WALLS, WINDOWS & DOORS
33. Is it possible to step wallpaper and then paint the wall beneath, or is it better to just repaper?
It depends on the surface of the wall and how it was prepared before papering. If the wall was sized first, paper will come off fairly easily; use either a steamer or a spray-on wallpaper remover. If it was applied to Sheetrock that wasn’t sized first, then some of the Sheetrock may come off with the wallpaper. “If you can’t get off all the paper, gently scrape off the remaining pieces with a utility knife, apply speckle to level out the wall, then prime and paint,” advises Wrangen.
34. How do I know if it’s worth the effort to snip panted woodwork?
“Stripping is an extremely time-consuming process,” warns George Christiansen, CGR,(*) of Pequot Remodeling Corp., in Fairfield, CT. “If you have children under age six, it can be hazardous because of the lead paint used in most homes prior to 1984.” Try stripping a small section using either a heat gun or chemical stripper, be sure to protect yourself and the surrounding area, and make sure there is adequate ventilation.
If there are many layers of paint and the molding is made of a soft wood, such as pine, stripping may raise the grain and obliterate some of the detail. Moldings in older houses are often made of hardwoods such as oak, cherry, or mahogany that may look beautiful stripped. However, if molding wasn’t made from clear wood and has finger joints every few feet, it’s not worth the trouble. A final caveat You may end up with a whitish residue after stripping, which requires bleaching, then staining and sealing the wood.
35 The wood floors in our house are in bad condition. Can lighten them by sanding and finishing?
The darker your floors are, the harder it is to bring them back to a natural color. It depends on how old they are and how many times they’ve been refinished. Mahogany- or walnut-stained wood will always have dark seams unless they’re sanded a great deal. If the wood is a lighter color, it can be resurfaced fairly easily using a finer-grade sandpaper. There are floor-waxing machines that will take off layers of old waxes and finishes. And if the floor underneath is in good shape, you can reapply the finish without sanding. But if there are any deep stains, you’ll need to sand.
36. Our bedroom closets have hollow-core Any suggestions for making them look better?
Replace them with panel doors, solid-core doors with mirrors, or French doors with mirrors in place of the glass, suggests architect Barry Goralnick of Goralnick Buchanan Design in New York City. A less expensive alternative would he to remove the doors and hang draperies on a pole in front of the closet. Other options: decoratively painting the existing doors to look like panels; or camouflaging them, by using matching wallpaper or by running baseboard and molding that coordinate with existing trim across the top and bottom.
37. Our recently built home has Sheetrock walls–is there anyway to make them look like plaster?
Skim coat entire surface of walls–not just the seams-with compound to make them look like plaster, suggests Christiansen. The procedure will add about $1 more per square foot to the cost of painting. Skim coating is recommended if you’re using high-gloss paint or painting a brightly lit wall where the tape joints of Sheetrock might show. A less expensive alternative is a powdered paint called First Coat that goes on thick to create a smooth surface.
38. Our plaster walls are crumbling and cracking. Can we repair the plaster, or are we better off installing Sheetrock?
Unless the plaster is falling off the wall, it can usually be repaired. If the damage isn’t too severe, the wall can be fixed with mesh and taping compound; in worse cases, loose plaster is removed, and Sheetrock is patched in its place, then coated with fast-setting joint compound.
39. I’d like to add crown molding to my living room. What kind is best, and could I do it myself?
Crown molding adds architectural character and richness to a room. Simple one-piece crown moldings, usually up to five and a half inches deep, run from $1.80 to $5.35 per foot. More ornate wood moldings and composite moldings can cost significantly more. One way to save money is to combine several pieces of stock molding to build up a richer profile. Installing crown molding is a straightforward do-it-yourself project for someone who’s comfortable with basic, carpentry; it helps to have two pairs of hands, so one person can hold the molding while 5 the other nails. Caulk or spackle over any gaps, seams, or incongruities if you’re going to paint it; if you want to stain it, then you’ll need professional installation to guarantee flawless finish.
40.How can I improve die look of an ugly front entry that has concrete steps?
You can do it by covering the existing stoop with brick or flagstone and redoing the front walk with the same material. Add a small gabled or columned porch, suggests Goralnick. You might replace the front door, flank the entry with trenches, or just add a pergola or trellis.
