QUESTION: We have a back covered patio on our house and would like to enclose it to expand our living space? Can we do that ourselves?
ANSWER: You can put screens on in that patio area and add fans and a portable evaporative cooler if you want. That would be just fine. But to turn it into a real room and add cooling and heating to it and put up drywall, you have to go to city hall and pull a permit for the work. Everything has to be constructed up to code. More so-called sunrooms are done improperly and out of code than are done correctly. Go to the city and let them know what you want to do and find out from them what’s necessary. If you don’t do that, it could make it harder to resell your house in the future.
Q: I lived in the backyard at my home for six months while I tore out the inside of the house and remodeled it myself. I even redesigned the electrical system. I ran lines up to the roof so that I could hook up a solar system as well. But now I want to know if I can do the solar panels myself.
A: Solar companies say that a DIY install is not that hard to do technically if you are so inclined, but manufacturers will not warranty equipment that is not set up by licensed installers. There is also lots of paperwork for solar systems that differs with each city and each state.
Q: I have a slump-block house built in 1959. The garage was converted some time ago into living space. When they did that, they added air conditioning, but they didn’t insulate the area correctly so it’s hot in that room all the time. How can I fix that?
A: You need to get proper insulation for those slump block walls. An insulation company can fill the blocks with foam. You might also want to have a whole-house energy audit done to see if there are problems with your ducts or your air conditioning system.
Q: In the past when a meter reader came to the house, I would run outside and read the meter as well so I could keep track of my electrical use. But now I have one of those new “smart meters,” and I can’t figure out what it’s trying to say with all those blinking numbers.
A: It is possible to log onto your portal at the utility company website. Then you can get lots of numbers about your use of electricity throughout the year rather than trying to read the meters.
Q: We’re a family with four children that would like to have our kitchen remodeled. We had the upstairs of the house done last year and it was very stressful. Now with this new remodel, we’re wondering how we can do it with less disruption. Is that possible?
A: Remodeling projects always create upheaval in family life, and kitchen remodels can be the most disruptive. There are some things the remodeler can do to help, including using sheets of plywood for countertops while you’re waiting for the real counters to arrive. But you will have to cook and freeze some meals in advance and you should count on using paper plates for a while. One of the most important things to do, of course, is to find a good contractor to do the job — someone who knows how to work alongside a family living in the house and who will be considerate of parents and children.