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Buying Guide: Engineered hardwood flooring

by Kendall Holmes

My knees were sore and my fingertips were rather bruised. But the new oak floor in my kitchen was done except for some shoe moulding. And it looked great. (more…)

Installing a flexible stainless steel chimney liner

by Kendall Holmes

Working three stories up in the air at the peak of a steep roof isn’t especially my idea of a good time.

But the old chimney between our kitchen and dining room needed a liner before we could fire up a new pellet stove — and I’d learned I could save $600 to $1,000 by installing a liner myself rather than hiring a contractor.

Contractors were asking $1,000 to $1,500 to line our chimney, while I could buy the materials and do it myself for about $400.

And so I stifled my dislike for steep roofs and tall heights – and then I went to work.  

And as I soon learned, installing a chimney liner is a fairly straightforward job. (more…)

Cleaning up dirty, faded vinyl siding

by Kendall Holmes
Our home along the Kennebec River

Our 1872 Victorian home along Maine's Kennebec River.

Seventeen years ago, the previous owners of my house covered up its clapboards with vinyl siding, and they encased many of its trim boards in aluminum.

I’m no fan of installing vinyl siding on old houses.

But, to be fair, the siding guys did a nice job. They worked around — and in no way damaged — the home’s roof brackets and other Victorian embellishments, such as the nicely detailed trimwork above each window. They paid attention to detail.

And I certainly can appreciate why the previous owners decided it was time for a cover-up. Those owners were getting along in  years — and in this part of the world, houses tend to shed their paint rather quickly. Paint might last seven or eight years on new clapboards and trim, but if you own an old house,  you can pretty much resign yourself to a top-to-bottom scrape and paint job every four or five years.

Of course, vinyl isn’t care-free either.

And that’s the subject of this post. (more…)

Restoring rusted tin roofs

by Kendall Holmes

Metal roofs will shed water for a century or more if they’re repainted occasionally. Eventually, though, these old roofs made from tin and its close cousing terne will begin to rust — and leak — if they’re neglected.

Is there any way to save a rusty, leaking metal roof?

A few years back, I wouldn’t have thought so. But that was before I learned about — and used on my own houses – a series of roof restoration paints and fabrics from Preservation Products. (more…)

Toilets – The next big home improvement trend?

by Kendall Holmes

So, with the housing market in the crapper, is there any good news for building supply retailers?

You might not think so as you read stories about home builders going bankrupt and foreclosures reaching record levels.

But, at least according to a recent New York Times story, things aren’t all that bad at big box retailers such as Home Depot and Lowes. (more…)

Granite tile countertops: Practical and cost-effective

by Kendall Holmes

Granite is the countertop material of choice for most of us when there are no other considerations — like money.

Granite holds up to heat. It’s hard to scratch. And it comes in hundreds of colors and styles — nearly all of them shiny and pretty.

Of course, solid granite countertops are also mighty expensive. Typically, they cost $75 to $150 per square foot, meaning they add thousands of dollars to the price of a kitchen job. You could trim the cost some by installing the countertops yourself, but this isn’t exactly a job most do-it-yourselfers will feel comfortable with.

So what are your options if you’re a do-it-yourselfer with an eye for granite but a budget that dictates something less expensive?


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