Q. There is one area in my dining room, which is a modern addition to my 1898 house, where the drywall tape is splitting down the exterior corner. (This old house often has cracks in the paint that show up during the low humidity of wintertime.) I have researched the Web and found mostly advice that I hire a plasterer to remove the old tape and re-mud the entire corner. However, I also found one Facebook source who said I could just clean it up and use paintable grout to fill the crack. The crack is not wide, so I like this answer. The source said using grout allows the house to flex. What should I do?
A. That corner probably has a large timber in it, which, due to its size, moves a lot during the seasons. If you have already tried to repair it with plaster, then using caulking could be a good solution. We have done it before. I’m not sure about a grout caulking, though; typically we use those in baths and kitchens. In this case, I think an acrylic latex caulk would be better, as those are made to be flexible, are easy to apply, and are smoother than grout caulking.
Q. I believe we have wood cabinets (I can’t really tell whether they’re wood or laminated), but they look quite dated and have an ugly varnish. I thought I could paint them, but they’re kind of shiny, and the insides of the doors and the cabinets themselves are dirty. I’ve scrubbed them, but to no avail. They don’t go all the way up to the ceiling and weren’t installed well. I don’t want to do a total renovation of my kitchen, but what is my best bet for buying new cabinets that won’t cost me a fortune, and what kind of installer (carpenter, etc.) should I hire to put them in?
A. If you would like to replace your cabinets, there are many good options in the Boston area. I’d recommend setting up appointments with area cabinet vendors so you can get a sense of your options at a variety of price points. You may need to hire a contractor to install your cabinets. If you don’t have anyone in mind, your cabinet provider may be able to recommend someone.
Leslie, if you are happy with the layout of the kitchen and how it functions, however, you may be a good candidate for cabinet refacing. There are good companies out there that do this. There are also bad ones, so do your research. They can replace the doors and drawer fronts and just refinish the cabinet bodies for a fraction of what it would cost to gut the kitchen. You can take it a step farther and have new countertops installed and the drawer boxes replaced with full-extension soft-close hardware. A good refacing company can give you breakdowns that allow you to pick what works for your budget.
Mark Philben is the project development manager at Charlie Allen Renovations in Cambridge. Send your questions to [email protected]. Questions are subject to editing. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp. Follow us on Twitter @GlobeHomes and Boston.com on Facebook.