Correction: An earlier version of this piece gave the incorrect first name for Marcy Bartlett, the program manager at Rebuilding Together of Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church. This version has been corrected.

Undamaged end of bedrail.

Damaged end of bedrail. (Reader photos)

Q: We have a broken bedrail. The wood needs repair, and we need a new metal bracket. Can I fix this myself, or can you recommend a repair shop?

Chevy Chase

A: You have a few options.

The simplest, strongest solution is to replace the rails. One source is Hooked Bed Rails (570-374-8091;, a side business of Colonial Furniture in Freeburg, Pa. ( Replacement rails — wood with the metal fastener installed in a precisely cut slot — cost $159 to $235 depending on the type of wood and whether you want it bare or with a finish. Before making your rails, the company will e-mail you a template that you can cut out and test with the mating hardware on your bed. Dave Van, part of the family that owns the business, said that although there is no guarantee of a universal fit unless you do the test, the rails have worked with beds made by many different companies. “We have never made one that didn’t fit,” he said.

Another option is to purchase replacement hooks that are designed to be screwed to the inside of the rails, with enough depth and screw hole options that you can attach them to solid wood, beyond where the rail chipped out. Bed Claw Retro-Hook Plates, which have this design, cost about $30 for a set of four and are available online from companies including Planet Bed ( Planet Bed has a picture with measurements on its Web site; the key detail that needs to match is a two-inch gap between the tops of the two slots.

As a third option, you could buy replacement wood for the broken rail and install new fittings. Without specialized woodworking equipment, you wouldn’t be able to cut the slots required for the type of hardware you have now. But you could use screw-on connectors, such as Hafele No-Mortise Fittings, sold by the Woodcraft store in Rockville ( in a set of four for $12.50. If the screw holes on the bedposts don’t line up properly, you may need to glue dowels into the existing holes or use a wood filler strong enough to hold screws. (The label would say.) When the glue or filler dries, drill new holes.

I have a brick, split-level house, about 50 years old. When I look up from the part of the house that’s at street level, I can see an opening between the concrete apron under higher windows and the brick. I worry that rain or snow will work into the wall and into the house. Due to my old age and illness, I’m not sure how long this has been there. All I can do is worry about it! Can this cause major damage or can it be closed by forcing concrete into the hole?


Brick houses 50 years old typically are built with a wooden frame. The brick is a facade — just the exterior skin, not the support structure. The wood framing is typically wrapped with building paper — probably tar paper 50 years ago — and then the bricks are installed with metal ties to the wall but with a small gap behind them. That air space is critical because bricks are like sponges; they absorb moisture from rain and snow. The moisture doesn’t hurt the bricks, but if it sits against the wall, it can rot the framing. The gap prevents that.

That said, it’s hard to visualize your situation. If the gap that you’re seeing is the intentional spacing behind the bricks, stuffing it with concrete or mortar would cause problems, not solve them. Get a house inspector with a moisture meter and an understanding of home construction to check the wall. You might need to spend about $175 — that’s the price quoted by Assured Home Inspections in Springfield (703-866-3747).

Spending $175 for peace of mind can be a huge stretch if you’re living on a tight fixed income. Luckily, help is available through Rebuilding Together, a nonprofit organization that serves Northern Virginia through an office in Fairfax (703-528-1999; You can phone the office to see whether you qualify. The upper income limit for a single person is $47,600; assets aren’t factored in. The organization’s focus is on helping elderly and disabled people stay in their homes, not in prepping homes for sale, so their priorities align well with yours. Marcy Bartlett, the program manager, said that if you qualify, they could send an inspector with a moisture meter to your home to evaluate the situation, make recommendations and schedule work, if needed.

Rebuilding Together often teams up with Home Repair for the Elderly, a program run through Fairfax County government (703-246-5179; It doesn’t do inspections, but it does make minor home repairs, especially ones that make homes safer or more accessible for elderly or disabled people.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.