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
Dear James: I think we have some great design ideas for our new house, but I still wonder if it makes sense to get an interior designer's input early on? -- Angel I.
Dear Angel: Initially, a good architect should be able to provide you with many design ideas based on your budget, lot and specific needs. In the early design meetings, provide as ...Read more
Dear James: We want to replace old, crushed carpeting with thick pile-type carpeting, so I probably need to shorten the door. What is the best way to cut it without splintering? -- Tony G.
Dear Tony: Instead of new carpeting, you might want to consider installing engineered hardwood or laminate flooring. This is more popular today, and both are...Read more
Dear James: We like hardwood parquet floors, but it is expensive to have them installed. Are do-it-yourself parquet flooring "kits" easy to install for inexperienced DIYers? -- Chris H.
Dear Chris: The two primary types of hardwood flooring are traditional long strips and parquet. If you are an inexperienced do-it-yourselfer without a power saw...Read more
Dear James: I am planning some major home improvement projects, but I am not comfortable using power saws. There seem to be a hundred designs of saws at the hardware store. Which one is best for home projects? -- Debra A.
Dear Debra: It is good you have a healthy respect for the hazards of using power tools, especially saws. With advancements ...Read more
Dear James: Whenever we use our great room fireplace, some smoke comes out into the room. I am going to add one to the master bedroom. How can I keep the new fireplace from being smoky? -- Ron T.
Dear Ron: You definitely are not alone with the problem of a smoky wood-burning fireplace. More than half of fireplaces cause some smoky conditions ...Read more
Dear James: I plan to build a ranch house for myself and my two children. I am on a tight budget, so it must be small (about 1,500 square feet). What are some good tips for designing a livable small house? -- Amy B.
Dear Amy: With proper design concepts, a 1,500-square foot house can provide more than adequate living space for you and your two ...Read more