Dear James: We are doing the basic design of our new house. We want to make sure it is perfect without design errors or minor oversights. What are the most common design errors we should be aware of? -- Jeanne M.
Dear Jeanne: It sounds as though you are doing things properly. Many people just rely on the builder for design advice. The builder ...Read more
Dear James: My asphalt driveway need some serious repairs. There are several potholes and dents in it. I know professional heated repairs are best, but what is the best way to repair it myself? -- Tom K.
Dear Tom: Asphalt driveways do require maintenance and people are often surprised at how and why they sometimes deteriorate so quickly. You ...Read more
Dear James: We are designing a new house. We have two children and think a mudroom between the garage and the kitchen would be nice. What is the best size to build, and what features should we consider for it? -- Colin G.
Dear Colin: A mudroom is becoming a common addition to many newer home plans. In the past, the mudroom was located at the ...Read more
Dear James: The area of the wall behind the countertop always gets messy, and the paint gets stained. I have seen some decorative tiled ones. Will tile hold up well there, and is this a simple do-it-yourself project? -- Randi H.
Dear Randi: The answer to both of your questions is yes. This area of the wall is called a backsplash in the industry...Read more
Dear James: I am totally remodeling an older house I just purchased. I want to add a second staircase from the kitchen to the bedrooms for the children to use. Can I purchase do-it-yourself kits for this? -- Barb L.
Dear Barb: Installing a second staircase to the second floor is becoming more common in new construction and when remodeling older...Read more
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