Dear James: I have a beautiful old stained wooden front that is in good condition. I have tried to refinish it twice, but the glossy finish does not hold up. How should I finish it next time so it lasts? -- Jen P.
Dear Jen: The workmanship on many of the heavy older wooden front doors is truly beautiful. It is very important to have a good ...Read more
Dear James: I plan to convert part of my large concrete patio to a screened-in porch. I cannot afford a complete kit. What are some ideas for building an inexpensive one myself? -- Mark T.
Dear Mark: You and your family should get a lot of enjoyment from even a small screened porch and it should add more resale value to your home than its ...Read more
Dear James: I am running over budget on remodeling my house, so I cannot replace all the carpeting. What are some methods to rejuvenate the older carpeting to look newer? -- Sandra K.
Dear Sandra: You certainly are not the first person to overrun a budget and have to cut back a bit on the final touches. Generally, unless your old carpeting is ...Read more
Dear James: I like to do flower gardening and plan to install a natural stone path through mine. What type of stones should I buy and what is the best method to lay them? -- Bonnie S.
Dear Bonnie: Using natural stone is one of the most attractive pathway materials. This is particularly true in a flower garden where you do not want the bright ...Read more
Dear James: We just found a house to buy, but it has a synthetic stucco exterior. What are some of the typical problems with this and can we strip it off an apply real stucco? -- Lori M.
Dear Lori: There have been many stories about problems with the synthetic stucco used on the exterior of a house. Enough of these horror stories are well-...Read more
Dear James: There quite a few projects I need to do around my house. How do I decide when and where to use particleboard, plywood or oriented strand board? -- Rich J.
Dear Rich: You must have visited your home center store recently and done your research. Those are the basic four materials to use for flat structural members and each is best for...Read more
Dear James: After using my wood-burning fireplace often this winter, I have found some long cracks in the brick and mortar outdoors. Is this something that needs immediate attention? -- MaryAnn L.
Dear MaryAnn: Generally some minor cracks in a chimney mortar between bricks are common, but the long cracks you described might indicate a serious ...Read more
Dear James: We have decided on the floor plan for our new house, but now must select a roof style. How do we go about determining what style of roof is best? -- Steve F.
Dear Steve: There really is not one "best" roof design. The quality of the roof depends on the quality of the materials used and the workmanship of the roofers. Metal roofs are...Read more
The Empty PulpitSandra Arrants
Fourteen year old Sherman Thompson has stumbled upon the body of his pastor. Laid out, dead, on the front lawn of the parsonage, Reverend Archibald Temple had a voice of thunder that has been rendered silent forever. Sherman and his sister Grace are determined to find out who killed him and ...
Dear James: I entertain outdoors often and could use a patio cooking center, but I am on a tight budget. What options do I have for building one myself by the gas grill? -- Bonnie K.
Dear Bonnie: Outdoor patio cooking centers are wonderful for entertaining or for just your own family. The most elaborate ones are as extensive as the typical ...Read more
Dear James: I'm planning a veggie garden on my sloping lot so I need a retaining wall. I have used timbers before, but blocks might hold up better. Which method do you prefer? -- Steve W.
Dear Steve: Both methods for building a retaining are effective and can be attractive depending on the landscaping appearance you are seeking. Retaining wall ...Read more
Dear James: I really need to organize my bedroom. I have noticed how organized my friend's room is. Do you have any suggestions for some easy-to-install shelves that won't take up my already limited floor space? -- Theresa H.
Dear Theresa: There comes a time when people need to get rid of stuff cluttering their lives. There also is a time when ...Read more
Dear James: I want to remodel my living room cathedral ceiling by changing it from drywall to decorative real wood. Can it just be nailed or screwed to the old ceiling? -- Don M.
Dear Don: Natural and stained wood ceilings are very attractive and can dramatically change the decor of the room. A sloped cathedral ceiling is a good candidate for ...Read more
Dear James: I am having a house built and I am ready to purchase the appliances and heating/cooling equipment. Is it better to purchase extended warranties for everything or a home warranty? About how long to various appliances last? -- Patrick S.
Dear Patrick: You will certainly be more relaxed in your new home knowing if the hot water heater ...Read more