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Ask the Builder: Before you sign a contract, pause and get advice
This is a milestone column for me. It’s my 1,500th weekly column.
For weeks leading up to this day, I’ve wanted to produce a column that will save you vast sums of money and prevent confrontations, sleepless nights and arguments. My goal is to empower you with all you need to know so that you have the same friendly relationship with your ...Read more
Ask the Builder: Let Angel’s dormer be an inspiration to try new DIY projects
One of the most fulfilling moments of my career happened just a few days ago. It’s a story worth sharing for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it should inspire you to do something you think is impossible. It’s a tale of the three Ds: diligence, determination and dedication, mixed with a heaping spoonful of courage.
Just ...Read more
Ask the Builder: Good drawings and detailed instructions help you avoid remodeling nightmares
I’d like to share a story with you. This saga transpired over the past six weeks, and I feel it contains a valuable lesson that could save you thousands of dollars, allow you to sleep at night, and go to dinner with your remodeling contractor at the end of the job.
This is a tale about trust, honor and betrayal. Perhaps you’ve been betrayed...Read more
Ask the Builder: Home improvement, I’d like you to meet artificial intelligence
I’m celebrating my 30th year of doing my best to protect you against home improvement scams, subpar products, and all the pitfalls of building, remodeling or maintaining your home. I’ve stood up to billion-dollar corporations to prevail on your behalf. But now I’m here to alert you of something far more sinister.
Have you been paying ...Read more
Ask the Builder: How to make your bathroom floor warm
You may find this hard to believe, but I didn’t build the house I currently live in.
It’s a long story, but this current house in central New Hampshire was supposed to be a transition home while I built a Queen Anne Victorian house for my family. Those plans were dashed by the horrible economic storm that affected millions in the autumn of ...Read more
Ask the Builder: Don't just hope your contractor does the job right. Inform yourself beforehand
As a columnist, it’s my job to save you money and time on every repair or improvement project you plan for your home.
While I try my best, I’m thwarted by at least two factors. First and foremost, there are thousands of contractors who do less than acceptable work. I hear about them from readers like you every single day.
The next problem ...Read more
Ask the Builder: Bitter cold and your home
When I woke up just before writing this column, it was a balmy 15 below zero here at my house in central New Hampshire. A gale was blowing and the wind chill was -41F.
You may be reading this column in sunny Florida or southern California, where it never gets bitter cold, but you may have family or friends up in the frozen north who may benefit...Read more
Ask the Builder: How your plumbing pipes work
You may wonder how I got my start as a builder. The hook was set in Boy Scouts, when I obtained my home repairs merit badge. I then helped pay my way through college working on the weekends and during the summer for a man who restored old homes that he bought out of foreclosure. After graduating from college with my geology degree, I decided to ...Read more
Ask the Builder: The pros and cons of foam insulation
A new home is being built on my street. I’ve visited the job site countless times to check on the progress and to observe the quality of the workmanship. So far I’ve recorded nearly 40 videos showing mistakes and shortfalls. You can view the videos on my website. The link is at the end of this column.
Days ago, the insulation that was put ...Read more
Ask the Builder: Build a magic playhouse or clubhouse
Many decades ago, I was a small lad, right in the middle of the baby boom created by soldiers and sailors returning from World War II.
There were no fewer than 10 kids on my street that were within two years of me in age. Two were brothers that lived just 200 feet from my house. Woods surrounded all the houses on our street. Behind their house ...Read more
Ask the Builder: The pros and cons of bold colors
I’ve had the distinct pleasure of attending numerous editors' conferences over the years sponsored by different manufacturers. I’ve toured plants that heat-treat hand tools and factories that make everything from saw blades to small engines, to name a few. Each experience is like Christmas morning to me because I got to see new tools and ...Read more
Ask the Builder: Troubleshooting a masonry fireplace
Every winter, I get quite a few emails from readers who suffer from smoky fireplaces.
Just a month ago, one of my amateur radio friends reached out to me with the same problem. After asking him some questions and looking at photos he provided, I was able to solve his primary problems. I saw reasons why he was plagued with smoke in his home, and...Read more
Ask the Builder: A bathroom vanity primer
Two months ago I made a trip to Cincinnati to attend a retirement party for one of my geology professors. It’s my hometown, and when I go back I spend at least a week there visiting friends. One of them, Tom, a grade school friend, invited me to a gathering about 60 miles east of Cincinnati in Maysville, Kentucky.
The group of his friends ...Read more