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Archive >> April 2008

Apr 21

House Lust

Posted by C. Mason Hearn | Tags: value, renovation, remodeling, additions

Highly recommend this book for anyone involved, interested or intrigued by the housing industry.  House Lust: America's Obsession with our Homes by Daniel McGinn is an entertaining and easy read (those aspects of any book being important to me).  The premise of McGinn's study is the evolution of the American mindset wherein those things previously considered luxuries are becoming necessities - particularly regarding real estate and housing.

The book covers the growth of the average new American home - in square footage as well as features.  Case studies from across the country range to the

Apr 21

More Talk about Cracks

Posted by C. Mason Hearn | Tags: renovation, preservation, contractors

 Dear Mason,

My house was built in 1938. The walls are plaster over lathe. I'm noticing more cracks in the ceilings, including one that runs parallel to the chimney bump out, about 3 inches away from the wall. It actually looks like the part of the ceiling that is closer to the fireplace is a fraction (1/32"?) higher than the part outside the crack. The crack follows that chimney exactly. Is my house sinking? And do I just repair the crack, or is there more that needs to happen? Last, what sort of contractor takes care of this sort of issue? 

Thanks in advance for your advice.

Lisa C.


Lisa, Dear

Apr 21

(Sing Along:) Who's Afraid of a Load-Bearing Wall?

Posted by C. Mason Hearn | Tags: select contractor, renovation, remodeling, bathrooms


I have a small (1400 sf) old Cape. There is a wall with a double-door opening that separates the living room from a small sunroom. Around the corner from that, there is a tiny bathroom and corridor that separates that sunroom from the kitchen. I'd really like to remove the wall and the bathroom and open the whole space up. My question is, what are the factors that need to be considered to do this and keep my house from falling down? I hear the term "load bearing wall" and don't really know how to tell. And, what if it is? Can I still open up the space? 

This clearly is a job for a pro

Apr 16

Is My Crack is Showing?

Posted by C. Mason Hearn | Tags: preservation, millwork, crown mold

Dear Mason:

I live in a 1960's home in the Richmond, VA area.  I seems to be of good quality construction, but I have had problems with the crown molding pulling away from the ceiling, which leaves an ugly crack.  We have tried caulking it, but it re-appears after a year or less.  Is there something wrong with my crown molding?  What can we do to fix it forever?

Lisa B



Ahhh, cursed crown.  It's ALIIIIIVE!

Indeed, in all likelihood, that is the problem.  Most crown molding is made of living (or once-alive) material - wood.  All wood has a tendency to expand and contract with swings in

Apr 16

Getting Engaged - with a Design/Builder

Posted by C. Mason Hearn | Tags: select contractor, remodeling, design/build


What are the three best questions that a homeowner can ask when trying to choose a design/build firm and why?




I appreciate your question... naturally, finding a good "fit" between yourself and a building / remodeling partner is the first and most important key to a successful project experience.

Take a look back at my archived post "On Selecting a Contractor" (August 2007).  There, we talk about achieving a level of comfort with the prospective contractor, his reputation, people and processes.  All of this applies regardless of any particular delivery system.

The search for a

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