Dear James: My brother is the contractor/builder of our new house. He will let us do some of the work ourselves. What are some projects a nonprofessional can handle? -- Eddie W.
Dear Eddie: You are lucky your brother is the builder because most builders really don't want inexperienced people working on the construction site. There are tasks ...Read more
Dear James: My existing old double-hung windows still look nice, but they leak outdoor air and are difficult to open and close. What can I do to improve them myself? -- Kevin J.
Dear Kevin: If maintained regularly, old double-hung windows can last a lifetime and be energy efficient. When yours were originally designed and built, there was not ...Read more
Dear James: We have a concrete driveway and a walkway, and both are crumbling. We have received replacement quotes from contractors. What details are most important to choose one? -- Mike S.
Dear Mike: A crumbling concrete sidewalk and driveway can be hazardous to walk on in addition to looking really bad. It does not take much roughness and ...Read more
Dear James: I am on a fairly tight budget, but I really want to remodel my kitchen to make it more functional and seem bigger. What are some improvements I can make on a limited budget? -- Laura B.
Dear Laura: A kitchen remodeling project is the most common improvement to a home. Replacing all the appliances and moving them requires extra ...Read more
Dear James: The ceiling in my study was damaged by a roof leak. I plan to convert it into a home theater with a dropped ceiling. Is this a good choice for the best media sound? -- Alan H.
Dear Alan: Before making any plans for the new ceiling, be sure to have the roof leak fixed professionally. Dropped ceilings are good for hiding previous ...Read more
Dear James: I saw decorative concrete countertops at a home show, and I want to try it myself. What is the basic procedure for making my own concrete countertops for my bathroom and kitchen? -- Farida T.
Dear Farida: These types of decorative and colored concrete countertops are becoming very popular. They are attractive, low-maintenance and ...Read more
Dear James: I have never had much luck with solder copper plumbing, so I would prefer to use plastic plumbing for my house renovation. Can plastic pipe be used everywhere in the house? -- Charlie D.
Dear Charlie: Copper pipe is best for the supply side of the plumbing, but plastic pipes can be used everywhere in place of copper. They are ideal ...Read more
Dear James: I want to jazz up my dining room windows with decorative casing trim while I am having replacement windows installed. How can I do this trim project myself? -- Debra H.
Dear Debra: Doing a decorative casing project while having replacement windows installed is certainly the proper time. The interior window trim and molding will ...Read more
Dear James: We are in the design stage of our dream home. Our builder said he builds code houses. What is that, and what design factors should we be concerned about? -- Christine N.
Dear Christine: There is nothing wrong with a code house, which is what many builders build to keep costs under control. It just means that the materials and ...Read more
Dear James: We are remodeling a bedroom for my mother to live here. I would like a radiant floor-heating system under hardwood. Is a wet- or dry-type system best? -- Johnny G.
Dear Johnny: Radiant floor-heating systems are some of the most efficient and comfortable warmth, especially for an older person. With the entire hardwood floor radiating...Read more
Dear James: I got a new tool set and plan on doing some repair projects. I went to buy some nails, but the selection is overwhelming. What types of nails are best for various projects? -- Alison R.
Dear Alison: Selecting among the tremendous numbers of nails and other fasteners can be overwhelming because many of them look about the same. As ...Read more
Dear James: I had a detached garage built with a somewhat rustic exterior decor and blew past my budget. I plan to make a sandwich-design garage myself. Is this a good DIY choice? -- Michael T.
Dear Michael: You can save a lot of money building the garage door yourself, and this also allows you to create a unique design to complement your new ...Read more
Dear James: My master bathroom has some beautiful antique brass fixtures that have gotten tarnished over the years. What is the best way to clean them and maintain them tarnish-free? -- Shari R.
Dear Shari: Hopefully, you will be able to clean all of them because it will likely be impossible to replace any parts you cannot clean. The cold-water...Read more