How To: Diagnose Common Plaster Problems

How To Diagnose Common Plaster Problems

After a century or so plaster walls and ceilings can develop a variety of problems from neglect or abuse. Your plaster can tell you a ton about issues that may be developing around your house if you know how to listen to what it is saying. In this post I’ll show you how to diagnose the most common plaster problems and what they mean. Plaster is often like the canary in the coal mine. If there is a […] Read on →

How To: Fix Chipped Paint

Chipped Paint

When you have dozens of coats of paint on trim and woodwork touching up paint is not always as simple as grabbing a brush and going to town. When old paint chips off your likely left with a crater in the surface. The layers of paint that have built up over the years have made the surface thicker than it originally was and when the paint chips you are left with what looks like pock marks. So whow […] Read on →

Easy Fixes For an Energy Efficient Home

energy efficient home

Let’s face it, your home’s utility bills never seem to go anywhere but up. The electric companies steadily raise rates even if the cost of fuels like coal, oil, nuclear, solar, or wind go down. It’s like the third thing you can never avoid. Death, taxes and higher utility bills. There is some good news though. The cost per kW hour may continue to go up but that doesn’t mean the bill itself has to go up. By […] Read on →

How To: Hang Things on Plaster Walls

how to hang things on plaster walls

Most of the handy devices for hanging things on our walls were designed for drywall not plaster. Everything from how to find a stud in plaster walls to what type of fasteners your should use is different. Everyone wants to decorate their walls so learning how to hang things on plaster walls is important for every homeowner to learn. It’s important not just to make the decorating process simpler but to also avoid costly damage.   What’s the Real Difference […] Read on →

Deciphering the Sandpaper Puzzle


Sandpaper is an integral part of any almost every kind of home repair, especially finish work. Painting, carpentry, refinishing, flooring, woodworking. They all require sanding at some point in the process so it’s imperative to know what you’re doing. There are a least 1,387,902 different types of sandpaper (that may be a guess, but there are a lot!) There are grits as low as 8-grit (which is essentially a few rocks glued onto paper backing all the way […] Read on →

How To: Pick the Right Caulk

how to pick the right caulk

Caulk is often a way overused item in old houses, but abuse doesn’t rule out proper use. And proper use of the right caulk can literally save your old house from big damage. In this post I’ll not only show you how to pick the right caulk for the job but also give you some caulking tips to help you know when, where and how to use that caulk.     The Wrong Way to Use Caulk The […] Read on →

How To: Turn an Attic Into a Bedroom

how to turn an attic into a bedroom

An attic is often the easiest place to add onto your house. No foundations or setbacks to worry about. Everything is already in place you just have to transform an empty space into your vision. Create an extra bedroom, a master suite, a media room, a play room or anything you can imagine for much less than the cost of an addition. My own old house was blessed with an unfinished attic when we bought it, and I […] Read on →

How To: Work With Spiral Balances

Spiral Balances

While most of the windows on historic buildings built before WWII used the simple and effective rope and pulley counterweight system there are some that utilize different balances systems. A popular option were spiral balances, sometimes called a tube balance, and that’s what we’ll talk about today. These balances are not terribly complicated, but they can be troublesome to work with if you’re not familiar with them. I’ll be speaking specifically about one of the more common types […] Read on →

How To: Make an Old Brush New Again


Like anything paint brushes have a lifespan, but most people treat their brushes so roughly that they die long before they should. A good paint brush should last you years or even decades if cared for properly. After a lot of use, and maybe not the best cleaning, paint brushes get paint stuck in the bristles and up into the ferrule (the metal base) which can make it extremely stiff. Eventually the brush is not good for painting […] Read on →

How To: Stop Rust For Good


It’s a sad but unfortunate fact of life that metal rusts. Sometimes rust is called patina like when copper turns green after decades of exposure, but for most of us it’s just plain rust and we hate it. Sure there are some times where choosing the right fastener has a lot to do about whether you have rust or not, but sometimes you’re stuck with what you’ve got or you want to restore some gorgeous old hardware to […] Read on →

How To: Glaze Windows


Some of the most commonly asked questions I get are about how to glaze windows. What’s the best practices? What tips and tricks have I learned over the years? Basically, it’s a lot of folks wondering how to do it the right way. I’ll start with saying this…it’s not complicated to glaze a window, but it’s not easy the first time. It is something that most people have never heard of. Putting putty on a window and tooling […] Read on →

How To: Cut Window Weight Access Doors

How to cut weight pocket doors

Sometimes builders installed their old wood windows without weight pocket access doors to save a couple bucks. While it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, it creates a whole lot of work for us today when a sash rope breaks. Rather than being stuck with the typical alternative of removing the window trim and leaving yourself with a lot of plaster repair here is an easier way to fix the problem for good. In this […] Read on →

How To: Patch Plaster

How to patch plaster

I’ve written about repairing plaster walls before, but sometimes there are sections of plaster that have been removed or are missing and you need to fill in the gaps. I’ll show you how to easily fill in these missing sections. This repair also works on drywall for all you new house folks too. When you have an area (large or small) where you’re missing plaster, whether it’s thanks to the electrician/plumber/HVAC guy or the plaster was damaged some […] Read on →

BoraCare: Stop Termites & Rot Forever


You may not have heard of a product called BoraCare, but if you have a wood house it’s something you should know about. The biggest threats to wood are inevitably rot and insect damage. Other than these two issues good quality old-growth wood can last almost indefinitely. But if you fall victim to termites, rot or both then it may be only months before you need repairs. BoraCare is a wood treatment that I use in my shop […] Read on →