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 →

Is It Worth Paying More For Paint?

is it worth paying more for paint

What’s the best paint? Honestly, there is no single answer to this question, but I get asked this on a regular basis. I posted about my favorite water-based and favorite oil-based paints before, but neither can be definitively qualified as the “best” paint. I think this question comes from a place of wanting to not make mistakes. I never want to paint a room or a house twice if I don’t have to, but the biggest problem with most […] Read on →

How Much Could Storm Windows Save You?

How Much Could Storm Windows Save You

We all know that replacing your home’s original windows is not the solution. Or at least I hope you have seen the light by now. It doesn’t save the money the window companies claim and the replacements rarely last more than a decade before the seals fail and you end up having to replace the windows again and again. If you don’t believe me read what Energy.gov says about replacing your windows. “Unless the existing windows are missing […] 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 →

4 Ways Preservation Could Be Better


2016 is the 50th anniversary of the Historic Preservation Act and I have been thinking a lot about where we have been, where we are and where we could be when it comes to historic preservation. If you’re a follower of this blog then you know my passion lies around saving old buildings. It’s not just their character and history but also the fact that the greenest building is the one already built. So, what can we do to […] Read on →

Will HEPA Really Keep You Safe?

Will HEPA really keep you safe

In the age of RRP renovation rules and a lot of fear about everything lead paint it’s important to know how to keep yourself safe. A lot of folks hear about HEPA vacuums and think that if they just use anything HEPA they are safe from lead. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Understanding how HEPA filtration works and choosing the right vacuum is only one piece of the lead safe work practices puzzle. For more about lead visit […] 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 →

Bondo is Never the Answer

how to patch wood with bondo

I was supposed to be posting on plaster textures this week but something happened this week that got me so riled up that I had to delay the plaster post. [Stands on Soapbox] Bondo. Bondo is a great product for patching damage to cars, but somewhere, sometime in the past some painter or carpenter decided that it would work just as well on wood. Let me clear…Don’t patch wood with Bondo! I could end this post there, but then […] 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 →

The Window Preservation Alliance

Window Preservation Alliance

What is the Window Preservation Alliance (WPA) you ask? Well, it’s a new organization dedicated to saving old windows that I think you might want to know about. Why I think you need to know about this organization is because they are doing a lot of work to help homeowners of old houses. And any group that is focused on helping folks like you instead of some other corporate cause is alright by me. This week I had […] Read on →

6 Things I Wish Architects Knew

6 Things I Wish Architects Knew

I recently learned of yet another window project gone awry. The 1920 Lake Ave. fire station in Saratoga Springs, NY is due for an renovation. It needs some structural repairs to its floors, some framing repairs and also window repairs for its almost 100 year old windows. The architect for the job decided that the best way to handle the windows would be to keep the old jambs, trash the original sash (which only lasted 95 years) and build new […] 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 →

How To: Fix Ungrounded Outlets

how to fix ungrounded outlets

A common problem found in old houses is the presence of ungrounded outlets. Either you’re stuck with old fashioned 2-prong outlets that won’t fit your 3-prong devices or someone replaced the old outlets with 3-pronged outlets that don’t have a ground wire. The 3-pronged outlets are often a sheep in wolf’s clothing since they look like modern outlets but don’t have any of the protections. Important Disclaimer: While I am a licensed contractor, I AM NOT a licensed […] Read on →