Dear James: I want to install some glass block windows for security and privacy. Would a kit that uses silicone caulking be a strong as the regular mortar installation to deter a thief? -- Donna G.
Dear Donna: Both glass and plastic block windows provide much more security than a standard casement or double-hung glass pane window. Although it ...Read more
Dear James: For our starter home, we are considering a dining area instead of a dining room to save money and floor space. What are some good design ideas for this concept? -- Rick B.
Dear Rick: With today's lifestyles and high building costs, eliminating a seldom-used dining room is becoming more commonplace. On a limited budget, this allows ...Read more
Dear James: I am pretty handy with DIY projects around my house, so I want to make kitchen cabinets. What types of wood joints are good for cabinets and other projects? -- Cathy J.
Dear Cathy: Making your own kitchen cabinet can be a real money-saver. It might seem like a simple project, but it does take some planning and skill. An advantage is...Read more
Dear James: Last winter, I forgot to turn off the water to an outdoor faucet, and the pipe split. How do I install one of the freeze-safe ones, and do they work? -- Kerri J.
Dear Kerri: I think everyone has forgotten to shut off the water to an outdoor faucet (technically called a sillcock) at some point. The pipe does not always split, but ...Read more
Outfit Your Toolbox With the Most Useful Hand Tools
Dear James: I just bought my first house, and it needs some light repairs, but I don't have any tools. I am a petite build. What are some of the must-have hand tools for my new toolbox? -- Tina D.
Dear Tina: No matter how many hand tools you get, there always will be one more you need for a ...Read more
Dear James: I have built a few decks and used nails, but they eventually get loose, pop up and look terrible. For my next deck project, would using more expensive screws be better? -- Tony H.
Dear Tony: Nailing the decking down is the fastest and least expensive method, but as you found out, the nails do not hold together as long as you would ...Read more
Dear James: I want a quieter, more modern toilet for my master bathroom. These toilets are more expensive, so I must install it myself. Is this a difficult DIY project? -- Donna M.
Dear Donna: Installing a new toilet is a do-it-yourself project even inexperienced homeowners can handle. As you mentioned, those new stylish toilets are quite ...Read more
Dear James: My front door needs new weatherstripping. Years ago, our doors had more durable interlocking seals. Can I install this type of seal on the wood doors of my house? -- Ted N.
Dear Ted: Most of the weatherstripping on wood doors today is made of some type of polymer foam, tubular seal or brush-type synthetic material. The old type of ...Read more
Dear James: I use my dark attic just for storage, but the underside of the gable roof is low. I think adding a dormer would help a lot. What is a good plan to build one? -- Steph T.
Dear Steph: In addition to providing more headroom, dormers can provide much additional natural light in an attic so you won't need electric lights. I recommend ...Read more
Dear James: We have computer and electronic cables everywhere. When we build our new house, how should we plan the cables inside the walls to avoid this mess? -- Bret H.
Dear Bret: It is very difficult to plan exactly when new electronics are constantly becoming "necessities." Effective connectivity is imperative to keep everything interacting ...Read more
Dear James: I want to get new replacement windows, but the cost is outside my budget. Is it possible to install windows myself and save the labor cost? Do I have to remove all the old trim and framing? -- Ellen A.
Dear Ellen: Having replacement windows installed is a major and expensive home improvement. Look at it as long-term investment, and ...Read more
Dear James: There are many indoor and outdoor house repairs I have to make. There is a big range in lumber prices. How do I determine what type is best for various projects? -- Stan H.
Dear Stan: If you think it is difficult to select among the various types and grades of lumber at a big-box home center, a professional lumberyard would stagger ...Read more
Dear James: We are remodeling our small master bathroom and like the idea of a European-style, no-barrier design. Can we change our bathroom to this type of design? -- Ronnie K.
Dear Ronnie: What you are referring to is commonly called a "Eurobath," and it's becoming more popular here, too. With no barrier on the floor between the shower and ...Read more