There is no shortage of voices giving you home improvement advice. The problem is finding one you can trust. Because I do not know everything about all aspects of home improvement, in addition to my personal experience I rely on outside voices for information.
Not all sources are the same; some have greater weight than others. Designations change over time, too. And these classes are not set in stone; there is overlap.
Class 1 sources are honest and forthright in their intentions and are mostly accurate.
Tradeperson Content Creator
These are people who spend their days working in a trade–plumbing, electrical, tile, etc.–and their nights writing about it in a clear, smart manner.
- The Floor Elf
- Essential Craftsman
Trade publications are for people who work in the home renovation and building industries. These tend to also have a print component and have paid subscribers. Because these companies have money to pay writers to do primary research, information tends to be highly accurate. A downside of these being corporate-published is you don’t get off-the-cuff, informal advice; everything is vetted by a group of editors.
- Fine Homebuilding
- Fine Woodworking
Personal Blog/Site – Home Related
These are people who run their own home improvement related blogs or sites and they relate their own experiences. While not trained experts, but they have a lot of ambition and desire to learn about home improvement and design. The least trustworthy element is that many of them write posts “sponsored by” companies, which reduces their objectivity.
- Young House Love
- Designer Trapped In Lawyer’s Body
- Ana White
Forums mainly populated by people who work in the trades–construction, electrical, plumbing, etc. These are people who have good authority on their subjects, at least their own personal take on things.
- John Bridge
- Contractor Talk
Mainstream Media – Home Related
Publications aimed at do it yourselfers, not professionals, yet these publications are only home-related, not general interest.
- Family Handyman
- This Old House
Class 2 home advice sources may have one-sided view (industry lobby groups and company sites, for example), but this doesn’t mean that they are inaccurate; they are just advancing the company line. Class 2 sources might also be sources that are not imbalanced (e.g., DIYer forums), but can be filled with people who may or may not know what they’re talking about.
Industry Lobby Group
These are groups that represent only one group of people and thus they have only one point of view.
- Vinyl Siding Institute
- National Fenestration Council
Mainstream Media – General
These are mainly newspapers. On the rare occasion when they cover DIY-type home improvement topics, quality tends to be adequate because the writers take a little more time than the usual web content writer.
- Los Angeles Times
- New York Times
Forum – Home Related
Home-only forums frequented by people who do not work in the industry.
- GardenWeb (Houzz)
- DIY Network
Naturally, these sites cannot be expected to offer balanced views on their products. But often they are the best and only source of hard data. on a product. In rare instances, like Homax (below), they do have user-reviews that give a fair view of the products.
- DuPont Corian
Class 3 sources can range the merely suspect sources to those that are blatantly dishonest.
Forum – General
These are general interest forums (Reddit included) which may incidentally have some home improvement advice.
- Stack Exchange
Personal Blog/Site – General Interest
This is rare, but sometimes a person running a general interest blog or site will dispense good home improvement advice. A typical thing might be a guy who runs a blog about cars but publishes an inspired post about building a home movie theater in his back bedroom.
Inexpertly written home improvement advice. Often this advice is written by people who have never picked up a saw. The advice is typically cribbed together from other sources.
Contracting matching sites’ main interest is to make money from contractors (a collective term for people working in the home industry) by matching the contractors to work. Home-related content is only incidental and is usually not very good.
Compared to other topics (dating, making money, etc.), there are not many sites in the home improvement industry devoted to making a buck off of affiliate commissions. Replacement windows, though, is one topic where you will find a lot of affiliates, though this has tapered off in recent years.