Dear James: I am planning to remodel a 50-year-old house, but want to retain as much original character as possible. Most of the woodwork needs refinishing. It may have some old lead paint. What should I do? -- Joe D.
Dear Joe: As your house is 50 years old, there is a good chance the paint on the woodwork contains lead. In the late 1970s, lead...Read more
Dear James: I want to install new upper kitchen cabinets. I bet a friend I could do all the work myself, but now I am not sure. Is it possible for a medium-sized woman to handle this type of project herself? -- Mary S.
Dear Mary: Many projects seem relatively straightforward and simple until you actually begin to research them in more detail. ...Read more
Dear James: From the ground, the gutters don't look dirty, but when it rains, water overflows and runs down the walls. I think it may discolor the siding. What is causing them to overflow and how can I fix it? -- Karen J.
Dear Karen: There are several causes of overflowing gutters. They are either clogged, rusted and leak at the seams, and/or ...Read more
Dear James: I was planning to install hardwood flooring myself, but then I saw some bamboo flooring, which was cheaper. What do you think of bamboo flooring, and can I install it myself in my living room? -- Charlie M.
Dear Charlie: Bamboo flooring is rapidly being accepted by homeowners as an alternative to hardwood flooring. Some of it looks ...Read more
Dear James: Now that I am living alone, I can finally install a neat mailbox instead of the old black one. What types of decorative mailboxes do you recommend, and will it be difficult for me to install it myself? -- Cathy R.
Dear Cathy: The array of decorative mailboxes is nearly endless. You can find them at home centers, craft shops, craft ...Read more
Dear James: I want to remodel my bathroom, but I can only afford to do it in stages. I think installing a pedestal sink would be a good starting point. Can I install one myself without a plumber? -- Ron T.
Dear Ron: The sink and the bathtub are the two most prominent items in a bathroom that impact its decor. Installing a new retro-style ...Read more
Dear James: I have noticed some damp dark spots on my bedroom ceiling from an old leaky shingle roof after it rains. How do I know whether it is best to have the leaks repaired or have the entire roof replaced? -- Jen B.
Dear Jen: If you are already seeing dark spots on your ceiling, don't wait too much longer to get it repaired or replaced. ...Read more
PropDear James: A friend gave me a small (not curb-mounted or self-flashing) skylight for free. What is the proper method to build the curb and flash the skylight to avoid leaks in my cathedral ceiling? -- Craig P.
Dear Craig: Normally, I would recommend to anyone to buy curb-mounted, self-flashing skylights. They are easy to install and very ...Read more
Dear James: I am planning to build a new home for myself and my two children. I have looked at many plans and taken house tours. In order to save money, does it make sense for me to be my own general contractor? -- Steve K.
Dear Steve: Homeowners acting as their own general contractors is done every day, and it can reduce the building costs. Be...Read more
Dear James: My father is coming to live with me, and he is in a wheelchair. I need to remodel the bathroom so he can access the shower. What is the best way to design the shower for wheelchair access? -- Denise H.
Dear Denise: With the aging population in the United States, more and more people are becoming concerned about wheelchair access ...Read more
Dear James: I like the way sheet vinyl flooring looks in a kitchen, but at my friend's home, it cracked and got dull in less than a year. If I have it installed in my kitchen, how can I avoid these problems? -- Janet H.
Dear Janet: Sheet vinyl flooring is attractive and generally very durable. One of its most common uses is in commercial ...Read more
Dear James: My house has old paneling with vertical grooves, and I want to cover it with drywall and paint it. I am not sure how to handle fitting the wood trim around the doors and windows. Do you have any tips? -- Ronald D.
Dear Ronald: Installing drywall over old paneling is one method to improve the appearance of a room. As you noted, it ...Read more
DEAR JAMES: The grout in my bathroom between the tile is discolored with dark mildew. Some of the tile is glossy, and some has a flat, dull surface. What is the easiest and safest way to get it clean? -- Ryan T.
DEAR RYAN: Dark mildewed grout is common in most bathrooms and anywhere else where there is tile and constant moisture. Even though ...Read more