It's 2 a.m., the faucet is dripping, but you can fix it. No, really.

To publish a book that stands apart in today's crowded do-it-yourself universe requires real effort. The editors of Creative Homeowner expended plenty in producing "Home Book: The Ultimate Guide to Repairs, Improvements, & Maintenance" ($40).

There may be books with as much information, but it's hard to imagine finding one more meticulously organized or with more photo-panel tutorials.

Tucked within its 600 lavishly illustrated pages are step-by-step photographs walking readers through projects both modest - spot painting, stopping stair squeaks, and replacing a shower head - and ambitious - installing cabinets on a wall, waterproofing exterior foundation walls, and building a deck.

Altogether, more than 300 projects are presented in photo sequences. Most are limited to six or fewer images and short captions, which, at times, may not be enough for the inexperienced.

For covering the waterfront, though - even if sketchily at times - "Home Book" gets high marks. It also exudes authority, with a team of industry experts advising the editors.

Among the book's helpful features is an extensive resource guide, complete with mail and Web-site addresses, as well as phone numbers. Another is a remodeling guide that walks homeowners through the entire process, including budgeting, hiring a contractor, following codes, and settling disputes.

While some projects shown might overwhelm the skills of those unfamiliar with circular saws or disinclined to climb over or under roofs, there's much how-to advice about simple tasks.

For example, the book makes patching a spot on a stained carpet look like a snap. A circular carpet patch tool cuts a cookie-cutter section from the soiled carpet, which is replaced by an unsoiled scrap piece. The replacement section is secured by filling the carpet cavity with a piece of double-faced seam tape larger than the hole.

At this time of year, many people may turn to the chapter on insulation.

To find out how effective your insulation is, place a thermometer in the middle of a room and tape another to an exterior wall. If there's more than than a five-degree temperature difference between the two, your home might need more insulation and may benefit from a professional energy audit.

One simple tip to eliminate air leaks is to insert an insulated, precut pad between a light switch or receptacle and its cover. You may also inject silicone caulk to close gaps around wires and drywall or plaster.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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