Upgrade a Basic Bookcase

Put a personal spin on an off-the-shelf bookcase with these easy DIY makeover ideas.

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Stairway Railing Ideas

Stairway railings serve more than a functional purpose -- they give stairs a visual presence and make a staircase a work of art. Find ideas for the perfect railing for your stairway.

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Beach Chic Porch Renovation

A family put a new roof over their heads by turning their back deck into a coastal-inspired covered porch. Learn how they made the big change from their existing porch to their new, cozy family hangout area.

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Give a Plain Mirror a Makeover

Take a plain mirror to the next level with these easy DIY embellishments.

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DIY Outdoor and Garden Projects

Sprucing up your outdoor space doesn't need to be a massive undertaking. Use these inspirational small projects -- including painting rocks to hanging new house numbers -- to instantly improve the look of a garden, patio, deck, or backyard.

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Add Storage Around Stairs

Step up your home's storage capacity by making the most of underused areas below and beside your stairs. Here's a look at 18 homes that beautifully optimized stairwell and staircase spaces.

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Popular in Home Improvement

Ceiling Soot Marks

Ceiling soot marks could indicate a serious problem.

Q: Our ceilings have what look like black soot marks, evenly spaced every 15 inches or so. What is the problem?

A: There are several possible causes to this problem, so you should probably consult a home inspector or energy consultant.

The condition is called ghosting, and the marks are likely caused by particulate matter in the air. In many cases, the source is the burning of candles. Another source of indoor soot is a faulty fireplace, which might be caused by a chimney that needs cleaning (for a wood-burning fireplace) or a poorly functioning valve (for a gas unit.) A faulty furnace or water heater can also be sources of soot, which is basically a by-product of faulty combustion.

Others blame the marks on dust that is drawn by moisture to the ceiling rafters. The marks correspond with the rafters, which are generally 16 inches apart. Where drywall touches the framing, the surface is cooler than where drywall touches insulation. Condensation tends to collect on cooler surfaces, so any dust floating around will stick. The dust could be blowing in from the outside, or it could be generated inside the house, perhaps by a poorly adjusted gas appliance.

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