41. Are there ways to make a plain wooden deck look more appealing?
“Decks look better if they are terraced to the ground, with wide, generous steps that people can also sit on,” says Greg Gibson, AIA,(*) an architect based in Narberth, PA, and author of Remodel! An Architect’s Advice on Home Renovation (John Wiley & Sons). A deck should be stained a color that coordinates with the house: Don’t get talked into letting; the wood “weather”–it will eventually blacken.
42. Can I add a screened-in porch and make it fit in well with my home’s existing architecture?
It’s a good idea to have a professional design the porch so it’s compatible with the style of the house, says Goralnick. Cost: $2,000 to $5,000.
ADDING & JOINING ROOMS
43. Is it ever safe to tear down a load-bearing wall? How I identify one?
“Generally, tearing down a load-bearing wall in a home is not a big structural problem–it doesn’t usually support that much weight–and it’s not usually a big leap in price to tear clown a load-bearing wall versus one that isn’t,” according to Gibson. A load-bearing wall needs to be shored up during demolition, and then is generally replaced with a beam. There are tricks to determining which are load-bearing walls, but the simplest thing to do is ask your contractor.
44. I’d love to open up our kitchen to die adjoining family room. What’s involved?
“The main issue is whether you’ll he compromising the kitchen in terms of lost storage space or function,” says Gibson. “Often, people also want to reorganize their kitchen, add more storage or a seating area, and this necessitates building on an addition, not just joining two rooms.” If you want to just create an opening to the family room, construction costs will be about $500 to $1,000. It helps to have a professional draw up a plan, so you can see how the interior finishes around the opening will be handled, and make sure the resulting space will function efficiently.
45. We’d like to join two bedrooms to create a master suite with a new bath and walk-in closets. How expensive would it be?
Creating a master suite is often a good way to improve your home’s resale value. Costs ran vary greatly, depending on the project. Figure on $5,000 for the structural work, $10,000 for the plumbing, $10,000 to $15,000 for the finishing work (wood and tile floors, painting or papering both rooms), and more for lighting and electrical work; total costs could range from $20,000 to more than $40,000).
46. Could a fireplace be included in our family room addition?
It’s not particularly difficult to add a fireplace, but it’s imperative that the chimney have clearance above or away from the rest of the house. A traditional masonry fireplace made of stone or brick is great-looking but expensive ($5,000 and up), because it requires a full chimney and a strong foundation. A zero-clearance prefabricated fireplace set into wood framing requires only a ten-inch stainless-steel chimney, so it’s less costly, from $3,000 to $4,000.
47. We’d like to add another bedroom and bath. Is it less expensive to do it on the first floor than the second?
“There’s the dollar cost, and then the trauma cost,” points out Gibson. It is actually more expensive to add a room on the first floor, because it requires building a new foundation. But the room can he built before a hole is cut in the adjoining wall to the existing house, creating a lot less mess and stress. On the second floor, the construction process requires opening up the house, which can invite trouble if the weather turns nasty.
48. Just how much of an undertaking is it to add another story to a ranch house?
The cost to add another story–say, with three basic rooms including a bath-starts at $50,000 and can easily go to $100,000. So it’s best to decide whether it’s worth the cost. Do you really want to stay in your home? Do you need the extra space? Will you be able to recoup your investment when you sell? Ask several real estate agents to evaluate whether your home would he worth the additional money with a second story. Caveat emptor: Any time you do major renovations on an old house, there’s a risk of unforeseen, cost-inflating problems.
49. We’d like to finish our attic to create a guest room. How expensive would it be?
“The first thing I look at is stairway access,” says Gibson. “Attic stairs often don’t provide enough clearance to meet code.” The second is floor structure. Typically, attic floors aren’t as strong as regular flooring and require additional joists. Both of these elements can increase the renovation cost. If the stairs and floor are sound, finishing the room and adding skylights to bring in natural light would start at about $10,000, depending on the room’s size.
50. How can I make the basement inviting enough to use as a family room?
The basement is an ideal place to find additional living space–it usually offers as much square footage as an entire floor of your home, points out Jim Dunne, whose firm, J&B Dunne General Contracting, in Whitemarsh, PA, specializes in renovating basements. The secret: Install a half wall, which will create the appearance of separate rooms. Other homey touches: Replace standard metal basement windows with finished wood ones. Floors can he carpeted or finished with laminate wood flooring. Basic improvements start at $12 per square foot; add a bathroom, wet bar, or laundry, and the price can climb to $22 to $25 per square foot.