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Ask the Builder: Reflections on 25 years writing about home improvement

Tuesday is the 25th anniversary of my Ask the Builder syndicated newspaper column. I’m very proud of surviving this long as a writer and publisher, and I thought I’d share some of the good and the bad I’ve seen since that morning I waited outside in the dark for the newspaper carrier to hand me a copy of the Cincinnati Enquirer with my column in it.

This old love story: The Skinner House near Corbin Park anchors Sunday’s Historic Home Tour

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 28, 2018, 4:15 p.m.

When Tammy Arndt purchased the Harry and Ella Skinner House overlooking Corbin Park three decades ago to open a bed and breakfast, she became a steward of history. The Queen Anne style home – built 117 years ago by Harry J. Skinner, a prominent contractor and employee of Spokane pioneer D.C. Corbin – became a catalyst in encouraging builders to construct more than 80 homes in the early 1900s around the park.

Ask the Builder: Retaining wall basics

You may recall that point in high school physics class when a frustrated student demanded, “Give me an example of when I’ll ever use this stuff in real life!” Well, this is one of those times.

How to pick the perfect sofa

Typically not considered to be an impulse purchase, most seek to make a sofa purchase perhaps only once or twice.

Ask the Builder: Do your due diligence before hiring a contractor. Yeah, it’s hard

Based on the number of emails I receive each week, I see a growing and alarming trend of people who are so busy, stressed and discombobulated that all they want is the easy button. They want the mythical magic home improvement fairy to float down out of the sky and place the best contractor in their driveway. That’s a fantasy.

Ask the Builder: Solar attic fan not going to be adequate for the job

Q. Can you cut through the fog of confusion about solar attic fans? Do they really work, or are they mostly hype? What does it take to really cool an attic space? My husband really thinks it’s a great idea to buy a solar attic fan, but I don’t want to waste the money if it does little or nothing. – Bridgett W., Tampa, Florida A.

Setting up an Airbnb? Here are the basics, the extras and the no-nos

Just like hotels, not all Airbnbs are created equal. There are the gorgeous, Instagram-friendly abodes meant to make visitors feel like they’re in the lap of luxury, and the more serviceable spots geared toward travelers just stopping off for a good night’s sleep. But whether you’re operating a rental that’s fancy, basic or somewhere in between, owners tell us, there are certain amenities all hosts should procure to make stays go smoothly for all parties. These experienced proprietors also let us in on extras that can mean the difference between a so-so stay and one that ends with a glowing review, and decor guidelines that will ensure your property is remembered for the right reasons.

Gardening: Cooler weather brings humidity, risk of powdery mildew

The weather appears to be cooling a bit. Temperatures are dropping from the 90s into the 80s and 70s this weekend with nights in the lower 50s. Throw in a bit of humidity and you have perfect weather for the formation of powdery mildew.