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The Walls Around Us: The Thinking Person's Guide to How a House Works
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The Walls Around Us: The Thinking Person's Guide to How a House Works

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  83 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Anyone who's ever quailed at the thought of buying a two-by-four or suspected that his (or her) dwelling is breaking down out of spite will be charmed, educated and entertained by this delightful history and how-to of the house.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published December 1st 1992 by Vintage Books USA (first published September 24th 1991)
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Community Reviews

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Jan 29, 2015 Rj rated it really liked it
For the past couple nights I have combined the desire to learn more about our house and how everything works and a good read in David Owen's The Walls Around Us: The Thinking Person's Guide to how a home works (New York: Villard Boosk, 1991). Owen's book written in a manner similar to that of Michael Pollan, Christopher Benfey and Tim Falconer, a story which digresses into brief histories or discussions of particular subjects that relate to the larger story at hand. It makes for fun and enjoyabl ...more
Aug 12, 2009 Ruth rated it really liked it
I guess my tastes are a little odd; I mean, most people might not be intrigued and even entertained by tales of why you shouldn't paint the exterior of your house with nuclear paint (the kind actually used on nuclear reactor plants because it's non-flammable! Important fact!) or what the most common predators that eat wood are, for example. This book is not only extraorinarily dense with details, but written with the type of wry, self-deprecatory humor that brings Dave Barry to mind. The author ...more
Jan 31, 2008 Dave rated it liked it
Recommends it for: homeowners
I actually read this book after I read his newer book Sheetrock & Shellac and so I went to it as if was basically the same. I had loved "Sheetrock" but at first I wasn't really into this book. They're not really the same. So I put it down for a couple months.

Now that I've come back and finished the book up, I was able to enjoy it for what it was. And enjoy it I did. Since I am an amateur woodworker and weekend warrior myself, I was glad to get a tip here and there plus a lot of validation
Jul 14, 2013 Patrick rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, craft
I figured this was a book for me, given my interest in old-house restoration, craft etc. But it was a real grind even finishing it. I have a hard time understanding who would actually enjoy it, as only those with a real interest would plow through 20 pages on the history of linseed-oil and paint, or the process of milling lumber, etc. The problem is that he has written it as though the reader know nothing about this, and anyone who's ever been in a lumber yard understands that a "2 by 4" is not ...more
Jun 13, 2011 Amanda rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, technical
This was a gift (from a judge and his cool wife!) as they know about Chad's designs and frustrations for/with our house. It was an excellent book for any homeowner, and I might buy a stock of them for housewarming gifts (is that terrifying?). Owens writes with cool, dry wit about his own experiences with houses and maintaining them, and he educates in a calm and informative manner that put me at ease. Now we'll see if we can put that ease into some form of action ....
Jul 16, 2011 Ben rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended. While Michael Pollan's A Place of My Own is a scholarly approach to building from the ground up, David Owen comes at the building trades from the position of the remodeler of an old home. He brings a lively wit, an inquisitive nature and the willingness to experiment and embarrass himself to this task. He aptly describes much of what many of us find mysterious about construction and houses, including wiring, plumbing and roofing.
Thomas G
Sep 05, 2015 Thomas G rated it liked it
A really helpful, useful book. Even if it's heavily skewed towards the American home, and the historical New England home to be specific.
Oct 28, 2009 Firebringer rated it really liked it
I now know why I would not want to use the same paint applied to nuclear power plants on the sides of my own home, how plaster sticks to walls, and have a bit better idea on how one would deal with an uneven floor when planning built-in bookcases.

Wish there was a chapter on doors, tho.
Oct 20, 2010 Tris rated it liked it
Read this a while back and still recommend it to people who, like me, live in older houses. Witty and accessible introduction to basic house systems and maintenance. Not overwhelming. Okay, a little overwhelming. But good.
Aug 09, 2013 Wesley rated it it was amazing
I can't stop thinking about what I learned from this book - every homeowner should read it - the topics in here come up so often that I feel like a broken record because I'm relating everything back to this
Jim Wilson
Dec 28, 2012 Jim Wilson rated it it was amazing
Nice book that explains where various building materials and components come from, how they developed and why we use them the way we do. Want to know how your house works, read this.
Feb 10, 2008 Sabra rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: old house fans, home renovators, Home Depot/Lowe's junkies
Shelves: non-fiction
I found myself reading this on vacation on a beach -- and giggling over his explanation of nail sizing.... Who knew one could laugh reading a book about how a house is built?
Jan 15, 2013 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookclub
loved this, esp. as the owner of an older home. when I read this we were only 1 year into our old home, so it was useful.
bookclub pick, april 2005
Jan 15, 2008 Kg4jbj rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, home
This account of a the author's fixing up a purchased house is entertaining and teaches a lot of what every homeowner needs to know about their home.
Oct 06, 2008 Carl rated it liked it
I have been remodeling for years and there are things in here that I never knew that I wished I had known a long time ago.
A fun book for a person with a little home-improvement interest. I learned a lot, and enjoyed the funny stories :)
Interesting and informative, but the chatty, jokey style is sometimes annoying.
Feb 11, 2013 Lynn rated it really liked it
Very funny and informative book on buildings. I've read twice.
Jan 27, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it liked it
Stupid, unthinking people could learn from this book too.
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