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I love TV commercials. I laugh at some and groan at others, but I study them to see the techniques companies use to ply their wares. One commercial in particular struck me recently. It advertises a website that claims it can save you money on car insurance. The actor says, if I recall correctly, that U.S. drivers overspend by $21 billion a year on insurance.

A seamless vinyl floor in a room can create a stunning backdrop for furnishings, whether installed a kitchen, bathroom or any living space. And the choices of colors, patterns and designs has never been greater, many mimicking materials like stone, quartz and planks of embossed wood in small to large formats. The new designs are a complete departure from your parent’s vinyl choices while ensuring a durable, low-maintenance, waterproof surface for years to come.

Old dark paneling can be renewed with a facelift that’ s a lot easier than tearing out the paneling and installing new wallboard, woodwork and trim. Don’ t remove the paneling; refresh it with a faster and more affordable transformation, using paint and glaze to create a colorful alternative. The project involves several processes, including cleaning, sanding,...

You can transform flat walls in a room with a subtle texture and create the look of plaster without being rough using a specialty paint. The drywall becomes a warm and welcoming surface with paint applied like a faux finish; it’s often used by new home builders as a way to distinguish the surface of walls without adding a wallcovering to them.

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Whether it’s local covenants or municipal laws that call for permits for a garage door, make sure your contractor works under those regulations to avoid unpleasant surprises later.

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To some people a brick wall is an eye-catching feature in a room; to others it’s an eyesore. While exposed, blotchy brick may be an authentic, rugged look that adds character to a room, others see a rough surface that detracts from the surroundings. An inexpensive trick we learned from designers of commercial spaces is to paint it.

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"The biggest barrier right now to adoption of heat pumps is contractor readiness," McKenna says. "I hear time and time again from people who have talked to five contractors and only one is willing to install a heat pump. The lack of competition drives up costs."

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Q: Tim, can you solve a conundrum for me? My bathroom was remodeled about two months ago, and the vanity has a granite top with a china undermount sink. Yesterday I noticed a long crack in the sink that extends up from the drain hole. The contractor claims I did it by dropping something. I didn’t. He won’t repair it. What can be done? How might it have happened? I feel I need a new sink, but I can’t figure out how to install one because when I lay on my back and look up I don’t see any clips holding the sink to the underside of the stone. I’m so angry at the contractor. Help! —Paula H., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

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A texture finish can call attention to a not-so-remarkable wall or ceiling, but if that rustic surface isn’t your style you can remove it. However, the job is a time-consuming and often messy project. The fact that it’s tedious is another issue. The project is ideal for a newbie DIYer, because it’s work that requires no skills and saves money. It’s a no-brainer: Why hire a skilled contractor to do a grunt job a homeowner can do?

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Q: I’m thinking of buying a house that has a crawlspace. The foundation is in very bad shape. While the house looks quite bad, it’s got good bones. Is it possible to completely remove a bad foundation and install a new, taller one? What’s involved? Who does this type of work? What would you make sure gets done if you’re going to all this work? —Hanna S., Hartford, Conn.

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Q: I’m thinking of buying a house that has a crawlspace. The foundation is in very bad shape. While the house looks quite bad, it’s got good bones. Is it possible to completely remove a bad foundation and install a new, taller one? What’s involved? Who does this type of work? What would you make sure gets done if you’re going to all this work? —Hanna S., Hartford, Conn.

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Convert the extra space into the walk-in closet of your dreams. Depending on the complexity of the closet you'd like to create, you can complete the task with a few supplies from the local home improvement store in a weekend. You can also hire a contractor to create a completely custom design with all the bells and whistles.

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Q: We found out a couple of months ago that the leach field of our septic system has failed. The field is on our neighbor’s property. It was our neighbor who turned us in to the local code enforcer. A little history: We bought the house from a contractor who was selling the house. He denied knowing anything about the septic system. We found out that both properties were owned by the same ...

In the dog days of summer, air conditioning provides a welcome respite from the heat. But what do you do when your air conditioner gives out on a 90-degree day? How do you know if it’s a DIY project or time to call in a professional? If your air conditioner is having these common problems, it’s time to call a contractor.

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