Dear James: My kids are getting older, and a backyard deck would be great. I am on a limited budget and want to build it myself but have no idea where to start. Any tips? -- Maria S.
Dear Maria: The addition of a deck, usually adjacent to a sliding glass door, is one of the most common home improvement projects. It can add much resale value to ...Read more
Dear James: Our five-year-old room addition to our house has a flat roof that has started to leak. What is the best method to find the leak and fix it ourselves if possible? -- Wendy L.
Dear Wendy: Flat roofs do not typically have as long a leak-free life as pitched shingle roofs for obvious reasons, but one should last longer than five years. ...Read more
Dear James: Our bathroom has ceramic tile walls and floor. When we remodel, we want something more contemporary, yet easy to clean. What do you think of cultured marble? -- Gary C.
Dear Gary: There are some very attractive new ceramic tile choices, and ceramic tile is one of the most durable materials for a bathroom. One of the problems with ...Read more
Dear James: I think our small living room would seem larger and more open with a sloped ceiling and a skylight. Can I change the flat ceiling to high sloped one? -- Kathy J.
Dear Kathy: Increasing the height of your ceiling by sloping it and adding a skylight will certainly make your living room seem more spacious. Just the natural lighting ...Read more
Dear James: I just moved into a house and bought a toolbox and a general woodworking/carpenter hand tool set. Do you have any general advice on how to use the various tools? -- Jenny L.
Dear Jenny: Woodworking tools can be used for much more than just traditional cabinetmaking types of projects. Many do-it-yourself new and repair projects ...Read more
Dear James: It seems like everyone has the standard rectangular deck. I would like to build a unique one with a circular section surrounded by gardens. How can I do this? -- Joshua W.
Dear Joshua: Adding a deck yourself, especially a unique one with a curved side, can increase the value of your house by many times the material costs. With ...Read more
Dear James: My doorbell hardly rings anymore, and I probably need a new one. It looks like a fairly simple project to replace it. What are the basic steps to do this? -- Cindy D.
Dear Cindy: A doorbell ringer can lose its intensity from aging materials and dust buildup inside it. Modern homes also have more things running, creating more ...Read more
Dear James: I recently installed new weatherstripping on my old wood windows. On windy days, the curtains still move. How can I find and stop the other air leakage? -- Rita T.
Dear Rita: Now that you have already installed the new weatherstripping, try to remember if you saw any discolored spots when you pulled off the old weatherstripping. ...Read more
Dear James: Our kids could use a rec room. We could use part of a large garage or the basement. What design aspects should we consider when converting these into living space? -- Michael J.
Dear Michael: Converting either a basement or garage into additional living space is one of the most common remodeling projects and can greatly increase the...Read more
Dear James: I want a patio, butterfly garden and a sitting wall by a slope. I think a simple no-mortar wall would look nice. What is the best way to build a stable wall this way? -- Catherine T.
Dear Catherine: Butterfly, and pollinator in general, gardens are very popular today and really needed. With the sloping ground by your garden, a no-...Read more
Dear James: There always is a puddle on the floor after the kids shower in their bathroom. I plan to replace the curtain with doors. How do I make sure the doors don't leak too? -- Jessica P.
Dear Jessica: Shower curtains can be attractive and not leak, but one has to be careful to position them properly before turning on the water. This works ...Read more
Dear James: We remodeled our kitchen, but we love our stained wood cabinets. Some need new doors. How can we match the color and edge detail on the new doors with the old ones? -- Ted G.
Dear Ted: The detailing on some older cabinet doors is very attractive as is the stained natural wood. Not replacing them can create a unique kitchen decor. ...Read more
Dear James: I am building a large new L-shaped deck. I am not sure about how to position and attach the decking boards because of the L shape. Do you have any tips? -- Greg S.
Dear Greg: Fitting and attaching the decking boards is usually the easiest part of a deck building project. An L-shaped deck makes it a bit more complicated, but still ...Read more