by Paul Bianchina
The Internet has certainly revolutionized the way we gather information. From remodeling our homes to protecting ourselves from fraud, there’s an incredible wealth of product and technical information that’s just a mouse-click away.
As you’ve no doubt already learned in your wanderings about the Web, some of what’s out there is extremely useful, and some of it’s not. In fact, some of it borders on the downright dangerous. So when you’re surfing, know your sources. As you find sites that you know have practical and reliable content, bookmark them for use in the future. Beware of sites that are obviously just passing along information from other sites, often word for word and without regard for copyrights.
Here’s a random sampling of interesting Web sites that are full of useable information you can rely on. Some of these are government sites, some are nonprofit organizations, and some are commercial sites. But even the commercial sites are ones that have reputable products:
APA –The Engineered Wood Association: Formerly the American Plywood Association, this group now oversees just about anything having to do with engineered lumber and sheet goods. There’s a wealth of information here about plywood, OSB, engineered beams, you name it — and lots of free publications available for download or by mail.
National Wood Flooring Association: This is a very nice site on wood flooring. It offers a lot of information about different types of wood floors, wood floor maintenance and repair, wood floor design, and even reclaiming and recycling wood flooring materials. It’s designed to promote wood flooring, so it’s slanted in that direction, but it’s still a good source of information.
Building Online: This is a big commercial site that’s been around for quite some time. It’s basically a search engine, which connects you to just about any type of home improvement material or information source that you’re likely to need. It’s a great place to find the names, addresses, phone numbers and Web sites of companies and organizations for a wide variety of different building materials.
Federal Citizen Information Center: This is a very large site, full of an amazing array of information published by the federal government. At the left of the opening page, there’s a menu of choices. Click on “Housing,” then “Home Maintenance” to get to an area full of brochures and other information. The 36-page booklet called Energy Savers, about weatherization and other energy-saving tips, is one good example that’s free for downloading.
Quikrete: Walk into any home improvement store or lumberyard and you’re almost sure to see sacks of Quikrete cement, concrete, sand, asphalt and other products. Their Web site has a lot of good information about what the different products are used for, how to work with them, and how to calculate the quantities that you’ll need.
Wolman Products: There’s always a lot of confusion about deck-cleaning products, and I always get a lot of questions about this subject. In my opinion, Wolman has some of the most reliable deck-cleaning products available. And their Web site has a wealth of information about selecting the best products for different decks and different applications.
U.S. Green Building Council: The Green Building Council is a nonprofit organization that has established the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program to help train builders in green design and construction practices. They’ve also devolved a Green Building Rating System. If you’re interested in green building, this is a good site to visit for more information.
Purdy Paint Brushes: If you need advice on selecting or using paint brushes, in my opinion this is a site with some worthwhile information. These are some of the finest paint brushes out there, and this commercial site is a good place to learn about brushes and get some great painting tips as well.
State Contractor’s Boards: You’ll need to search for this one on your own. In Google or whatever search engine you prefer, just type in “(your state name) contractors board” and it’ll take you where you need to go. I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important this is. If you’re having any kind of work done on your home, you need to find out the contractor’s laws for your state, then verify that the person working on your home is properly licensed, bonded and insured!