Dear James: We have three toilets in our house, and each one seems to have a different problem. It costs a fortune to hire a plumber, so I want to try to fix them myself. What are the most common toilet problems? -- Tracy L.
Dear Tracy: Experienced plumbers are highly skilled and generally worth the high fees they charge, but many toilet ...Read more
Dear James: When I was in college, our old dorm had pocket doors to save space, but they were hard to open and close. I would like to install pocket doors in my current house. Are the new ones any better? -- Melody D.
Dear Melody: Pocket doors are gaining popularity again after hitting their heyday about a century ago. The newer ones' quality ...Read more
Dear James: I like to do home improvement projects around my house, but the dust and dirt gets everywhere. Also, my children are allergic to dust. What is the best method to control the dust? -- Mike W.
Dear Mike: Many home improvement projects can create a huge amount of dust, which has a way of working its way throughout your house. These ...Read more
Dear James: My older house has asphalt roll roofing over an attic/bedroom conversion with a low slope. This old roofing is leaking, and I want to repair it. Is there any way to fix it without replacing it? -- Heather V.
Dear Heather: This type of roofing was commonly used on homes like yours due to rolled roofing's low cost and easy ...Read more
Dear James: I used a dark deck sealer several years ago. It looked good for the first year or two, but now it is peeling off in areas. What is the best way to fix the bare areas and stop further peeling? -- Roger M.
Dear Roger: The attractive dark sealer you applied a couple of years ago functions more like a coat of paint than a sealing stain....Read more
Dear James: I am designing my new home, and I am not sure how big or in what shape to make the rooms, especially the living room, which we will often use. Do you have some design tips to help me at this early stage? -- Dianne B.
Dear Dianne: This is an excellent question and the proper time to give this some serious thought. Architects and home...Read more
Dear James: I added a family room with a fireplace to my home last year. The solid brick chimney has developed several long cracks through the bricks and the mortar. Is this something I should be concerned about? -- Johnny G.
Dear Johnny: Yes, you should be concerned about those long cracks in a recently built chimney. A masonry chimney, brick ...Read more
Dear James: I am going to have a major remodeling job done at my home. This is my first major project, so I need to find a competent remodeling contractor. How do I evaluate various contractors? -- Jean W.
Dear Jean: Everyone who watches the evening news hears horror stories about how remodeling contractors start a job, collect a large down ...Read more
Dear James: I have a one-story ranch-style house. I seem to have to get on a ladder and paint the horizontal area under the roof overhang every couple of years. Is there any low-maintenance fix for this? -- Keith W.
Dear Keith: This area beneath the roof overhang -- called a soffit -- should not require such frequent painting, as it is not ...Read more
Dear James: We are fixing up our house to sell. There are a couple of small moldy spots on the ceiling and walls from previous leaks. They look bad, but they have caused no problems. How can we fix them ourselves? -- Kyle W.
Dear Kyle: Homeowners have major concerns today about mold in houses because of the many studies done on dangerous black ...Read more
Dear James: I have a walkway in my yard that could use some shade and sprucing up. People have told me to build a pergola. How do I do this, and what is the difference between a trellis, arbor and pergola? -- Larry M.
Dear Larry: A pergola is an attractive means of providing some shade over an outdoor walkway, but it is more often used to ...Read more
Dear James: My kitchen could use a new look, but my children need braces on their teeth even more. The laminate countertop looks the worst. What can I do to it to make it look better? -- Marina A.
Dear Marina: Plastic laminate countertops are beautiful when they are new, but they can be scratched and stained. This is common with children ...Read more