Finders, fixers.

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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chip and joanne gains from HGTV's fixer upper - is flipping houses a good idea?

Flipping houses is a sexy but terrible idea

The Boston Globe this weekend profiled Jackie Falla, a young woman aiming to buy and flip 10 properties in 10 years. Falla’s currently on her fourth flip since 2008, and she’s made a total of $160,000 in profit in that time (she blogs about her projects at questforthenests.com). Regular old home improvement, especially in a high-priced…

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replacement windows

Seven things I wish I’d known before getting replacement windows

I’ve got a story out in the Boston Globe this weekend about replacement windows, including why and when it can make more sense to restore your old windows than to install new ones. As I wrote in the Globe, I totally bought into the idea of replacement windows back in 2009, when there were some hefty…

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electrician at work - how much do electricians charge

This Angie’s List electrician offer is a pretty good deal

A few years ago, the review site Angie’s List, which is famous for its user reviews of local businesses, contractors, and tradespeople, started offering online deals (a la Groupon).  I think Angie’s List is super valuable for homeowners, but I’m typically skeptical of their deal offers. For one thing, if it’s anything like Groupon, the tradespeople don’t…

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loft bedroom in attic

When your home improvement doesn’t: A lesson in risky design choices

There are two main goals of most home improvement projects: To make your home more livable now, bringing it closer to your ideal dream home; and/or to increase its value for the future. Most of the time, these two things go hand in hand. Spending $30,000 on your dream kitchen will in all likelihood increase your home’s…

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five-plug outlet

What the house is that? The five-plug outlet

Welcome to a new feature on House & Hammer, where we explore some of the quirky features found in old homes — what they are, the history and purpose behind them, and what, if anything, to do if you see them in your house. Quirks like this incredible five-plug outlet, for example. I found this in the…

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electric lawn mower vs. gas mower
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Electric lawn mower vs. gas mower: Don’t fear the cord

When we first bought our house, we had no idea what we were doing. We were overwhelmed — not just by the house, but by the yard as well. While I’d grown up mowing the lawn every weekend at my parents’ house, it had been decades since I’d had a yard to deal with. And this one…

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before and during bathroom remodel

Bathroom remodel: Part 1

One of the things we really liked about our house when we first saw it was the dated but relatively big (for Boston, anyway) bathroom. It was never nice, and certainly not modern or trendy. In fact, it was kind of dingy in spots. But cheerfully so, if that makes any sense. The pink-and-white checkered…

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