Dear James: I want to do some outdoor projects, such as adding a deck, a trellis, etc. Being petite, many tools are difficult to work with. Can I get smaller-size tools, and do you have any tips? -- Beth L.
Dear Beth: You should be able to do most of the outdoor projects that a larger person can do, but it may take you longer. That unattractive...Read more
Dear James: I bought an older home, and the living room ceiling is in pretty bad condition. I am looking for a decorative ceiling that's easy to install myself. Is beadboard or plank paneling a good option? -- Dean M.
Dear Dean: When you are remodeling or just redecorating a room, think of the ceiling as the fifth wall. Unlike the vertical ...Read more
Dear James: Whenever one of the kids flushes a toilet while I am showering, the water gets very hot. Would installing a new type of shower valve help, and can you give me some do-it-yourself tips? -- Melissa B.
Dear Melissa: This is a very common problem when your bathtub has the old two-handle (hot and cold) shower valve. When a toilet is ...Read more
Dear James: I am planning to sell my house, so I want to improve the landscaping. I think a small decorative bridge would look nice over a gully near the flower gardens. How should I build it, and what material is best? -- Ron M.
Dear Ron: Adding a bridge to your garden -- or any location in your backyard -- can enhance the landscaping and give...Read more
Dear James: I am recently divorced. Now, with my husband gone, I can finally clean up the garage and get things arranged properly. What suggestions do you have to free up space and jazz it up a bit? -- Steve W.
Dear Steve: Cleaning and jazzing up the garage area is becoming a very popular home improvement project. With the attached garage door ...Read more
Dear James: I am planning to build some natural wood cabinets for my living room. I am trying to determine the most attractive method to finish the wood. Is it better to uses a stain or a dye? -- Lori L.
Dear Lori: There is nothing more beautiful than finely finished natural wood cabinets. You can purchase nice ones, but if you want the best ...Read more
Dear James: I have a deck in the backyard, but I would also like to build a patio on a level area adjacent to it. I need some advice on what type of material to use for the patio and some installation tips. -- Eddie F.
Dear Eddie: Decks are nice because they are up from the ground, but a patio does come in handy for outdoor projects and ...Read more
Dear James: My husband and I are in our 50s. We want to build a house which we can stay in as we age. I remember how difficult it was for my mother to leave her house. Is universal design the answer for us? -- Sara B.
Dear Sara: Leaving your home, where you have lived in for many years, can be very difficult and emotionally painful. You can ...Read more
Dear James: I need an additional shower for my children. The utility room (over a slab) has a drain ideal for a shower. My neighbor's tile shower always leaks at the floor. How can I avoid this in mine? -- Sean P.
Dear Sean: A shower with a ceramic tile floor is most attractive. As your neighbor apparently learned, it can be a little tricky to ...Read more
Dear James: We are totally redoing our master bedroom and bathroom. The bathroom is narrow, and I always bump the towel bar. Is there a good way to redesign this so there is more space and I won't bruise my shoulder? -- Ron F.
Dear Ron: It is convenient to have a towel bar extend well out from the wall for hanging towels, especially wet ones ...Read more
Dear James: My house has old white aluminum gutters. They look terrible, but they leak at just two seams. Is it possible to seal those leaky seams and paint the aluminum gutter with a fresh white coat? -- Rick R.
Dear Rick: Old discolored gutters can make an entire house look run-down and in poor repair. Often, as it sounds in your situation, ...Read more
Dear James: I am not very handy with tools, but my daughter wants me to build a compost bin for our yard. I would like to build a simple one, but I want it to be effective. What do you suggest? -- Sandy F.
Dear Sandy: Every year, schools are teaching children more and more about taking care of the environment and recycling for their future. ...Read more
Dear James: I live in an 75-year-old two-story house. When some walls were opened for repairs, the plumber said there were no fire stop blocks. What are they, does this violate code and should I add them? -- Tony R.
Dear Tony: Fire stops are an important and effective safety construction feature. Their purpose is exactly what the name infers --...Read more