in your house without making sure they are not 1. load bearing walls (your bedroom will end up in your living room) and 2. they are not the walls that house the plumbing for the upstairs bathrooms.

-DO NOT try to DIY ANYTHING pertaining to your natural gas lines - definitely call a plumber for that one. Not only could you cause serious injury to yourself, you could end up blowing up your entire neighborhood. Seriously.

So if you're a hands-on learner with a bit of guts, A LOT of common sense, a frugal spirit and just need a visual cue nearby, this book will be one that you will be referring to over and over. And probably loaning to your jerk brother-in-law who never returns anything and if he does, it always has freakin' tomato sauce all over it.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Key To Do-It-Yourself Is To Understand What You Are Working On March 24 2012
By Ctwink - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"I'm convinced that most of today's homeowners live in a perpetual state of anxiety. While school has taught us math, foreign languages, and computer sciences, most of us have no idea how our furnace, refrigerator, or even kitchen faucet works. This is an expensive omission in our educations."
"In metropolitan areas, the minimum charge for a plumber or appliance repairperson to come to your home is about $150. In fact repair services are now so expensive that the leading consumer magazine recommends replacing, rather than repairing, appliances over five years old. Why don't more people attempt simple repairs themselves?"

Why indeed!

With this simple and straightforward beginning, I was hooked. When many of the household appliances and equipment that we use on a day-to-day basis appear to be too complicated to comprehend, we instead call Joe the Plumber for even simple problems. However, many appliances only give the APPEARANCE of being complicated because this is our knee-jerk assumption from not understanding how they work. Enter "How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding and Maintaining Your Home" by Dr. Charlie Wing. Inside you we see informative drawings of how your hydronic (i.e. piping), electrical, and HVAC (i.e. heating & cooling) systems work in your house as well as the appliances and equipment that connect into these systems such as sinks, water heaters, light switches, furnace filters, ceiling fans, and more. In addition, there are also sections on "Windows & Doors", "Foundation & Frame" (i.e. how your home is built structurally), "Outdoors" (which includes such items as 2- and 4-cycle motors, lawn mowers, and chain saws) and lastly "Toward Sustainability" (which gets into specifics about lowering your utility bills and living greener). All told, this book has just about all of the heavy use and high stress appliances and equipment in your home. It won't give you step-by-step instructions on how to replace an electrical switch, but it does give you simple to read, but very specific, explanations on the interior workings and wiring so that you will know the difference between when something is REALLY WRONG or when you just need to open the faceplate and retighten a wirenut.

As a mechanical engineer and a project manager for construction projects, I am quite versed about how things work around my home and office buildings. However, even I learned a thing or two by going through the very logical and easy-to-read approach that Dr. Wing has used in this book. I also have alot of experience with RS Means and their products - they are near the top (if not at it) in the world of construction estimation, pricing, and design tools and thus if this book has the R.S. Means name, you know that it is a quality product. The only negative comment I have is that I feel that the sections on your heating and cooling system in your house should be expanded. In my opinion, ones house being either too cold or too hot is a key area of homeowner complaints. As opposed to replacing a simple broken light fixture or fixing a leaky sink, by and large HVAC issues are one that almost all homeowners feel trapped by their inability to correct on their own.

This product should be on an easy-to-reach book shelf of every homeowner in America. There is no reason why anyone should be held hostage by the unnecessary ignorance (and lighter wallet) that comes from being unable understand the basic workings of a toilet or thermostat or wall socket.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Basic - Nice book for 1st time homeowner Oct. 12 2012
By LoriAnnR - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I rather doubt that anyone who owns this book considers it their "go to" book with every problem encountered in their home. It will however provide a sufficient overview in understanding the basic concepts of how elements of the home work (in general terms). I couldn't help but think that this book might be a nice house warming gift for the new homeowner who does not have a lot of experience in home maintenance and repairs and has a lot of questions about how things work in their new home.

I like the sections of the book that are entitled "before calling a plumber (or electrician, or repairman, etc.)" This book appears to do a satisfactory job in providing basic suggestions of what can be checked to resolve a problem before calling the professionals thereby possibly eliminating a costly service call.

Each section of the book covers a topic in only one or two pages (again....very basic stuff). The illustrations are large - which I actually liked and when specific plumbing topics were covered, there would often be a breakdown of all the pieces and parts that would be part of the plumbing fixture. For example, for the page outlining how a compression-type faucet works, the illustration shows the many parts that make up the faucet (i.e.: cap, handle screw, handle, packing nut, packing, spindle, O-ring, etc. etc.).

All in all, a very basic reference tool most appropriate for those readers who are clueless in how their home operates.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where Have You Been All My Life? March 25 2012
By Big Dave - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
So, I'm an idiot. Not in all things, but with respect to all the sorts of things guys are supposed to be good at... I'm not.

So this book is awesome for me. It breaks down my entire house system by system, including internal and external systems, major appliances and gardening tools, illustrates them disassembled and cut away and describes what each piece is in detail and how the systems work. Everything from the trap weir in the toilet to circuit breakers to the garbage disposal to the lawnmower is made easy to understand, complete with "Before You Call the Professional" sidebar tips on easy repairs.
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