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Six fixes to consider in older houses you may be able to do yourself

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If you buy an older home, there is probably something you want to get rid of or replace.

Here are some of the features that may bother you plus some information on whether you should do it yourself or hire a contractor.

Get rid of the popcorn ceilings

Many homes built before 1981 have popcorn ceilings and some contain asbestos. Generally, the EPA tells homeowners to leave the ceilings alone if they are in good shape and not likely to release asbestos fibers.

But many homes would benefit from removing these ceilings. You can hire a contractor who will dispose of the old material properly. In the past, this was expensive, but costs have dropped.

Have ceilings tested to see how much asbestos they contain because many ceilings have very little in them. If the amount of asbestos is non-existent, some homeowners even do the job.

Cover up the floor and walls and spray the ceiling with water using a common garden sprayer. Then use a specially designed scraper to remove the coating.

After cleaning up, texture the drywall ceiling and paint.

Replace fluorescent lights in kitchen or bathroom and install recessed can lights

Sometimes a box was built into the ceiling over a kitchen or bathroom and was covered with sheets of plastic. Behind the plastic, there are fluorescent lights. In a case like that, an electrician must put in connections for recessed can light fixtures.

New sheetrock will be needed to create a level ceiling. You can’t just build the can lights into the now empty box as they would cast unsightly shadows.

If you’re just removing a fluorescent fixture on a level ceiling, however, you only need to remove the old fixture and rewire for can lights. Painting is needed in any case.

Replace the old grab bars in the bathroom and the old towel bars, faucets and TP dispensers

All those bathroom accessories are probably showing a lot of wear and looking out-of-date.

Today’s grab bars, for example, are a whole lot more attractive and are designed to match the other fixtures in a bathroom.

Replace handles and knobs on the cabinets as well so that everything matches.

Install new bathroom toilets even if you don’t remodel the bathroom

A 20-year-old toilet will be less efficient than a new one. Newer toilets use far less water and can enhance the look of a bath.

Of course, if you buy something small and in a different shape, you might have to redo the floor.

Toilets can cost $200 each or more. Installation is extra.

Replace all the brass hardware on doors and hinges and on kitchen and bathroom cabinets

Shiny brass went out of style some time ago after a huge surge in the 1980s. Antique brass is what you want now, but pewter, chrome and brushed nickel are also possibilities.

Check out our insider tips for kitchen faucets too.

Fill in the sunken living room

Sunken living rooms were in style in 1950s and 1960s houses and some people still like the look.

However, they can dominate the whole living space and require stepping down six to eight inches from another room. Aging baby boomers and small children may have problems with that.

You can raise the level of the floor to fill in the sunken room. After removing furniture and flooring that covers the concrete slab, have a termite inspection and get the area treated to ensure against future termites. Then remove the wooden pieces — such as baseboards and stairs — surrounding the old floor.

An electrician has to adjust the height of electrical outlets and switches. Eventually, workers will bring in the aggregate base course and new concrete to fill the hole that was made. New concrete can be pumped in if a living room is near the street where the concrete truck can park.

You want to match the new subfloor’s height to that of the current subfloor in the adjoining room. You may also have to replace flooring such as tiles that run through the repaired living room and then into a hallway.

For more homeowner advice, DIY tips, and information about all the projects around your house, home, castle or cabin, visit Arizona’s largest collection of homeowner DIY advice and information at

And if you are in need of a quality contractor you know you can trust, visit our list of Arizona’s very best contractors or service providers for your home improvement projects at – Arizona’s most-trusted referral network.

Tune in to KTAR every Saturday morning from 7-11 a.m. for the Rosie on the House broadcast!

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