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Q: I need to repair the mortar joints on my older brick home that was built in the late 1800s. I’ve seen some horrible workmanship where the mortar doesn’t match at all, and I want to avoid this. How does one match the original mortar? What would you do to make sure the finished repair is nearly invisible? Is this even a realistic goal, or should I just resign myself to ugly mortar joints that don’t match? —Rhonda S., Boston

With proper care, granite countertops can last for decades making them well worth the investment. This durable and attractive surface can withstand most normal kitchen messes, but it is an absorbent material. A little TLC can protect your granite counters from scratches and stains.

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To reduce the damage from the sun and make a positive first impression of your house, consider installing an aluminum awning over a door or windows. Curb appeal is one thing, but blocking the glare from the sun and lowering summer energy costs is another. Why aluminum? It’s a well-tested material known for its durability.

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The first apartment: We all have one at some point, unless you’re lucky enough to be able to move straight into a well-equipped home. Furnishing an apartment and making it homey and personalized is never easy, exactly, but it’s never quite as difficult as it is in that first apartment, when all you have is empty space to fill and a first-apartment checklist (and probably not a lot of spending money).