Finders, fixers.

DIY rock climbing wall for children

DIY rock climbing wall: Stay-at-home summer, part 2

Our daughter’s always been a climber. She scales fences, trees, door frames —anything— and she loves going to the climbing gym. Since that probably won’t be happening during the stay-at-home summer of 2020, I decided it was finally time to build a DIY rock climbing wall for her in the backyard. As with our backyard…

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backyard monkey bars installed under deck

Backyard monkey bars: Stay-at-home summer, part 1

Greetings from quarantine! Hoo boy. Crazy times, eh? I hope you and yours are keeping safe and keeping your distance (although it’s still nice to holler hellos at your neighbors from the porch). When the weather turns nice like this after being cooped up all winter, we’re usually at the playground every day after school,…

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paint cans - VOCs and other chemicals and toxins in the home

Are you in a toxic relationship with your home?

I recently wrote an article about sourcing healthier home materials — and I learned a whole bunch of scary stuff in the process. Your home is supposed to be a sanctuary, but a lot of the materials, finishes, and furniture in our living spaces contain some pretty bad stuff. The Globe article focused largely on building products and finishes —…

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blown in insulation cost

Here’s how much blown-in insulation cost us, and how much it’s saved us so far

Over the summer, we finally got around to doing something that had been on our (lengthy) house to-do list ever since we moved in: We got insulation blown into our walls, at a steep 90% discount courtesy of MassSave. At 90% off, you’d wonder what the hell were we waiting for all these years. Well, we had…

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two prong light bulb adapter GU24 to E27 light bulb adapter

Need to replace a two prong light bulb? This gadget is a life saver.

We have a ceiling fan and light fixture that’s slowly grown dimmer as each of its three light bulbs burned out. The first time, I grabbed a new LED bulb out of the closet, unscrewed the lamp, and removed the burned-out bulb — only to find a light bulb with two prongs at the bottom, instead…

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diy desk with industrial pipe and reclaimed wood

Weekend project: DIY desk with industrial pipe and reclaimed wood

Here at the homestead, we’ve got an underused office/spare bedroom that we’ve been trying to do… well, something with. We did replace our beaten-up, college-era spare bed with an awesome IKEA trundle daybed that’s both pretty and practical. But the weakest link in the room was the cheap, coffee-stained, white laminate particle-board desk we got at Target many years ago. So,…

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victorian with tree out front

The simplest, cheapest, and prettiest way to save on home energy bills

From huge tax credits on solar panels to big rebates on efficient heating equipment and other appliances, there are a lot of financial incentives out there to encourage home improvements that save you both energy and money. This is especially true in Massachusetts, where Mass Save programs sweeten the deal even further; I recently wrote a guide for…

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this old house cast crew including tom silva and kevin o'connor at right

Bonus DIY tips from the set of ‘This Old House’

In December, I got to meet two of my home improvement heroes: Tom Silva and Kevin O’Connor of This Old House. Tom is the show’s longtime general contractor, whose construction know-how (and friendly, patient ability to dumb it down for the rest of us) is the stuff of legend. Kevin is the show’s host, an…

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how to whitewash brick fireplace with limewash

Using all-natural lime to whitewash a brick fireplace

Let’s be upfront about something: I’m not a big believer in tinkering with classic red brick. It’s generally beautiful – perfect, even? – just as it is. My friend Kirk put it best: “Even decent-looking classic brick is sort of unimpeachable.” That said, some bricks are not the classic rusty red. There are tan bricks, for some reason,…

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roof with solar panels - is solar worth it

Are solar panels worth it? For us, absolutely.

In a piece I wrote for the Boston Globe two years ago, I researched the cost and benefits of installing rooftop solar panels on your home. In the process, I learned a ton about the solar energy industry, the various tax and legal incentives in place to encourage homeowners to go solar, and how to crunch all…

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how much does it cost to remodel a bathroom remodel

Bathroom remodel: Part 2

So, where were we? Oh, right — getting ready to remodel our bathroom. To recap: We live on the top floor of a two-family house, and our laundry was down two flights of narrow stairs in the basement. So we decided to remodel our small (and only!) bathroom by moving the toilet across the room and carving out…

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old pipes in basement - don't start DIY projects on a weekend

Be careful with weekend DIY projects

Weekends are the perfect time (often the only time) to tackle the DIY and home improvement projects you’ve been planning. Just be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. I was reminded of this important lesson while I tried to replace a steam valve on our heating pipes in the basement this…

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